Poetry by Chukwuebuka Osondu-Imafidon

The ‘Oba’ that I am referring to is the statue that was once in the RISD Museum, but has now been returned to its rightful owners. The points of view are in the following order: the colonizer who stole it, the mask itself, and the museum curator who shares ethnicity with the mask.


The thief

I cut through their primitive vines of stagnation

The same way I cut through the organs of their savage men

The soft curves of their women

And the naive eyes of their children

I saved their statue

The beautiful metal that looked so out of place in their dark and stormy land

This is for my queen

For my country

And in a way, it is for them

What would they do with something so advanced, so intricate

What would they do with something they do not deserve?


The mask

The cage that I am in

The clear barrier of finality

Is the only thing that separates my rage

My disgust and disrespect

From the people that come day after day

Hour after hour

To look at me like a pet

To stare into my eyes as if I am some peasant!

We have never had similar lives— we never will

I have led people to prosperity

I have brokered peace

Who are these people?

The ones who view me as lesser than

Even though they have never had a kingdom

Weighing on their pathetic shoulders

Their eyes that never pity me

Pity me for being stolen

And confined in a foreign land

In a cage

That is not fit for a king.

But when the door closes and the gallery is asleep

I watch as other captive statues come to me one by one

And bow and bow and bow and bow their heads in obedience

Even here in my captivity, they know I reign


The kin

I found my world wrapped in plastic

In a box that seemed more like a cell

The eyes on the sculpture glazed over in deep confusion

And pain that mirrored my own

I wish I could take you home

I wish I had the knowledge that you have

Of our shared people

I wish that I didn’t go away, that I didn’t have to go away

But now I am here

In this freezing land

A fragmented piece of home

Crying for me in my scarred palms

Chukwuebuka Osondu-Imafidon is a Nigerian writer who lives in the United States. She is the writing editor for Dark Phrases, affiliated with Sarah Lawrence College.