A growing child in my Igbo culture must learn to live in two communities as if they were one. There is the community of the Father and there is the community of the Mother, or simply “Father’s kinsfolk” and “Mother’s kinsfolk”. The two communities – two domains of consciousness -- converse and sometimes compete over the ownership of one’s mind. You are growing up in the pride of Mkpu Nna Gi (your Father’s community) populated by the Umunna (kinsmen) and so you owe allegiance to it. But Ikwunne (Mother’s kinsfolk or literally, the Relatives of the Mother) never fails to remind you that you are that sucker of the plantain tree that was borrowed sometime ago by a man from Mkpu Nna Gi. Ikwunne reminds Umunna Gi also that it owes tributes, regular tributes, for the luck of growing the Self within the fertility of the M/Other.
Umunna tells you to drink the fire, not just bask beside it. Umunna tells you: you cannot be you until you till, or have unless you harvest, and cannot harvest unless you invest. Umunna tells you: no one becomes a man or woman on behalf of another.
Umunna, too, could become Umunnadi, with an eye on your flourishing pride. Umunna is competition and so could become apparently hostile sometimes. With Umunna, the boundaries are rigid, your freedom limited to the rank of your inheritance, which you can lose if you cannot learn to spit fires.
Ikwunne is not about competition.
Among the Ikwunne, your freedom gathers speed.
Among the Ikwunne, you experience love immeasurable. Ikwunne can spoil you in order to inscribe its affection in your heart. Ikwunne can spoil you, enough for you to understand love as the place of the Mother. Ikwunne can spoil you in order to repair you.
Among the Ikwunne, you learn about origin.
Ikwunne tells you: You own everything as the seed of Nwaada and can take anything unmolested. You can harvest the maize, as much as you like. You can pluck the fruits, as much as you can carry. You can cut the meat, provided you have the teeth. You can tell that coconut tree that you have the climbing skill and it would be thrilled. You can enter that kitchen without asking for permission and eat your fill. Ikwunne tells you: this is your home, the place of the Mother.
Nwadiala! Nwadiala! here. Nwadiala! there. And you float in the communion of hearts. You know intoxication in the feelings drizzling from abundant welcome.
Ikwunne hails you, playing an ancient tune in that single word that is a phrase that is a sentence that is a text that is discourse that is human.
Ikwunne would not condone your misdeeds, but can never abandon you, for it remains your security.
When Umunna blows hot, plays nwannadi -- becoming Umunnadi -- and seeks your erasure – as it sometimes happens – Ikwunne waits for you with open arms. The place of the Mother is the place -- a home forever! You cannot run past this home when they are pursuing you, in dream or real life. To do so is to be hopeless, to be totally vulnerable, to be finished. The Umunnadi cannot pursue you to the place of the Mother and harm you. There are hallowed borders even as the streams of relationship flow into each other.
Ikwunne is the beginning that never ends. Even as Umunna is one of the undying noises in your blood.