Professionalism in hunting within this context can stretch imagination. Generally, professionalism connotes a practice and skill arising from education and training, sustained in a profession to provide services, livelihood, fulfillment, riches, wealth even prominence. Practice of medicine, law, accounting, engineering and other skills come to mind. But hunting hardly enjoy any of these dressing. Over here, in a large area hunting is an adjunct. Professionalism in hunting is ‘doing it well’ or ‘being outstanding’. A hunter rather than being a single face professional, adorns himself with multiple faces. He is a farmer. choreographer, flutist, dancer, herbalist and fighter/soldier. He is one in all and all in one like others in his community.
Some hunters may choose to form and belong to an association- Otu Egbeni Di Nta. Patrons of the association are men or women -“Nne ndi Egbeni” or “Nna ndi Egbeni”. The tag father or mother has nothing to do with any knowledge or skill in hunting.
Annually, a group visit to a patron is a big event. A special day, hunters in masks and straps of guns come in unusual costumes. Like the ‘flakes of fire on heads’, their heads are on fire. Carbide-fired lamps and flash lamps make a galaxy. Those without guns carry improvised guns and stakes pantomiming. Unlike pulsating sounds common in local rhythms, their music is distinct octave sounds like that of herbalists. Hunters sing, chant and mimic animals. Intermittently they release gun shots. As the event roll, there are shouts of hunting code names and sobriquets. Ventriloquism as a tool in hunting becomes a child’s play in their dance. It is used to attract or disguise. It is also an act to mitigate unsavory encounters in the form of a friendly fire. As the train move to an arena, thrilled and bemused kids and passerby scamper to get better view. Both hunters and the audience are in a frenzy. How revealing! As an old man would say todays ‘magic’ drama and movies cannot capture this reality. Millennials seem to have missed this part of history.
Hunting captures business, tradition and altruism. Is it not said, if a hunter recalls all his experience, hardly would anyone want to accept any meat from him. But he does the opposite. He does not want to burden people with stories that engenders pity and sorrow. In his exploits when big animals like buffalos, African hogs are killed, the community joins him in butchering and sharing. He presents parts of the animal to the oldest man. He has a duty to summon his kinsmen to evening dinner meal of the slain animal. But when he is attacked in the forest who comes to his rescue at that moment? Onye shi ogbe?
There is a kind of meat that a hunter must share with the oldest man as respect of seniority. Akambo, easily comes to mind. It is rear and tastes so good the old man says. Instead of seeing such giving as weakness, he is encouraged by elders’ profuse support and blessing. He believes success derives from many sources. Of course, there are powerful relational, ethical and psychological undertone in this act.
The hunter is an astute business person. He understands where his kill can be traded. He knows the rule of confidentiality whereby not all that he does is exposed to everyone. His tact at work, business, altruism and community relations stands him out.
Team hunting is not unusual. It provides opportunities to train young and new hunters. The synergy often is deployed in chasing herds from a location to another and hunting in unfamiliar terrains. Team hunting is a confidence booster. Hunters know like any human that a medicine man who feigns wellness always is also human.There can be strength in number. Team hunting emboldens. Team hunting helps to stretch limit beyond individual effort. But team hunting is never confused with commercial hunting denuding the forest like forest fire. Recreational hunting is also unknown here.
In examining activities of ancient hunters one is left with some admiration and insight that richly draws a line. A line of the old and new, the informed and the novice (ofeke) especially among millennials enjoying easy tagging and ascriptions like herding. Herding in thought is a weakness common in a zoo. This is commonly found on social media threads where reason is abhorred for foolishness.
Zoo thinking finds solace in static patterns of behaviours demonstrably anti development. A system relishing in old tales, lacking new paradigm for improving human conditions is a walk in darkness. When one relishes in the use of new things but never suffer any pain for inability to make one or encourage a thinking towards one or appreciate that something new is good, then the thinking is arguably aligning with zoo thinking. It is clear that hunters of old had thoughts and actions not confined. While in the wild they thought wide. Hunters attributes could be deployed in managing complexities in men and resources. If your think otherwise, it becomes your responsibility to provide the flip side.
The import of a hunters story is not its beauty, thrilling stanzas, punctuations or trendiness but the power of listeners’ gleaning the untold lines to brace up with the “things around your neck”.
A hunter as encyclopedia,
Provider of clean Protein
Search and rescue leader
Dedicated to Okwuokei Okoh, Okonicha Adubor, Anene Osaji (Ogwogwo nwa ndi nmo) and members of Otu Egbeni Mama Janet Ndah, UK and a friend who is now a seasoned legal practitioner who hunts and understands all the bush and creeks of Lagos west in our “can do” teenage years.