The Puzzling Case Of 'Area Scatter', The Being That Was Both Man And Woman
Long before the days of Bob Risky and Miss SaHHara Nigerians had already been introduced to cross-dressing. Especially so in the East where the amazing Area Scatter piqued our curiosity and entertained us by reciting old folk songs and playing the ancient calabash or thumb piano.
Fable says that as a man he had disappeared into the wilderness at some point during the years of the Biafran war, only to re-emerge 7 months and 7 days later, as a beautifully adorned woman.
During this period the gods supposedly endowed her with supernatural powers.
Sure tongues wagged initially, but after a while AS became widely accepted with many Igbos pointing to the existence of Ada mmuonwu (‘daughter’, or ‘maiden spirit of the dead’; also known as ‘Agboho Mmanwu’ or ‘Adamma’ in some parts of Igbo land), who was a female spirit that had possessed a man, and whose native deity in form of a masquerade stands equal with other male masquerades and is accorded full respect and recognition as a spirit from the great beyond.
These days, she is quite rare, but she does come out occasionally for festivals and ceremonies complete with her painted smiling face and heavy make-up.
If AS was gay we didn't know and I am not sure it would have made much of a difference because we could not get enough of the spectacle
Related: Money-making Rituals: Real Or Imaginary?
. A favourite on Ukonu's Club, the undisputed Band-stand of that era and region, she was beamed courtesy of NTA Channel 6 into our homes singing songs that were rich in morality and justice, in love and heartbreak, and in praise for the rich but kind-hearted. She sang at weddings and christenings, for the common man and for Royalty. ( Click Here for Rare Clip of Area Scatter singing )
Her name bore strong witness to rebirth namely Area Scatter – one who comes to disorganise a place, to shock and to reclaim; an eccentric fellow who has come to challenge the norm and change dynamics.
Area Scatter was one of the very few Nigerian men who publicly shattered gender boundaries and portrayed a somewhat accurate representation of its fluidity.
However as Emmanuel Marabuka writes on how religion affects gender relations in our society, attitudes and behavioural characteristics of the two sexes have more to do with cultural influences rather than just basic biology. And in recent times, the Nigerian societal and gender norms have been guided mostly by religion than anything else.
Thus, an Area Scatter in 2019 would be generally scorned at and labelled as sinful.
Having said that we are thankful that we grew up in a more understanding era where acceptability and tolerance ruled the day and xenophobia didn't.
I mean if not we would have been robbed of experiencing the enigma that was Area Scatter.