Hijas del Sol are Piruchi Apo Botupá and Paloma Loribo Apo, an aunt and niece duo from the island of Bioko who write, sing, and perform songs in both Bubi and Spanish.
Chapter 60: Bubi Literature
Butuku, the Just
In times that were, in one of the villages of the island’s northeast, which one assumes was Batoikoppo, lived a male by name of Bobesoko, who had two spouses. The first was called Borenna and the second was called Boelakó. Both gave birth to extremely attractive daughters. Borenna gave her daughter the name Bochojoro, and Boelakó gave hers that of Boesoko.
In childhood, the two were kind and obedient. As they were so very beautiful, they had the admiration of all the people. By age twenty they were the most beautiful and graceful of the district, enchanting the young men and agitating the other, envious maidens. However, as they were continually flattered and catered to, they became vain, believing themselves superior to other women and domineering the young men. They were misleading to some, disdaining to others, and flirtatious with all. They turned into the most brazen and licentious young women of the village, and this caused a general malaise and restlessness among the people. Their botuku was forced to take matters into hand.
He called them into his presence, recriminating them for their scandalous behavior, exhorting them to be honest and judicious, and warning them that if they did not change their ways, he would be obliged to punish them as exemplary.
They gave no importance to the chief’s warnings and threats. Two times more he exhorted them and threatened them. It had no effect, it was as if they had heard the rain. The botuku at last became so angered by their brazen, shameless behavior that he decreed these obstinate ones be deported to the islet or large crag situated in front of Batoikoppo, which we call The Cousins. He ordered two cayucos prepared to carry them to that bare, lonely rock.
A little while later, they found themselves isolated and abandoned on the rock, sitting alone in the vastness of the sea. The danger was great, and they were sure to be dragged by waves and buried in the unfathomable abyss. The wretches were taken with a stupor and chill that left them speechless and near insanity for long periods of time.
This is why the Bubis call this crag ité ra bola bajmma: “Rock of the changed girls.”
They became terrorized and frightened, sobbing and lamenting their fate: “Oh, my mother!” exclaimed Boesoko, “Woe is me, the most unfortunate of women. If I would have heard your warnings and maternal reprimands, I would not find myself in such a horrible, lonely place, condemned to be buried in the abyss and to be food for the fish.” Bochojoro expressed her anguish and desperation with sad laments: “Oh, mother! The most cruel and inhumane of women! Why did you not chastise and punish my lasciviousness and madness? Is it that you didn’t love me? If you would have taught me integrity, maybe I would be honorable. If you would have warned me of the dangers to which youth are exposed, I would not find myself on this hideous rock of horror and death. Oh, the most impious of mothers and most cruel of women!”
When night arrived and it was extremely dark, the botuku, as he was wise, ordered five men to take a cayucos and row quietly to the exiled to listen to their laments and ranting. After the men had heard the protests and laments of both young women, they returned to give the story to the botuku. He heard their account, then ordered Borenna, mother of Bochojoro, to be captured. He decreed she be left on the rock instead of her daughter, because she had not done her natural duty to warn, reprimand, and punish her wayward and rebellious daughter. Boesoko was left on the rock for having ignored and scorned the admonitions of her own mother.
The Stupid Botuku
There was a young man whose father had died, and whose mother taught him all those things in times past that he must know as a man. The boy was extremely clever and confident, and he was called Bokumba. He had the admiration of all, and his own botuku was afraid he would supplant him.
The botuku assembled traps to rid himself of this threat. This same young man knew his worth, and was somewhat insolent. One day the botuku asked him: “Tell me, what is your name?” “My name is Bokumba (knowledge), because I have more understanding than you.” Another day the botuku called to him and said to him: “Young man, cut my hair.” He responded to him: “Cut mine first.” The botuku cut it, and in turn the young man cut the botuku’s. When this was finished, the chief said to the boy: “Put the hair back on my head the way it was before.” The young man responded: “You start by putting mine back first.” The chief had no answer, and ordered the young man to his house.
For a third time the chief called to the young man, saying: “I give you this precious ring as a gift.” The boy grabbed it and took it to his mother for her to keep. One day the botuku made a visit to the boy’s mother, and, taking advantage of her distraction, grabbed the ring and took it without her noticing. On the road he encountered the boy and said to him: “The day that I ask you for the ring and you don’t present it to me, I will order you killed, and if you present it to me, you can kill me.” The chief went down to the beach and threw the ring into the sea. Much later the young man went down to fish and caught a very big fish. In cleaning it, he discovered the stolen ring in its entrails.
One month went by. The botuku called to the boy and said: “Present the ring to me right now.” The boy ran to his house and brought it. Upon seeing it, the chief became paralyzed with fear. He was slaughtered right there, condemned by his own sentence. Bokumba was elected botuku by universal vote in place of the one slaughtered for his stupidity and malice.
The Pilgrim who was Elected Botuku
A man had two children, male and female, son and daughter. The son he named Riebetta, and the daughter, Pesa. She was of extraordinary beauty, but her inclinations and instincts were perverted. To the contrary, Riebetta possessed an honorable heart and desired to do well to all his people.
When they were nearly grown, the father ordered them to the woods to set traps and snares to get sustenance for the family. To conserve their meat, they used to cut it up in pieces and smoke it.
One certain day, the father wanted to test their fidelity and obedience. Against custom, he ordered them to bring the animals to the house whole, whether they were deer or antelopes, porcupines or pangolins, etc. To Pesa, these orders of her father appeared an absurdity, and she counseled Riebetta to disobey. Riebetta loved his sister, so to please her, he disobeyed his father, knowing it would draw his indignation. They divided the pieces of game into chunks, as was the custom. In addition, Pesa had the gall to pull the scales off the pangolins and the quills off the porcupines. Then she had the impudence to present them to her father this way.
The father was enraged at his children’s disobedience. He said to Riebetta, who was older than his sister: "How, Riebetta, can you be so bold as to disobey orders from your father?” Riebetta put the blame on Pesa, but that made his father even more angry: “What? Your sister is before your father, who engendered you both? Grab your walking stick and hat and leave the house of your father. Don’t you dare ever again appear in my presence.”
Riebetta, realizing his serious fault and knowing his father’s indignation was just, took his hat and stick and left without a word, heading off uncertainly.
Riebetta went on his way meditative and crestfallen. He came upon a village, where a ferocious bull planted itself in his path poised to attack him. The presence of the beast did not intimidate the young man. He fearlessly waited his attack, then aimed a blow at the animal’s forehead that left it stunned and wavering. It gave two turns, then collapsed to the ground.
The fame of this great feat went like lightning through those parts. They considered him a hero, as the bull had been the terror of the district, and they gave him a gift of a valuable cup.
Continuing on his walk, he arrived in a country whose residents had dug a well to get water, but they lacked an instrument to take the water out. Sympathizing with their plight, he gave them the large and valuable cup. In turn, they presented him with a white rock, called sapura, considered a token of good fortune and happiness. In another district, he ran into some pregnant women who were very worried about their future deliveries, and he eased their distress by donating the sapura rock to them, as a token of a most happy childbirth. They, in return, offered to him cured hides that could serve him as a bed on his long pilgrimage, which he gratefully accepted.
Further on he entered a savage and primitive country, whose people went completely nude. Moved to pity, he gave the hides to them, which they used to cover their nudity. In exchange they gathered some sticks for him, from which he could make fire to cook his meals and warm himself in the cold, damp nights. He received them, content.
Continuing his walk, he came to a region whose residents were unfamiliar with fire, its benefits, and how to make it. They roasted their yams and game with the direct rays of the sun. He placed the sticks in their power and taught them how to make fire from them. Here Riebetta was rewarded with abundant palm oil. This oil he gave to some unhappy women who, for lack of oil or other pomade, anointed their little children with saliva. They, in exchange, furnished him knives.
Armed with these he again followed his long road, soon observing that some men were extracting palm wine using some points or boring tools made of nipa. He offered them the knives, to save them some work. They, in turn, lavished him with traveling calabashes. Continuing on, he met a certain people that, for lack of calabashes, placed human skulls in palm trees to collect their wine. He was repulsed by such barbarism and made his calabashes a gift to them, which they received as a valuable and most appreciated gift. In appreciation, they favored him with axes necessary for cutting down trees and other uses.
Much farther along he found a village that did not have any iron knowledge. They cut their wood using flint axes. To them he offered the iron hatchets that the others had given him. This village gave him hunting nets in return. The nets he gave to some men who hunted with arrows, snares and traps, and they gave him good fishing tackle in return.
Walking and walking, at last he arrived at the edge of the sea. He came from the heart of Africa and had never before seen the sea, so here he rested from his long pilgrimage. He decided to live there in the company of simple fishermen. He taught them to weave nets with palm fibers, and he made large and safe cayucos from the trees. With the tackle given to him he devoted himself to fishing.
Time went on, and the ancient botuku of the fishermen died. They set their sights on Riebetta for their botuku. As Riebetta was honorable, with a kind heart and a great benefactor of the poor, he was unanimously elected botuku. He lived many long years in happiness with the rustic fishermen, who loved him as their father.
Why the Old Bubis did not Eat Deer
In a southern village there lived a young man who recently had married. He was boastful to the extreme, but had great tenacity.
He challenged the most robust young men of the village that he, with help from no one, could plant a yam field larger than all of them combined could cultivate. They accepted his challenge and everyone put hands to the task. The aforesaid young man, by the name of Pitabome, worked without rest to win the wager, stopping for only a quarter-hour daily to take frugal food that his spouse brought him.
He continued his work with tenacity and perseverance for a long time, never letting up, his eye always on coming out as victor in the wager. He cleared an extensive area of terrain, raised the fence (maloho), burned the weeds, made the ribemba, or pulled the canes out by their roots, which is the most fatigue-inducing labor. But, in completing this work, he noted that his strength was gone and he was dizzy. Giving no importance to such weakness, he pursued his labor. His spouse arrived with the daily food and upon seeing her, he completely lost his sanity, an effect of his extreme weakness and the sun’s force. He believed he was seeing a horrible ghost. He gave a yell, saying: Ñe a chou, “I have become a deer.”
In an instant, she saw him go, penetrating the forest and Eki chou, he was transformed into a deer.
Origin of Animosity Between The Dog and The Hyrax
When God created animals, he made them perfect. The hyrax he beautified with a bright tail, but she cut it off, very ungrateful toward God. Out of arrogance, she took the cut part and prepared an exquisite banquet for the other animals. She invited the goats, sheep, deer, antelopes, monkeys, squirrels – in short, all the animals of the region, except the dog. From the dog species, not one was invited.
It was a splendid feast in its style, but it is quite certain that no one ridicules God. The hyrax received the punishment it deserved for its arrogance, pride and ingratitude: God gave it terrible kidney stones. Hence, when its urine comes out, say the Bubis, the hyrax feels atrocious pain and that is why it yells at the top of his lungs with prolonged, strident howls.
One day the hyrax and the dog met. The dog wagged its beautiful tail with elegance, rebuking the hyrax with disdain and taunts: “Ah, miserable, ungrateful creature who behaved so vilely toward the Creator. You received exceptional gifts, and for vanity and pride you spoiled them. Disgusting. Suffer your terrible and shameful illness, so very well deserved, which compels you to burst into pitiful moans and sobs.”
The hyrax answered: “Go on, dog, most vile of all the animals. I am superior to you, scum of the living. You can never compare with me, vile slave. I am free and owner of my actions. If I pass you by your side you must salute me and draw back out of respect. Besides, you are a filthy animal and at times give off an unbearable stench.”
In this way both animals insulted one another. To this day the dog relentlessly chases the hyrax, the hyrax defending himself with vicious bites. I have seen dogs with their nose split apart by the hyrax.
The Snake and The Crab
Way back, in times of yore, the neighbors of the forest suffered a severe famine. Harassed by hunger, they began killing and devouring one another.
A black snake, Mappa, and a river crab, Iteke, were neighbors. Said Mappa to Iteke: “In spite of the hunger that ravages the country and the fact that our companions are devouring each other, and that I could, if I wanted, eat you, since we have always been good neighbors living in amicable peace, I do not desire to hurt you. I only propose to you a means by which we both will not die.”
“Very well, explain it to me,” replied Iteke. Continued Mappa: “You, Iteke, have many arms which, without great bother, you can detach from yourself. These will serve us as nourishment while these critical circumstances remain.” Iteke, fearing the snake’s retaliation, accepted the proposal. Daily, Mappa cut a small arm (bosopo) from Iteke. They seasoned it and both ate it. Thus they continued until Iteke found himself deprived of all his small arms, with only his large arm (bilappa) remaining. Then Iteke humbly put forward to Mappa the distressed state in which he found himself, suggesting he condescend to loaning a piece of his long tail to their nourishment. Replied Mappa: “I cannot loan any of my tail. I would die without fail.” Iteke did not believe this and when Mappa was asleep, Iteke cut a piece off and prepared it. Later, Iteke invited Mappa to come to eat. Mappa answered: “Friend, I cannot. I feel indisposed.” Iteke replied in turn: “You ate all my arms and for only a tiny piece of your tail that I cut off you are sick?” Iteke ate, then afterward extended an invitation to Mappa saying: “Let’s go get firewood.” Mappa replied: “Friend, I cannot move.” Iteke, leaving Mappa in the house, went for firewood. Upon returning to the house, he said to Mappa: “Friend, help me unload it.” Mappa did not answer. Iteke threw his large bundle of firewood to the ground. He moved all the furniture, opened the kettles, but did not find Mappa. Then he found her dead behind a pole. In that moment Iteke intoned this chant: “Ah, Mappa, Mappa – all my arms you ate – but I cut just a small piece of you – and you soon died.”
“Mappé, Mappé -- o le resila -- Nko rei eló enné o a seddi, seddi.”
Iteke then returned to his old residence in the river.
Mending the Offense
The turtle and the dog, both mothers of families, were neighbors in the woods. A luxuriant tree not far from their residence provided them nourishment. Sitting in its shade, they were savoring its flavorful fruits. From time to time, some fruit fell down, dropping painfully on top of the turtle’s shell and the dog’s back. The turtle suffered his pain in silence, but not the dog. She burst into great and pitiful howls. In hearing them the owners of the tree realized that they were stealing his fruit, and immediately came with clubs. The two neighbors took off as fast as they could.
No one could catch the dog, but the turtle was slow. However, she made use of a ruse: she put her head under her shell and remained immobile like a rock.
Both neighbors later wished to return to eat under the tree. The turtle scolded the dog for its intolerance to suffering and advised her to be more sensible and patient. The dog gave all assurances that she would not repeat the occurrence. With such promises, the turtle consented to accompany the dog to eat under the tree.
In the shade of the tree they ate and conversed as neighbors and friends. Once again fruit fell from the tree. The turtle gave some imperceptible groans, but when a rather large piece fell on the dog’s back, she began to howl as if it were killing her, fleeing that place at full speed. The turtle tried the first stratagem, but she stopped in a place where she was recognized, grabbed, tied, and carried to be food. When the dog heard about the misfortune of her friend, she deeply regretted it and set about to free her.
She went to the medicine man to consult with him. He told her to tie bells and empty tin cans around her body with cords, then charge with rabid furor when the turtle’s captors went for water at the river. She was not to let up her attack until they were all the way back at their own village. This she did, leaping from the woods making a frightful noise, biting ferociously at the villagers. They ran off into the woods, pursued by this rare and fierce animal.
When they had fled, the dog untied her captive friend with her teeth. The turtle thanked her friend for her great exploit, but added: “I will no longer live with you in the woods, but return to the beach, my old and own residence.” Thus they separated, both friends and neighbors.