By Emmanuel Edukugho
An incredible novel whose plot was weaved from an African folk tale about a young village maiden who overcame the circumstances of her birth to become a model for her generation has hit the literary scene with inspiration.
Twelve years old Katya Samuel-Anyagafu is stepping out with The Flute Dancer as her first novel, a stunning work which should have a place among the literature series for the school system.
Omamma, the young village maiden, who is the main character in the novel, never knew her mother because she died at childbirth and her father Mazi Obi desired to give his beautiful baby daughter a new mother by marrying his late wife’s best friend Onyechi but that eventually backfired.
Expectation that Onyechi will show love to Omamma turned sour as the little girl was maltreated, suffering so much hardship on her way to reaching puberty.
However, as time went on, Omamma eventually danced her way to the heart of Prince Obinna, the only son of Igwe Ogalanya who took her as his bride.
The Flute Dancer is a nine-chapter novel that will be thrilling to the young ones and adults alike, depicting the ups and downs of life, the uncertainty of the future, as nobody knows tomorrow.
In chapter one, Omamma was billed for a dance rehearsal at the village square, but as she ran along, struck her left foot against a stone, thereby arriving late which delayed the take-off of the rehearsal.
Not allowing the pain to obstruct her, she limped to the village square to join the rest of the young maidens who had gathered for the event as she was supposed to be the lead dancer.
On getting to the venue, she promptly apologised to her follow maidens for coming late because she struck her foot against a stone. Said Omamma: “I’m sorry, my fellow maidens. I struck my foot against a stone and the pain was too much, so I had to limp the rest of the way to this place.”
Already the flute player was there waiting and fiddling with his flute.
By the time he started blowing away his flute for the sweet melody, Omamma was already dancing to the sound.
As Omamma intensified her dancing, Akidi the flute player could not hide his admiration as he beamed with confidence.
She did so well that by the time she got home, Omamma felt weak and tired.
She hurried home in the same manner she had gone to the dance venue.
In chapter two, readers were told that the people of Umueze had a tradition where all young maidens from the ages of nine to fifteen were presented to eligible suitors at the village square every five years. In the forthcoming festival, the Igwe’s son, Prince Obinna who lived abroad or “O bodo oyibo” in the local parlance, would also be coming home to choose a wife.
Omamma, 13 years old, fell within the age limit of maidens to be showcased at the village square for potential husbands. She was a perfect dancer who understood the language of the flute exceedingly well.
Omamma knew that this particular festival will be highly competitive as each maiden desired to be the wife of the Eze’s son, the crown prince.
Omamma was pessimistic because she lacked the attire to attract a suitor such as Prince Obinna and so never imagined she would be chosen by the Prince as wife. But she knew how to dance very well.
Before Prince Obinna stormed the arena, some of the maidens were already falling over each other to seduce him. They even fought among themselves over who will be wife of the prince.
In chapter three, how Omamma was maltreated by her step-mother like a house maids was narrated, often abusing and cursing her at the slightest provocation.
In order to get rid of her, she was sent to live with the white missionaries who brought Christianity to their village Umueze. Her step-mother thought they would turn her to a slave. But instead, Omamma was sent to the village school, learnt to read and write and acquired some skills.
After five years, Omamma came back home as the white missionaries returned to their country. This made her step-mother more bitter and furious, intensifying the maltreatment.
In the remaining chapters, Omamma was putting all she learned into good use to the astonishment of everyone; showing off her education. But she still suffered persecution in the hands of her step-mother, Onyechi.
At the last outing of the maidens’ dance, Omamma won the heart of the Prince against all odds to become his wife.
The Flute Dancer is a heart shattering novel, full of suspense, anxiety and exciting.
At the end of the book, there are questions for students to answer, chapter by chapter.
Also there is a Glossary of words, terms and phrases used in the book in Igbo language.