I was born immediately after the Nigerian Civil War also known as the Biafra War. Throughout my childhood, just as I am sure for any other child born within that period, it was very common for parents to talk about life before the war with so much nostalgia, and then compare it with life now. But what about the war itself? Why has it become such a taboo subject? How can a period that lasted more that four years be permanently wiped off someone’s narration as if it never existed? Are parents right to hide the ugly past from their children?
Obviously, I do understand that people are not generally inclined or keen to talk about the traumatic events that happened to them. This is most likely the case with parents as they fear this could further traumatise their children. However, I sometimes suspect this might be a kind weakness. Parents are supposed to be “strong”, so any story that portrays hardship or invokes pity might not support this stereotype. I might be wrong. Could it also be that keeping quiet on these stories is a way of letting bygones be bygones? Fear of revenge, bitterness or reprisal?
By stories, I do not mean the political aspects but the very personal ones. What was it like for them? Where did they live? How did they move around? What were their thoughts? What were the people around like? And so on. There is however one writer who has done a great job by defying the common convention. Chimamanda Adichie in her book “Half of a Yellow Sun” gave us the required human dimension of this war. It was amazing to hear how people still went to the theatres, wrote poetry, fell in love, had weddings, formed backyard schools, and made furniture.
It is the story of this bravery and survival instinct against all odds that we would like to hear. I do not believe it is going to lead to animosity or less reverence for parents. It will rather make them heroes to be remembered in their own ways. Obviously, it is not just the ugly past that we would like to hear. We need to hear their love stories, first day at school, growing up , earning their first penny and so on. The stories will cement the bond between generations and create a great sense of belonging.
Did your parents share much with you about the past? Are you ready to tell your children your story?