By the God of artistic inspiration, I warmly welcome you my dear friend to another of our indigenous article. This is a short one but quite revealing and the topic Unugbu: A Metaphor for Life’s Twists and Turns is one born out of a deep sense of indulging in nature to discover that the eternal creator has given us wisdom to live by through the wondrous display of nature and all other creature apart from man.
I invite you to join me in the brief adventure to the Eastern Nigeria where I bring you the tale of Unugbu, the Bitter leaf.
If you’re a Nigerian, this is pop knowledge. I don’t know about other countries but you see here in Nigeria, l am a superstar especially to the Igbo speaking tribe of Eastern Nigeria. This is a tale of the Nigerian Bitter leaf.
They call me Bitter leaf as an attribute of my nature. The Yoruba’s call me “Ewuro” and the Igbo’s “Unugbu.” I don’t know why but everyone shuns me and anyone who mistakenly touches me quickly wash their hands because they say I taste bitter.
Life is always lonely for me on this side of the field or home-garden but I have never allowed anything to stop me from growing my deep green leaves and yielding fruit in large numbers. My leafy plant is a testament to this.
One day, my young offspring asked me “Mother, why are we always bitter and why are we shunned?” I sighed and replied “It tastes bitter before it goes sweet.”
My young one couldn’t understand what I meant by that, so I went to explain to her that that’s how life’s adventures happen. It’s like us, the bitter leaf which must first know bitterness and only after careful successive wash bring forth the sweetness that makes delicious meals of Ofe Unugbu – Bitter leaf soup.
It’s easy to want to choose the sweeter shade of life but bitterness is a part of the spice that gives life its tune and color.
And what should be our response when shunned? This is what I told my little one.
Never relent in bearing more fruits. Don’t stop getting better, don’t die before you’re killed.
Bear more fruits like the bitter leaf. The fruits we bear is the our passport to becoming invaluable, epic and wanted.
Let those fruits be good, let them be healthy, let them be inviting. Let them be creative and most importantly, let them be solutions not problems.
Just as the bitter leaf is not afraid of going under the wash, let’s embrace challenges that will wash off all the hardness and bitterness that makes us irrelevant. So that after we’ve been washed, the sweetness underneath our bitterness can emerge.
But do you know something fascinating about the bitter leaf?
Even in its bitter state, men find relevance and importance for it for which they are willing to pluck the leaf off the tree. if men don’t have a preconceived idea of our relevance, they’ll never near us from a mile. What does this mean for us? That while we’re yet in our raw state and unwanted, we should add value to ourselves such that even as men try to neglect us for maybe not being the A-list, they won’t be able to blur away the value we can add to them in our crudeness.
Oh, and finally, have you noticed that though the bitter leaf and the Aloe Vera share similar attribute, yet a wash in the water takes away the bitterness of the bitter leaf. In the case of the Aloe Vera it’s very opposite. Try it and keep the lessons with you.
And the question is, are you looking for relevance and value?
You’re sure to find her here, when we’ve been purged of all bitterness, in you and me.