Dancing to the drumbeats of war.2


In 1993, the war drums were rolled out for rehearsals. The staccato rhythms beat across the land in the wake of the June 12 riots. And the people fled from their homes across the country in search of a safety that had become elusive. And they died in large numbers. Very few, if any died from gunshot wounds though. Most died from motor accidents, highway robberies and in some cases, from stampede.

There is a pathetic story of a family who hid their wad of cash in their baby’s diapers as they ran away from the Northern part of the country. When they got to the Lokoja bridge, they ran into highway robbers who demanded for their money. They insisted they had no money and the robbers began a meticulous search. Unfortunately, they found the money in the child’s diapers; they took the money, and threw the innocent baby over the bridge into River Niger. Father and mother turned back to where they were running away from, distraught, inconsolable. They had danced to the drumbeats of war, and it was not pleasant. This is just one out of the many horrible experiences that people went through in 1993 and 1994.

There was no actual war but the drummers drummed and the people danced. Rumours led to more rumors and panic bred pandemonium across the land as we all danced to the drumbeats of a war that existed in the hearts and imaginations of warmongers. Because you see, a war is not just a fight between two armies; a war is an attempt at destruction of everything your enemy represents. When a war happens, the lines are often blurred and the enemy becomes faceless. Fear and insecurity are the twin commodities that go on sale, and everyone is forced to buy. The reason I felt safe in 1970 was not because I was a child; it was more because the theatre of war too was far away for the drumbeats to be heard in my neighbourhood. But not anymore. This time, the sound is loud enough for the deaf to hear and the crippled to dance to its ugly beat.




I was discussing with an acquaintance recently and he said to me that I was dancing in the dark. And he was right. We had been talking about an on-going project which has dragged longer than it should have; he was right, I was dancing in the dark. I knew exactly what he meant. I mentioned it to someone else a few days later and they were puzzled. What does it mean to dance in the dark?

Dancing in the dark is just that-dancing in the dark with no one to see your dance. No one knows how well you dance, there’s nobody to criticize your moves and direct you. Just dancing without an audience; and where there’s an audience, they are unable to judge what you are doing because they cannot see you.

A dance in the dark can be very frustrating. Who wants to perform without an audience to applaud? Why write if there are no readers? Whoever made a movie just for the archives? Why cook if no one will eat? Why compose a song for the deaf?  I could go on and on but you get the point. Everybody needs an audience at some point. People need to know that whatever they are doing matters in some way to someone. In other words nobody really wants to dance in the dark, unseen, and unnoticed.

But is it all bad? What should we do if we find ourselves dancing in the dark?

The first thing to do is to ask why?

Why are you dancing in the dark?

Sometimes it is by choice; we may choose to do whatever we are doing away from the limelight. But that is not what we are talking about here, when it is by choice it is a good thing. The challenge comes when you are dancing in the dark because no one wants to see you or the lights have been deliberately switched off by another. A dance in the dark is frustrating only if you truly want to dance in the light but you just are not able to do so. And who doesn’t want to dance in the light?

But dancing in the dark, frustrating as it can be should be used for our own good. First be sure you have done all within your power to switch on the lights; then settle down to enjoy the dance-in-the-night. Yes, you heard me right, enjoy your dance for the audience of only me! No one is watching, no one cares so you can be free to dance with abandon. Rehearse every kind of step you ever thought of.

Jump as high as you can, swing every way possible, shake and shiver, laugh while you dance, weep while you dance, after all no one is watching. Write your best prose, or poetry. Change the characters in that novel, play around with scenes, and do research.

Experiment with a new recipe, who is there to tell you it tastes awful? Just do it and do you.

A dance in the dark right? Believe me it’s an opportunity to turn out your best work yet. It’s rehearsal with no critique. Hone your craft and don’t worry that there’s no light and no one sees; after the darkness comes the light. You may not know when the lights will come on and someone will see, so prepare in the dark. One thing you must never do; when the lights come on, don’t be found twiddling your thumbs and bemoaning your fate.

So are you dancing in the dark? Do it with abandon!