Kukere is an Efik word that translates to, “No worries,” or “Don’t worry.” Efik is a language spoken by Efik/Calabar/Akwa Ibom people who reside mainly in southeastern Nigeria. Now while I am an Urhobo girl, I do feel very close to or at least fond of, Calabar culture because my mum is fluent in the language and spent part of her childhood there.
A few years ago, a Nigerian artist, Iyanya (who is probably my favorite artist right now), released a song with the title, “Kukere.” Because I’m always half past late to most things that revolve around popular culture; and despite hearing that song here and there on some nights where I felt “homesick” – a term that is truly complicated to me as someone who mostly grew up away from Nigeria but very much in the Diaspora – I only fell in love with the song this summer.
Like my year, my summer has been of waiting and worrying. It’s why I haven’t been writing too much. I took an unprecedented break in what is probably one of the last few times in my life I will probably be able to do so – at least until retirement. To say the year hasn’t gone as planned is quite the understatement. I mean life generally doesn’t go as planned but there are times that are worse than others. Now I do dislike being so vague but I never wish to use my writing to air out personal issues that aren’t beneficial to the sensibilities of readers; moreover, as someone who is hyper-aware of the uneven cruelty of the world, I have all the things that matter intact: My loved ones, my health, and (hopefully), my ability to create beauty out of pain, if only in the form of words.
We all know that life isn’t fair but when things don’t go your way and keep not going your way, it tends to feel like there is a personal vendetta that the Universe has waged against you. We ought to know better but time and again, most of us have to be reminded. And in these moments or situations, we also tend to forget about everything else that we have going for us; everything else we ought to be grateful for. Part of me feels I wasted much of my summer feeling a little sorry for myself – for things I didn’t particularly have much control over. But maybe disappointments meet us where we are in order to give us new perspectives on life. Or at least to be reminded of perspectives we should already know.
What is keeping you up night? What is making you worry?
Everybody has answers to both questions, no matter what kind of life you think they are living; no person on this earth is without problems. And for a time, it may be necessary to be more silent, to look more inward, to get away from whatever your status quo might be, in order to survive whatever problem(s) it is that you are facing. But the reality of life is that it goes on; life always goes on. And so must you.
And you can choose to go on in a way that makes you bitter, angry, or permanently defeated because life didn’t work out the way you believe it should have. Or you can take some advice from the Calabar people, get off your feet, do the Etighi dance (as seen in the song’s music video), and tell yourself, “Kukere” – don’t worry.
Because something tells me that Kukere is more than just a word; it’s a way of seeing things, a way of moving forward from all the ways in which life will undeniably disappoint you. And as the lyrics reminded me as a person of faith, “Who God done bless e, no man curse e,” which is Nigerian Pidgin for, “Who God has blessed, no man [or woman] can curse.” So indeed in the midst of all the waiting and worrying, I remembered my reasons to dance. Listen to the song, and remember yours. Kukere.