This blog was going to be called Calabar Winch.  I had made up my mind already.  I tested the idea on friends and family.  There were those for and against; more against than for.  There were the very few who went quiet because they were intensely scandalised by the suggestion.  Majority feared I was testing all kinds of things I shouldn’t even be getting involved with.

“Well, as a joke...?” I offered. 

Witchcraft was never a joke. It could not be a joke in Nigeria.  It could perhaps be one in Glastonbury where people wear ridiculous black outfits and play at being witches but never ever in Nigeria.

For about six of the early months of 2012, yellow banners belonging to a pentecostal church in Calabar were stretched across trees all over the city boldly advertised a long running church programme.  Its title was

“My Father, my father, this witch must die!”

I persevered based on the fact that this wasn’t about real witchcraft, dark, black witchcraft.  

It was about the essence of bewitchment with food.  

Why was it that it was Ok to joke that a woman somewhere...some unknown person was a “winch” because she had put something in a man’s food in order to get him to fall in love with her...people laughed.  Yes that definitely tickled.  Sometimes it was even hilarious.  Culturally we embraced that genre of humour.

You laughed at it, yet accommodated the ambivalence of the “truths” of the story, the hesitancy in the factualness.  You could play with it in your mind and admit that that kind of “witchcraft” was perhaps only representative of primeval patterns: E.g. woman cooks for man, because man has been programmed to feel vague warm feelings for women who cook for him, especially women who know how to add theatre to kitchen drudgery; know how to convey the coquettish message of...

 “Time spent in kitchen equals worth of man and here I am cooking Ekpang Nku Kwo for you for twelve hours my lord and master...”

Man begins to feel some stirrings that are recognised or not recognised as being attached on firm strings to the effects of good food on the stomach and brain; begins to be ever so slightly intoxicated by the strong insinuations of worth conveyed by the movement of the witch in the kitchen sweating, pounding yam, whistling strains of pentecostal choruses all in the effort to produce one pot of soup and one mound of pounded yam just for him.

 It could be that.  It could be real witchcraft; the addition of real life concoctions bought from a man with a red pouch hanging over the door of his house.  The ambivalence is part of the cultural terrain

 But if one said one wanted to use that idea, the nervous humour attached to it, the cultural fear/admiration ascribed to a woman who can cook very very well; the power that she represents, the ability to cook so skilfully and so instinctually  that the primeval knots and bolts fall in place in the minds and in the bodies and spirits of the eaters of the food both women and men.  To the extent that the idea of a love potion is brought up in the mind.

If not love potion then the outlining of a gift given to women whose spirits before they are sent into their bodies stand before their maker and God asks the woman to hold out her hands and he spits in them.  The hands become spoons and the women are born into our world as “Olowsibi”.    Endowed with the supernatural ability to cook.  The Yoruba go on to call them “Sokoyokoto” when the angle of bewitching suitors or admirers or husbands is manifested. 
 
Why I cannot harness the kaleidoscope of representation from which already dangles the word “winch”; I mean what is the dictionary definition of “winch” anyway?  Isn’t it a lever that throws gliders into the sky! 

The Nigerian again instinctively laughs when you say “winch”.  Because we are laughing at ourselves, at our deliberate mispronouncing of an English word, and because one can presume that the replacement of ‘in’ for ‘it’ is an agreement among us all that we aren’t going to take this witch business so seriously...


I found out soon enough that this agreement was not watertight when I saw the expressions in answer to the suggestion of calling the blog Calabar Winch; like a plane was falling out of the sky before their very eyes.  

I’m a stubborn woman...I went on to give the name to a contact in Abuja who makes a  very handsome living solely from registering company names at the Corporate Affairs Commission.
...A Winch is a Witch in local parlance; it follows that a Calabar Winch is a witch who bewitches men with the cooking of sumptuous meals.
A couple of weeks went by.  About six weeks went by, then two months.  I got a response saying that I had to go to Calabar Municipality Office in Calabar and request the use of the name “Calabar Winch”

“Why did I have to do that?”  I demanded already irritated by the two months of silence from the Corporate Affairs Commission.

In the first instance, they replied, I could not use the name Calabar without requesting the permission of Calabar Municipality.

In the second instance, the C.A.C wasn’t sure where I was going with the whole matter.  What was I selling?  What was the nature of my business?  What was Calabar Winch Ltd going to be trading in? Why for goodness sake the choice of the words “Calabar” and “Winch”

Last but not least I was informally advised to reconsider the choice of the name as there are in fact people who are practicing “Calabar Winches” and a clash between myself and them would not be pleasant!

Was this serious I asked my contact

Very very serious he responded.  And he drew my attention to the last informal advice again.  Imagine my letter falling into the hands of a born again Christian staff of the Calabar Municipality.  I would be the talk of the town for at least the next decade.

It was especially pertinent that my husband was a civil servant.  Not only would I have to deal with the backlash of giving voluntary information as to my practice of witchcraft, my dear Christian civil servant hubby would also suffer the effects of owning a professed unrepentant proud winch for a wife.  The very kind that yellow banners had been stretched all across Calabar for.

At this point, I gave in.  Not because I was afraid of being believed a witch but because I didn’t have the time and energy to waste going in and out of Calabar Municipality offices.  
Calabar afterall was the same city in which I had taken my son to a hospital after his head had met with the edge of a table.  I got to the hospital and instead of being treated like an emergency case, the nurses grilled me for details of which church I went to, and “...was I really married?”  They didn’t like my clothes, nor my youthfulness, nor my hair nor my white gold wedding rings.  None of these things fitted in with a description of the typical Calabar married woman, and while we stood ironing out these details, my son’s head bled and the fury rose in my stomach until I could have done something a real witch would.

And thus Calabar Winch was discarded for Longthroat Memoirs.  The C.A.C still came back with “...why was I registering a blog and was I going to also sell foodstuff like peppers and onions as well...”

“Whatever...”  I told my contact.  Tell them whatever they need to hear to register it.  I’m bored with the whole thing....
Long-w-throat