By Nellie Umutesi-Vigneron
When I found out that one of our ElleAfrique readers and supporters was also a published author, I was ecstatic. Nike Campbell-Fatoki is the author of ‘Thread of Gold Beads’, a novel which she kindly mailed to me and also autographed.
This novel is set in the Great Kingdom of Dahomey, Benin in the 1800s and the main character is Amelia, favorite daughter of the last king of Dahomey, King Gbehanzin. Following his father’s death, Amelia’s father is crowned King Gbehanzin and has to move to the royal palace along with his family. Although Amelia is a princess, her upbringing is fairly normal. She is still expected to carry her duties and learn a trade. But Amelia is not an average girl. She is bold, curious and courageous. With the impendent fall of the Kingdom, Amelia is told by her grandmother and mother that she has to run away to Nigeria, accompanied by her brother, Dare. Before leaving, her grandmother gives her a bundle with some food, a letter to the Alake of Egba, her father’s Recade (royal scepter), gold coins and ordered her to place the gold beads bracelet that her mother gave her in the bundle. These beads will reveal to be very important and the key Amelia’s family history.
I devoured the novel within a weekend. With its various twists and turns, it was hard to put the book down. What I loved the most about the novel is the portrayal of women in the novel:
– Amelia’s Godmother and Mother – They are the pillars of the family. They are the caregivers, the advisers and planners.
– Amelia – A humble and obedient princess, but who still has opinions of her own and is vocal about them.
– Ms. Titilayo – A second mother to Amelia. Her love and patience for Amelia has not boundaries.
– The female warriors – Recruited and rigorously trained to serve in the Kings’ army.
All of these women are determined, strong and independent. Not the pejorative connotation that we have today when talking about the strong and independent woman. Their use of strength and independence is inward and subtle, never disrespecting the men in the community as they recognize their important role as protectors and providers.
One may think that this is a story about love; however I think it is about resilience and the courage to keep going when all seems lost.
The book had me reflect on the influential women in my life and understand that I am where I am today thanks to their strength, their belief in themselves and me, and their willingness to impart in me some their knowledge and wisdom. I only hope to honor them as Amelia has honored her Grandmother, her Mother and Ms. Titilayo.
The novel is now being turned into a play and will hit the Washington, D.C area on October 4, 2014. My hope for this novel is that it becomes a traveling play throughout the United States and Africa.
Have you read the novel? What were your thoughts?