One of my favourite memories growing up were the periods I spent going fishing with my cousin Norris, or when I go fishing with my uncles or grandma. To those who were not privileged to pass through such an experience, sorry for you, truly you missed a lot.
I got the belief that I could finally swim during one of those fishing expeditions. It was towards the end of the year during the dry season, a period of time traditional Itsekiri fishermen and women go to “r’uton”. My uncles had already found a desirable creek for the expedition. We were all yearning to be part of the group that would go for the expedition on the appointed date. Sadly on the day, I and my cousin were told we can’t go. I could remember we were heartbroken by the news.
But after the group left, my cousin came up with a brilliant idea that we would trek deep into the Irigbo forest and from the location of my grandma’s farm, enter the river and start swimming down the channel. We were certain we must hear their voices from any of the numerous creeks and join them. He suggested since I wasn’t a strong swimmer, I would wear a life vest and when we meet up with them, they will have no option other than to allow us to stay and catch fish. I thought the idea was brilliant, and immediately we set out to join them. As we got to the banks of the river at my grandma’s farm, we entered the water and started swimming. We swam for a long distance and somewhere in the middle of our swimming, I had this surge of confidence that I can now swim.
We eventually found my family members and we were initially scolded by my uncles for taking such a dangerous risk. Luckily for us, we were allowed to remain and participated in the fishing expedition. We caught lots of fishes and the overall experience was awesome. I still look back at that day and say that was when I learnt to swim. There are lots of skills you learn as a fisherman including family values and traditions, paddling of the canoe, swimming, patience, perseverance, overcoming disappointments, how to cast net, set hooks (ale’egho and egho okpa) and most importantly, how to catch a fish. At the fore of this is understanding the times and season. There is time for everything and once your time is up, it’s up All efforts made to delay the inevitable is fruitless once your numbers are up.
Proudly a fisherman (Akpeja)
Samuel Eworitsemogha Wyse writes from Ode-Itsekiri (Big Warri)