Ifeoma Onyefulu

Children's author, photographer and writer

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Building the city walls

Image by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Ifeoma Onyefulu

U.S. version of

my web site

and bookshop here

Children's Africana

Book Awards (U.S)

 

Ifeoma is a past award winner - read more...

Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu

Reviews of Ifeoma's work:

 

Look at This! Home


"Onyefulu celebrates light, color and the people of Mali in this and three other themed suites of bright photos of common items or activities..."

 

New Shoes for Helen


"It would be good to see more books like this, that show just how similar we humans are, and what a huge influence the lottery of our births has on our lives..."


The Girl Who Married a Ghost

 

"This is a lovely compilation of stories from Africa and it's comforting that pride, envy...are human traits across all cultural backgounds..."

A new edition of this classic book from Ifeoma.

 

'From Beads to Drums to Masquerades, from Grandmother to Yams, this photographic alphabet captures the rhythms of day-to-day village life in Africa....

Writer, children's author and photographer

Order from Amazon.co.uk here

 

They call it 'clearance'...

 

A reflection on the loss of my brother

 

Ifeoma Onyefulu

Street shop selling religious statues, eastern Nigeria. Photo © Ifeoma Onyefulu 2019

Eastern Nigeria: ©Ifeoma Onyefulu 2019

Awka Road, Onitsha 2019: image by Ifeoma Onyefulu

I hadn’t been to Nigeria, the country of my birth for years, until recently when I went back for the funeral of our eldest brother. What shocked me wasn’t just the cost involved, but the iron grip the churches have over the living and the dead, it doesn’t matter if they are Catholics, Anglicans or evangelicals, those in charge get to decide who is entitled to a church funeral or not. As a result, everyone was asking me, an ada, the first daughter, unsettling questions like, ‘Have you got clearance?’

‘Have you checked to see if your brother owed the church money?’ ‘When was the last time your brother, or you attended mass? You don’t want a fine, do you?’ Our late mother used to say, ‘Churches changed when some evangelicals from America in the 80’s said to their captive Nigerian audience, ‘There’s nothing wrong with doing God’s work and making money.’

She was right; now new churches are springing up everywhere, their buildings towering over everything, including the huge billboards, which advertise healings and prayer meetings, especially at Onitsha.

Onitsha is a commercial town in Eastern Nigeria, where our brother lived and where I was born. There are so many of them, including smaller churches too. But you can bet your last Naira (Nigerian currency), in a few months more churches will rise like iroko trees – tall and mighty. In Nigeria, churches are run like businesses, I later found out.

With all the stress of organising a funeral resting on our shoulders and the questions about church attendance and money still unanswered, my unhealthily low blood pressure rose through the roof - at least I thought it did.

Already the list of all the things we were asked to do before the funeral was growing, ‘You must do this for this group and that for that group. You mustn’t leave anyone out, otherwise you won’t have a proper burial,’ we were warned repeatedly. Are we being fleeced left, right and centre, because we came from abroad? I wondered.

However, the same old questions about church attendance and overdue payments cropped up again, only this time they came from some people in our village, where our late brother would be buried.

But we didn’t have any answers. I live over 4000 miles away in England, where I’ve lived for more than half my life!

When I was growing up churches used to be places of refuge and compassion, especially for mourners like us, who have lost a dear brother. Now the word ‘Clearance,’ is like a bouncer at a nightclub, whose job it is to keep out the undesirables.


 

Home  |   Books  |   In Ethiopia  |  Inspiration 

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Building the city walls

Image by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Site architecture designed, built and hosted by Thirdsectorweb.co.uk

Part of the SmithMartin Partnership LLP

When I said no, she glared at me. I wondered if no one had ever said no to her before.

Finally, we were asked to take the chicken and the yams to the altar for some special prayers, sadly it became another opportunity to squeeze more money out of us. After the prayers, the pastor said very loudly that his church needed a new roof and he was expecting some contribution from us.

The exploitation of people runs very deep indeed. On my way back to London, a fellow passenger, a Nigerian, at Murtala Muhammed International airport, told me about a call he got from his wife a few months earlier. He was at work, and she was in a state of panic, ‘It’s our pastor’s birthday, I forgot all about it,’ she began, adding, ‘what are we going to do? We must give him something, everyone is giving him something!’

Naturally, the man was angry; they’d just spent lots of Naira on a thanksgiving service for a miracle that occurred in their family, and now they were expected to give their pastor presents as well! ‘It’s as if he was responsible for the miracle,’ he grumbled.

Anyway, we found out that the cost of repaying any overdue fees would cost as much as the funeral, so, we quickly found a pastor, willing to conduct the funeral service at our family home. The pastor’s fee and the musicians’ fees from his church seemed very reasonable; churches now have bands that cater to mourners. But our expenditure was mounting, so far, we had spent $13,000 on a lot of things, including generator plant, (electricity is very patchy), our traditional mourning clothes, catering; food and drinks, and water, (there’s no running water in our village).

Then, on the day of the funeral, three more pastors appeared like ghosts; the pastor had invited them, and we were later asked to pay them, for ‘conducting mass.’

After burials, mourners are expected to attend thanksgiving service, so we went to the pastor’s church, armed with yams and a chicken, as was instructed. Apparently, those attending thanksgiving mass are expected to offer gifts to ‘God.’

I wondered how the very poor coped with such demands, and I wondered also, what was the difference between people visiting shrines armed with gifts to appease the gods and what we were about to do.

Just as the pastor was in the middle of his sermon about humility, one of the deacons close to where we were all sitting in the front row, began counting a pile of money like a bank clerk! My jaw hit the floor from shock, and there was more - a minute later the pastor’s wife cradling a book walked straight to us, ‘Would you like to buy a book, written by the bishop?’ she asked, adding, ‘it’s our bestseller.’

Now my jaw would have to be scraped off the floor!

© Ifeoma Onyefulu

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