Do not kid yourself. There’s nothing cute about Legba. This is a power figure. We spotted him just outside the village of Ayomi. The horns are real. In this case, they seem to be a replacement for the huge penis most Legbas have. Legba copulates. Legba eats. The bowl is empty. The remnants of Legba’s supper, or many past suppers rather, blood of fowl or beast with palm oil and maize meal stirred into a thin paste, is what you see oozing down over his face and down where his sideburns should be.
We’re on our way back from Deve, where we’ve brought a used wheelchair to a 17-year old who’s never walked. Nanavi, she’s called. We spotted her a few days ago, in a hut made of the same earth Legba grows from. One of a triplet, of whom the first died, the second lived, and the third was Nanavi. She lives in the mud and the dust and the gore. Though spastic, she seems to react with normal intelligence. But she’s never been to school, spends her days as they happen to her. The wheelchair scared her. She trembled. At first. But when we left she was smiling. Legba does not smile. Legba is the reason some people have wrong triplets, I have heard. Legba rewards those who feed him, with bad luck towards others. Yes, there’s a reward in that: misfortune directed at someone else means that you are safe, for the moment.
It struck me, last Sunday, during our bilingual worship, how the name Legba was used. Translating into Adja, each time representing the same word: Satan. Nothing cute about him either. But so many of those bright smiling little African kids are still growing up in a world where the Prince of Darkness sits under a palm leaf canopy, waiting to be fed. I wish I had a million wheelchairs.