I made a curious observation at a-year-old birthday party quite recently. Babies born in this era of accolades don’t cry during their one year birthdays as much as we did during our era. Why? I asked. The answer is simple; they are selfie natives.
Every day is a holiday, an excuse to be vain and live for its own sake. It is just effortless. No one tells you to say “CHEEEZZ” or “w’eye” or scream your name so you can look into the camera just so the 3,000 MHz of the flashlights can ruin your retina, abi is lens sef.
Now, life is so easy and unforced. These set of children will grow up to take the internet for granted. They are the miracles of the 21st Century. Your four-year-old child will single handedly navigate your tablet, upload selfies on IG; play games and even download some more.
I am talking about the tablet you bought with the sweat on your brows. The one you just paid the second installment for. Tablet you are just trying to understand. And then you ask, “these ones, who beget me them?” Do you remember when you were first allowed to touch your TV remote?
TV that use to live inside kpako box that your daddy will lock and carry the keys and go to work? Do you copy? Ehhhnn that one. You held the remote with reverence and even shed a tear reciting the Iliad, because that day that day you know you have proved your worth as a child. You call it the Coming of Age. You will remember that day till you draw your last breath. Now, you have so much TV’s in the house they are begging to be watched.
So, I’m looking at this my one-year-birthday-party picture and I am wondering why I looked so distressed and traumatised. If you belong in my generation, you will agree you looked just the same on your one-year picture too. That day was our first assault, officially. As usual, I tell you why.
That would be me trying to make out all the faces that showed up for my “byday.” Trying to understand why everyone is pulling my cheeks; tugging at my dress and hair; trying to fix and feed me; much hullabaloo about nothing.
Usually, guests will start arriving a week to the D day; marking “present, Ma” in your mother’s emotional register but we all know that the end game is to secure larger portions of meat to elope with when the party is over. Just kidding, folks were actually very warm and communal back in the day.
Ferstofus, the camera looked like a weapon of some sort. It was your first time seeing one and you didn’t understand why everyone was conspiring to get you killed. We only saw cameras on weddings, freedom (what’s now called graduation), burials and birthdays.
Secondofus, Baba Foto is only there for the party, no set-up/pre-party shots or “candid moments.” They don’t born any children well to play ten feet away from where Baba Foto as he is setting up his apparatus. Show some respect, he’s got a camera in his name; a rare feat back in the day.
Cameramen were not as young, patient and warm like today’s. Baba Foto’s were always cranky and wrinkled from squinting long hours in the dark room which was very very dark by the way. You stay long enough in the dark room; you can’t even feel your face again. No wonder why they never looked friendly.
Every family had a photographer. The kind that was almost blood, you do nonsense laidis, he can slap your face in the presence of your parents. Someone that has been snapping your mother since when she was “bachelor”, “your baister!!!” And it doesn’t matter if he had a tremor and half the pictures come out blurry.
You see, that was the era of “gbomo gbomo” (carry child carry child a.k.a kidnapper), and folks use any token within reach to “do” their fellow human beings. So, folks would only trust their privacy with responsible and mature men; in fact, the greyer the better. If you see a young cameraman covering an event, he is probably holding brief for his oga, or he inherited his father’s trade along with his customers
There was a sense of urgency with photography as though it had a cosmic effect on the universe. You’ll be there looking like some chrono-displaced species:
“O God, o ti she ju (she blinked),” he is angry, and then he takes that shot over and over again. Meanwhile, Mama is already having a concussion from all the tugging and fussing and tickling and hollering. How can you focus when the whole community is asking you to “w’eye w’eye” (look bird)?
“Arin! Arinola!! Arin Eja (my daddy hated that one)!!! Arin Fish!!! Arin Turkey, Kosibitondunmi!!! W’eye w’eye.” The flash was the bird by the way. And you saw the “eye” coming for you for real. Awon Eye K’eye, Eye Aje, Eye Iya Oshogbo, Eye Jomi Joke, Eye Shioshio.
Children will sing byday song for you. They will thank Mr. DJ “for playing my song, thank you thank you somtin somtin somtin.” The mummies will drop by and sing: Appy byday to you. On this occasion of yours. Appy byday to you, meni appy returns… But we both know that ain’t nothing happy about that day.
Why because they sang this to you holding you six feet above sea level. After they throw you in the air and catch you midflight before you crash into the concrete floor. Another one will hold you in the air shaking you jigi jigi till all your tissues, membranes, body fluid everything have mix together.
Another one will come and tickle till you almost die from giggling, “omo yi ma fine gan ke.” Fine? It will not be well with fine. You mother will quickly snatch you before village people complete their mission. She will say she wants to gwan give you brezz.
The “eye” is not even done with you in three days. Folks will now say “on sheyin ni (she is doing teeth).” Folks have eat rice go o and your mother will be there nursing you through the multiple concussions. Some will even say “on no ni”. E dakun, where is a one-year-old baby stretching to? These are thoughts going through my mind today as I celebrate another day of birth.