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City of Banjul
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Echoes of Fulladu: Sunkaru, the Amazon of kanjor

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As the sun continued its ascent, casting a warm light over the village, there was a renewed sense of purpose and determination. The events of the night had reinforced the importance of unity and the enduring power of love and care. For Yerro, his wives, and the entire village, the dawn brought with it a promise of recovery and the resilience to face whatever challenges lay ahead.

At the other side of the village, Sunkaru Bah stood as an imposing figure both in stature and might. Unlike most women of her time who lived under the shadow of patriarchy, Sunkaru was a formidable presence, commanding respect with her towering height and her unyielding spirit. She was one of the tallest people in the village, a trait that set her apart not only among women but even among the men. Her husband, Yusubi Bah, was the stark opposite—small, effeminate, and often the subject of quiet mockery among the villagers.

Despite the societal norms that dictated a man’s dominance over his wife, in the Bah household, it was Sunkaru who wielded the power. She worked tirelessly in the fields, her broad shoulders and strong arms a testament to years of relentless toil under the harsh African sun. Sunkaru’s labor provided for her family, ensuring that her eight children—seven girls and one boy—were fed and clothed. Yusubi, on the other hand, was a drunkard, often found spending whatever money he could get his hands on at the village’s makeshift pub. This habit not only drained their resources but also brought shame upon the family.

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The stark contrast between Sunkaru’s strength and Yusubi’s weakness created a tension that simmered beneath the surface of their marriage. Sunkaru’s resentment grew with each day, fueled by the sight of her husband squandering their hard-earned money on alcohol. Despite her efforts to maintain peace for the sake of their children, there were times when her frustration boiled over, leading to heated arguments that reverberated through their modest home.

The evening Yerro was brought to the herbalist, as the sun dipped below the horizon and cast long shadows over the village, Sunkaru returned from the fields, her muscles aching from the day’s labor. She found Yusubi, as she often did, slumped on a rickety stool outside their hut, the pungent smell of palm wine clinging to him. Their youngest daughter, Awa, barely four years old, was trying to coax her father into the house, her small hands pulling at his sleeve.

“Leave him, Awa,” Sunkaru said, her voice a mix of weariness and anger. “Your father is not worth the trouble.”

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Awa’s eyes, wide with confusion, looked up at her mother. “But Mama, Papa needs to come inside. It’s getting dark.”

Sunkaru sighed and knelt beside her daughter. “Go inside, child. I will take care of your father.”

Once Awa was safely indoors, Sunkaru turned to Yusubi, her face hardening. “Get up,” she ordered, her tone leaving no room for argument.

Yusubi, his senses dulled by drink, looked up at her with bleary eyes. “Sunkaru, leave me be,” he slurred.

“I said, get up,” Sunkaru repeated, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him to his feet. Despite his protests, she half-dragged, half-carried him into the hut. The children watched silently, accustomed to the volatile dynamic between their parents.

Inside, the tension was palpable. Sunkaru released Yusubi, who stumbled and fell onto their mat. She stood over him, her hands on her hips, her chest heaving with suppressed rage.

“Every day, I work myself to the bone to provide for this family,” she began, her voice low and dangerous. “And every day, you waste what little we have on that vile drink.”

Yusubi, too inebriated to respond coherently, mumbled something unintelligible. Sunkaru’s eyes flashed with anger.

“I will not allow you to destroy this family,” she continued, her voice low and menacing. “You will stop this madness, or so help me, I will make you stop.”

Her words hung in the air, a stark reminder of the unusual power dynamics in their marriage. As she moved closer to him, Yusubi cowered and cried out for help. “Come and help me! Come and help me, my children! Your mother will kill me. She will kill me!” he cried.

Sunkaru looked down at the man who was her husband and could not suppress her rage. More than his drunkenness, it was his cowardice that disgusted Sunkaru the most. She hated weakness, especially when shown by men. From an early age, she had been used to fighting men. It felt good to be hit hard and to send back a blow with equal and/or added force in return. She learned that the girls she hung around with were not her match, when it came to fighting. They were too gentle, too soft, too pampered. She liked playing with boys and fighting them. It felt good to beat up a boy, to raise them with her bare hands and slam them to the ground. Nothing gave her more pleasure than that.

She became legendary after beating up a flourishing young wrestler from the neighboring village of Sareh Gehlajor as a teenager. She became a force to be reckoned with, spending most of her youth wrestling boys at the banks of the river Kanjor.

Following his father’s cries for help, his eldest, Fatou, rushed to stand between him and her mother, nudging her mother to stop. But before she could reach her father, Sunkaru used her backhand to slap him. The brute force of the slap made him wince with pain. He started muttering curse words and began to cough blood.

Fatou pleaded with her mother to stop hitting him, her voice trembling with desperation. “Please, Mama, stop! You’re hurting him!”

Sunkaru’s temper abated slightly at her daughter’s pleading. She looked at Fatou, seeing the fear and concern in her eyes, and her rage softened, if only a little. Despite his societal position, Yusubi was powerless against Sunkaru’s will. The children, huddled together in the corner, exchanged fearful glances, knowing that their mother’s wrath was a force to be reckoned with.

“Now get up and get into your room. I don’t want to see or hear you anywhere near me tonight,” she hissed.

Yusubi rose slowly, his body trembling, and staggered to the adjacent room without a word. The room fell silent, the only sound being the heavy breathing of the children and the distant, muffled sobs of their father. Sunkaru stood there, her chest heaving with the remnants of her anger, looking at her children with a mixture of defiance and regret.

As the night wore on, Sunkaru tended to her children, ensuring they were fed and settled for the night. Her eldest daughter, Fatou, who was sixteen and already showing signs of inheriting her mother’s strength, stayed up with her, offering silent support.

“Mama,” Fatou said softly, “what will we do about Papa?”

Sunkaru sighed, her tough exterior softening for a moment. “We will do what we must, Fatou. Your father is not a bad man, but he is weak. We must be strong for him, for all of us.”

Fatou nodded, her young face reflecting the resilience and determination that had been etched into her by her mother’s example.

As the night grew, the Bah household finally fell into a peaceful slumber. The children went to bed with full stomachs, nourished by the hard work and determination of their mother. Despite the shameful actions of their father, their joy and pride in their family remained undiminished. They refused to succumb to the public scrutiny that ridiculed their mother, labeling her as a man in a woman’s body, or their father, the woman in a man’s body. The whispered insinuations about their parents’ role reversals made no difference to them. Their mother was their anchor, their strength, and the provider of their sustenance. Their father… well, they did not choose him, but he was part of their lives, a flawed figure they had to accept as their own.

Each child had learned to navigate the complexities of their household, understanding that their mother’s fierce strength was their shield and their father’s frailty a burden they bore collectively. They saw Sunkaru not just as a mother but as a warrior, a protector who defied traditional roles to keep their family intact. Her hands, calloused from labor and battle, provided warmth and safety. Her eyes, stern and unyielding, offered guidance and discipline.

In the quiet moments before sleep claimed them, the children often whispered among themselves, sharing stories of their mother’s legendary feats, drawing comfort from her indomitable spirit. They spoke less of their father, who, despite his weaknesses, was still part of the family fabric, a constant presence in their tumultuous lives.

Meanwhile, across the village, Yerro’s struggles with his own family played out in parallel. The village was abuzz with news of Yerro’s accident and the efforts of the village herbalist to heal him. Sunkaru heard the whispers as she went about her day, her heart heavy with concern for her friend. The village’s interconnectedness meant that each family’s plight was felt by all, and Sunkaru silently offered her strength to Yerro, knowing that in their small community, the support and resilience of one could bolster the many.

In the coming days, Sunkaru would confront Yusubi again, challenging him to rise above his vices and be the father their children deserved. She knew it would not be easy, but she was prepared to fight for her family’s future. And as she worked tirelessly in the fields, her thoughts often drifted to Yerro, praying for his recovery and drawing inspiration from the enduring spirit of the village.

In a time and place where patriarchy reigned supreme, Sunkaru Bah stood as a beacon of strength and resilience, defying societal norms and forging a path of her own. Her story, running parallel to Yerro’s, was one of determination and the unbreakable bonds of family.

To be contd.

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