The Whale of Tikpiti’i

Edited by Julia Rios

September 2017

You didn’t think I had it in me, did you? On the Island Tikpiti’i there is a way of doing things and a way of not doing things. You, Harold Onyame, are a prince. I am a maggot. You never thought I’d challenge you.

On the Island Tikpiti’i, there is a pecking order. The legend says that your great grandfather, Uvuzwa – Whale of Tikpiti’i taught the seas to obey him. Otherwise there’d be no way to fish, no way to survive. Standing here, against the blue walls of your palace, I ask myself if the Whale of Tikpiti’i also used his influence to squash maggots like me.

I can see it in my mind: men and women bowing down to this man who must have had large eyes like you, who must have had feet that face different directions, who must have ruined village girls by telling them they would be his Queen. Even as he threw them to the curb, they must have thanked him. I see it like the bioscopes they show in Alau City. But did he force any of them like you forced me?

“Thank you, great one of Onyame,” they must have said. The brothers of ruined girls would have kneeled before him, would have thanked him for ruining their sisters. They would not challenge for a stick fight, would not bay like angry beasts. I want to vomit.


The air is cloying and I want to go home. I smell the salt of the sea and watch my coward brothers go bravely into the ocean. Bravely, they face the ocean, the waves, and the whales, but none of them were brave when I told them that I carry the seed Onyame. They just looked at each other then sighed and told me to stop lying. Cowards!

In the Village Ozwofor, a rich man ruined the daughter of a widow and refused to marry her. She gave birth to the child during the monsoon. He told the midwives not to help her. His child died in her arms and she carried it to the man’s house and, where she stood, carrying the corpse until she died of exhaustion. The elders made him pay her mother twenty cows for her ghost to leave the village. So here I am, standing outside the house of Onyame, the house everyone else is afraid of.

I have been here since daybreak and I will not leave. No one speaks loudly in the market; they are looking at me sideways, whispering to each other. I told Kezia, my sister, this plan and she said a quiet girl like me shouldn’t go against the house of Onyame, besides I don’t have a baby yet. I told her peeled damgas are eaten raw at a baby’s funeral so I peeled the damgas and carried them here to prove my point. Kezia shook her head and told me it was my own funeral.

I am going to be sick. Big green flies land on my nose and the air around me is getting hotter. I can smell the sweat that is running down my armpit in rivulets, and the voices of bargaining people at the market seem to be fading away but I will tame you, Onyame – Great Whale of Tikpiti’i. Already, your father signals servants to drag me away but I will not be moved.

About the author

Tariro Ndoro holds an MA in Creative Writing from Rhodes University in South Africa and currently lives in Harare, Zimbabwe where she was born. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Afreada, New Contrast and Oxford Poetry amongst others. Her blog is tarirondoro.wordpress.com and rare twitter sightings of her have been reported at @MissTariN.

© 2017 Tariro Ndoro