As she weaves her magic with her golden tongue her language remains mercifully easy to comprehend, yet her words demand that we pay special attention to the duality of their meaning.
To put it plainly Bassey Ikpi arrives with the bite of a jalape├▒o as well as the allure of a loud whisper. I am a grumpy old man who doesn't say these things lightly but grudgingly have to admit that she is a refreshing difference in a field annoyingly cluttered more so with "wanna be" rappers than actual Poets.
Not since I was lucky enough to hear Wole Soyinka recite his "Telephone Conversation" impromptu decades ago in Lagos , have I been so impressed with not just command and presence but also with delivery.
Homeward was my introduction and it is my favorite narration of hers, because being bi racial myself and a confluence of both Nigeria and Germany , I can certainly appreciate the complexity that often arises when one straddles two cultures by default. With lines like " Nigeria is quietly begging me to remember what America is slowly urging me to forget" she reaches into the depth of "our" confusion and one can only applaud in agreement.
Did she actually measure her Grandmother to find out she was mere 4 foot 9? Knowing what I know about the regal carriage of Nigerian grandmothers regardless of tribe, I doubt it. But she sells it with that infectious smile and a scowl of sincere annoyance that never seems to leave her face.
She does the same thing when she talks about fingers sticky with Garri . One only has to close his or her eyes and deliberate if the accompanying soup was "Afang" or "Edikang Iko" as she instantly transports us back home to sleepy African villages and the sharing of communal meals.
Something warm and fuzzy has suddenly been turned on.
Her words are that effective.
In Apology to my Unborn I see a different Ikpi. I guess the fact that she is heavy with child adds to the new look. But I see her as an expectant mother first and "social narrator" second, making her for lack of a better word almost vulnerable.
But it is a refreshing vulnerability.
Her expectations, fears and prayers are blended into a delicious stew of uncertainty for herself and her (then) unborn child. Nevertheless the hint of trepidation is not enough to mask her anticipation and eagerness as she expects her bundle of joy to arrive, and that injects a certain sense of humanity into the whole story that rather than detract only enhances it.
Conclusion? Ikpi is as real as her Efik pronounciations and for a nation or people who have long waited for a voice to document their experiences in the Diaspora I think we may just have found our hybrid of both Canary and Nightingale.
Stay tuned for more.
Black and Black Rhyme and Def Comedy