Those who say a market is where to buy and sell may have had a huge challenge trying to draw up a list of what can be bought or sold. The reason is simple, there are some things you don’t reckon can be an item on someone’s shopping list because of their extra-ordinary nature, the bizzare benefits they are touted to bring or even for the reason that such items can give you goose bumps on a normal day. Pause here and fast forward to Calabar’s Watt Market.
“Watt” like the locals call it, is a very vibrant market in the other half of Calabar, christened Calabar South LGA. It sits pretty, close to the Bassey Duke roundabout, considered the ‘centre’ of Calabar and dominates with a hustle ambience that is both annoying and exhiliriating. The same locals have ‘elected’ to call a section of the market “EFAK SATAN” (Satan’s Street), and it is where calitown.com is headed to find out why satan receives a bold mention in a market as popular as Watt.
It is already afternoon when we make our way into the market. Our guide, a lady has taken great pains to arrange that we spend a couple of hours in the market to see things for ourselves. First we ask directions to the place, get that, take a few turns, right and left and then the first shop calitown.com sees makes an unsettling impression. As we approach from the Nelson Mandela axis of the market, part of what we think use to be a human skull, hangs on the wall. The smell of burning incense is noticeable as are the chilling chimes of hidden bells. It is a long and eerie line of shops with esoteric wares on display. The place crawls with funny looking individuals who promise to help you attain success through any means necessary. Two shops away from where we stand, a thoroughly bleached woman draws our attention to a yellow container in her hand with the inscription, “Six Flowers Ointment”, it can guarantee, she tells calitown.com that “women will fall over each other to have you if you use this ointment on your face”. It is absurd and laughable but like someone reading our minds, she tells us in pidgin, “una go doubt me but people wey don use am dey always come back”. We find that incredible. Soon after, we arrive at the shop of one woman who has agreed, for a fee, to be our inside source. We are offered a squeaky bench to sit on and kolanuts. On the mat close to where we sit, a little boy is chopping a tree’s balk into small pieces and putting in a black pot. Reluctantly, we take the kolanuts and look around, without asking questions.
“You people should not mind what all these people call this place, we registered this line of shops as ‘Efak Ikpot Eto'(Stems and Roots Line), but people who don’t want us to progress now say it is Satan street”, our source begins.
We look at her table and lots of her wares are not from stems and roots. They are owl and vulture feathers on the table, feline whiskers, native eggs, a white, red and yellow length of cloth, strung together, a mazy strand of beads, seven wooden carvings as well as several putrid jars of slimy ointments, among others. It doesn’t take long before a young lady in her twenties walks in with a list. Oblivious of who we were, she drops her list on the table and exchanges pleasantries with our source and it is obvious she frequents this place. Now, boldly written as the header on the piece of paper on
the table is “ASSIGNMENT THINGS”. Listed as needed for the ‘Assignment’ are, six red candles, six packets of incense, six bottles of anointing oil, one breakable plate, a six-inch red cloth and other items that we can’t see. We are soon blown out of the way when we ask a seemingly harmless question. “What are the things for?”, we ask. The young lady looks our way and without thinking twice responds, “na for una burial”. You need no prophet to tell you that it was a wrong move on our side.
Our source reminds us that we have not eaten our kolanuts and like zombies we grab generous bites, munch at it and just hope it will not be a ‘meal’ to regret.
Several ‘customers’ come and go, making purchases that can daze even the strongest of men. At some point, throughout the time we sat there, it looked like male and female ‘customers’ were trying to outdo each other making purchases. As our source notices that our time is almost up, she goes behind her table and insist on handing us a white smooth stone. “If una carry this stone for pocket, anybody wey try una na rock e go jam”. It is such a well packaged attempt to introduce us to ‘African science’, something we politely turn down. “Ok-o, na so una wey don go school no dey ever believe us”, she continues, but we assure her it is nothing to do with education but a resolve to refrain from this art form.
Gratefully, we leave “EFAK SATAN”.
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