AYANDE: The Rise of Bonza

The Ayande village, in the South of Mbiu sat animated by the active clinks of metals being molded, the argillaceous odour of clay and the animated chatter of children dancing about the village, throwing stones and occasionally breaking into a dance. It was a beautiful cohesion, where the women sat humming while weaving as the men laboured their day away, casting the iron into more useful items. The children and older folk aimlessly sat around, playing Kora on the ground with stones or teaching each other generation-old songs and dances. It was in this semblance of a nearly perfect community, that Bonza was born into. Her father hailed from the second clan, the clan of blacksmiths, while her mother traced her roots to the clan of weavers.

Bonza grew up being a very sociable child, having families in both clans. She spent her childhood in between learning how to cast the iron into various shapes- a sacred art of controlling the nature and use of the force Bayanze. When she was not chiming her day away in the unnerving midday sun, she was swiftly weaving a basket with her grandmother. She commanded such a presence with two things: first, her genuine love for tradition of the Ayande that earned her a soft spot with the elderly while her love and absolute skill in Kora and the Ayande dance made her an envy from her peers. The second and arguably most distinct thing about Bonza was her striking physique. The first thing that you noticed was her bald shiny head. She wore her hairless head like an invisible crown. She had milk-white eyes that contrasted her obsidian black flesh like marbles. Her teeth were perfectly symmetrical, almost too good to be real, with an impeccable tooth gap in between her incisors. She had a slender frame, and with one look you would tell she was a dancer. She had long legs that moved swiftly with each step she took almost as if she was gliding across. She wore several beads on her slender waist and a signature bracelet and anklet that she never removed, almost as if she was born in them. Her dark skin went on for miles, flawless almost like a new-born lamb. She had well-toned muscles from the constant casting she did. Albeit having such a strong and solid form, the suppleness of her body did not go unnoticed. She had perfect reflexes and poise and was able to gracefully sit cross-legged for hours on end, as she helped her mother weaving baskets, fabric and mats.

When Bonza completed eighteen moons, she was ready for initiation, along her peers. They were initiated and kept in seclusion from the rest of the community. While the young women were in solitary confinement, they were trained by the older women and guided through the transition through womanhood. Each young woman was given a shield and was trained on how to fight for protection of the community. The training also covered the symbolic Ayande dance, which was the highlight of the ceremony. The young women would have a dance off amongst themselves to showcase their prowess and earn a coveted spot in the community. Upon completion of the rigorous and tradition-filled ceremony, the council of ministers organized the phenomenal rite of passage festivities, officiated by the Queen Ayorwe who led the monarch in rituals and other spiritual duties, as the King sat in quietude awaiting the coronation. The beauteous ceremony was punctuated with the beautiful sounds of drums, a joyful ululation here and there, sisal skirts swaying from side to side as the women gyrated in synch to the symphony of the horns and clinking of their anklets. The dance-off started with a general dance from the young women. They were then put into three groups and the elimination process began. The first group was eliminated, leaving behind two groups. Each group produced three dancers to compete against the opposing team to the final competition that would have only one person from each team who was tested on the mastery of the Ayande dance. Bonza danced her way to the finals, her suppleness not failing her even once. With grace of a swan, she shuffled her feet in swift and precise movements as if to prove that she was what dance was made of, and not vice versa. Sweat glistened her bald head and trickeld through her back, making her obsidian skin even glossier. The village cheered her on, and her metallic bracelet and anklets chimed in as if praising their master for her undeniable prowess.

At the end of the ceremony, the council of ministers and the King had a private consultation as the villagers impatiently waited for dance champion to be announced. The King finally stood up to address his people and to call upon the dance champion, and the most admired woman amongst her peers. After the short speech, Bonza was named the dance champion. The village was animated with joyful animation as her group carried her shoulder high towards the King. She was then given the Ayande shield in honour of the tradition of the monarch, ahead of her military training after initiation.

Read Also: Origins of The Ayande Tribe

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