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Ekwefi rose early on the following morning and went to her farm with her daughter, Ezinma, and Ojiugo’s daughter, Obiageli, to harvest cassava tubers. Each of them carried a long cane basket, a machete for cutting down the soft cassava stem, and a little hoe for digging out the tuber. Fortunately, a light rain had fallen during the night and the soil would not be very hard…
The harvesting was easy, as Ekwefi had said. Ezinma shook every tree violently with a long stick before she bent down to cut the stem and dig out the tuber. Sometimes it was not necessary to dig. They just pulled the stump, and earth rose, roots snapped below, and the tuber was pulled out. (19.8-12)
It’s appropriate that the women, the human equivalents of the mother earth, reap the riches of the earth for a banquet. The trope of the banquet is not only meal but a celebration of food and family that encapsulates everything the nurturing earth stands for. Here, nature shows compassion towards the women by sprinkling a light rain on the soil to make digging for tubers especially easy.
The last big rains of the year were falling. It was the time for treading red earth with which to build walls. It was not done earlier because the rains were too heavy and would have washed away the heap of trodden earth; and it could not done later because harvesting would soon set in, and after that the dry season. (19.1)
Nature’s seasons determine the Umuofia calendar. The implied message is that if the Umuofia don’t follow nature’s calendar, the earth can cause damage as easily as it can provide and nurture.
“But I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice. And what is the result? An abominable religion has settled among you. A man can now leave his father and his brothers. He can curse gods of his fathers and his ancestors, like a hunter’s dog that suddenly goes mad and turns on his master. I fear for you; I fear for you the clan.” (19.24)
One of the deepest values of the Umuofia is family and unity within the community. Recently, the younger generation has ignored or depreciated those bonds of kinship. The older generation blames the loss of traditional values for the takeover of the missionaries. They see salvation only in reverting back to the old ways.