Janine Josephs, Contributor
Mother Nanny crested the ridge of the Blue Mountains and looked down into the sunlit valley below. The landscape had changed completely since those long ago days in Free Town when they planted yam and pumpkin in provision grounds for food. Dried-out river beds and modern asphalt roads scarred hillsides where waterfalls once cascaded and the Great Hope used to flow.
To the west she could see God-Back; streets pregnant with roadside vendors selling tiny plastic bags of yellow and white. Scars ran deeper than skin through the collective consciousness, buzz and bustle of this busy town. She knew only too well the concoctions of bleach powder and toothpaste they contained. Too often she had witnessed the reddening of the dermis, layers stripping to ochre, or turning black and spotty like the pink and brown backside of a hog.
To the east lay Judgement Cliff, here they held the annual chicken competition: a meat parade of plumped up breasts, buttocks and thighs. That society valued 'healthy bodies' purchased with life and with blood. Nanny knew well the stories of young girls who took the chicken pills filled with arsenic. She had seen their numbness and tingling, red rashes, and diarhorrea. She had even seen them dying of cancer.
To the south was Wait-a-Bit, standing on Labour-in-Vain Savannah: a shanty town of board shacks and zinc-roof huts. This was the sidewalk pharmacy of the island, its prescription drug mecca. Capsules, creams, and boxes spilled out into streets and gutters and washed through gullies into the sea: antidepressants, antibiotics, anti-fungals, medications for STDs, vaginal thrush and premature ejaculation. Nanny sighed deeply. A national health crisis was looming due to resistant strains of bacteria, and her people didn't even realise they had caused it themselves.
Nanny banged her pimento-wood cane into the limestone rock, and called out to mother goddess Oya:
"Ajalaiye, Ajalorun, fun mi ire."
Then she waited for the rising of the silver-cocooned moon before donning her purple cape and throwing handfuls of eggplant seeds onto the porous ground.
Later that year, unusual weather patterns plagued the entire island. An out-of-season hurricane slammed into the east. Mini tornadoes split off wreaking havoc along the south coast. And an earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale rocked the tectonic plates between Jamaica and Haiti.
Even within the island itself, conflicting weather reports emerged. The people of God-Back were experiencing an unprecedented number of days of sunshine. From their vantage, the sky-bound ball of fire had incinerated in its own heat scorching them with flaming spears. As an unexpected spin-off, the residents began to suffer from a condition known as hyper-pigmentation. Miraculously, no new incidents of skin bleaching were reported and all previously known cases were reversed.
Over at Judgement Cliff, floods ravaged the land, killing livestock and poultry. With the collapse of that industry steroid importation ceased and the practice of human ingestion declined. Strangely, the abundance of rainfall led to a spontaneous explosion of yam hills and pumpkin vines on every available square inch of earth. Export of ground provisions became a net earner of foreign exchange and yams became the staminiser of choice, after it was empirically proven that they could produce the same Coco-Cola-bottle body shape as chicken pills. Judgement Cliff was renamed Pumpkin Hill in memory of Queen Nanny of the Maroons; and the annual yam competition became its staple.
On Labour-in-Vain-Savannah, the barren soil miraculously developed an alluvial quality filled with rich red nutrients. A profusion of herb bushes and flowering plants with medicinal properties sprang up overnight and at the centre of this natural Eden a cotton tree appeared. Legend has it that it contained the spirit of the ancestors, for suddenly and inexplicably, ancient knowledge was returned to the townsfolk and they became the most skilled herbalists in the modern world.
The rest is history. And so is the shrine dedicated to mother goddess Oya. It was found by accident at the top of the Blue Mountains, and renamed Eggplant Peak.
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