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Chuma Nwokolo


Chuma Nwokolo

Nwokolo, author and advocate, is writer of Diaries of a Dead African and publisher of .

Bloody Benji is short fiction from the series, Tales by Conversation



 Bloody Benji

God forbid! What sort of painting is this on your wall?

You don’t like it?

See all the red jaga jaga lines all over the place. You can’t pay me enough dollars to hang this thing in my own house.  This sort of painting can give children nightmares!

Ha. You don’t want to know how much I paid for it.

Rafael! You mean you paid money for this thing?

Look, this is one of Ben Enwonwu’s abstract paintings.

Enwonwu? Are you serious?

I call it 'Bloody Benji' — because it is so red! My wife made me buy it actually, you know she is an art lecturer. It cost me hundred thousand — but it's actually worth more than two million naira!

Is it that Ben Enwonwu the sculptor? The one that made the bronze of the god, Sango, in front of the Power authority building?

The same one.

The same Ben Enwonwu that—

Look, there was only one Ben Enwonwu and he was the best! You know he's dead now, not so? So the price of all his art will just be going up and up! So you don’t like it?

Well, the only thing I like about it is how all the yellow paint mixes with the red in that corner. When you look at it very well it begins to resemble the head of a masquerade, isn't it? An Okwa masquerade, in fact. Is very, very clever, I'm telling you. – And the size as well. I like how it is big and heavy like this. I really like paintings that are big and heavy.

My wife says that if I want to sell it now I can get from two and a half million upwards. And it is not even up to five years since I bought it.

Are you telling me?

I swear to God.

You bought it one hundred thousand naira and is worth like two and a half million already! That’s what I like about all these abstracted paintings of a thing. In fact, me myself, I am looking for a very good Enwonwu to buy. See what happened to all those my shares in Zenith — where did you say you bought it?

Yaba main market.

Is that not where they sell meat and vegetables and local carvings?

The same one. Actually there's a story here—

—I can smell it—

—did you park well? Those local government people are always looking for cars to tow in front of my house,

Don't worry yourself, my driver is there.

Anyway, the original owner of this painting was one millionaire like that in Opebi. His wife knew very well that the painting was very, very expensive, but one day like that, his friends came from his village and they got drunk on VSOP —

Who got drunk on VSOP? The man, his wife, or all of them together?

The man and his villager friends.

That's one very dangerous combination: villagers and VSOP.

You're telling me! Anyway, he got drunk and he told his houseboy to fry his wife's pet dog.

404 stew!

It's a special delicacy in their village.

But to fry his own wife's dog?

That's VSOP for you. Anyway, she came back and called, 'Whiskey! Whiskey!'

I thought you said they were drinking VSOP brandy?

'Whiskey' was the name of her dog.

I see. This your story is getting confusing... is there anything to drink in this your house?

I don't have any brandy, actually, but if you can manage fruit juice,

Thank you, Rafael. So she shouted 'Whiskey, Whiskey!' We men! He blamed it on a hit-and-run danfo, not so?

He blamed a  hit-and-run molue. A kombi bus can leave evidence, but molues crush their victims beyond recognition.

We men! That was one clever millionaire, I'm telling you.

That's what he thought. Anyway, she cried and wiped her eyes. After all, it was just a dog.

Poor woman.

And the worst thing was that she ate the remainder of the Whiskey stew. Anyway, she went to throw away one thing or the other, and what will she see inside the dustbin if it wasn't Whiskey's head.

They threw away the head? But that's the sweetest part of 404!

How do you know? Have you eaten it before?

Me? God forbid! Am I mad? But that's what they say, all those 404 eaters.

Anyway, it was just staring at her, as if to say: E tu Brutus?

Etu what ?

Never mind. Anyway, it was like one of those Nollywood films. You know that one where—

—I know the one. Foolish houseboy. Mister doghead-millionaire had to buy one diamond ring present, not so?

No, the man was still drunk. He told her 'afterall, it was just a dog.'


So the next day he went to work and madam sent their housebody to hawk the man's Ben Enwonwu's painting at the meat section of Yaba main market. The houseboy was crying, 'Oga go kill me o, Oga dey worship this foto o,'

And what did she say to that?

She said, 'Look, it is just a painting.'


That's where my wife saw it when I took her to buy meat. She hurried back to the car and I counted all the money in my boot into her hand.
    If you like it so much, I can introduce you to an agent that specialises in Enwonwu's—

What about this particular one?

Yes? What about it?

Did you not win the visa lottery? Are you going to carry this heavy thing with you to go abroad?

Well, I’m not yet sure.

Me I don’t mind to buy it from you, to save you all that wahala. But you have to bring your hand down small. That two million is a bit too high.

But did you not just say that you can never ever hang this painting in your own house?

I can never ever hang it in my children's bedroom, that’s the thing. At least for the younger ones. Is for my parlour. It can match all those red, red carpets in my parlour.

I see, so how much do you want to buy it?

How about three hundred thousand?

Go and sit down! Because I told you the real story!

Okay, look. Between me and God, I can't pay more than one point six million naira—

One point six million? For a whole Ben Enwonwu? If I take anything less than two point three million, my wife will divorce me, I swear. She loves Bloody Benji more than that woman loved her Whiskey.

How about if I pay three times?

Three instalments? For ordinary—

—what’s this?


This name in the corner of the painting, Sacha… Sachi…

Sachi Bundu! Okay! I remember now, this is not the Enwonwu painting — I’m really growing old! I think my wife hid our Enwonwu painting downstairs in the vault. You know what these armed robbers are like—

Is that? So who painted this one?

That’s what I am saying, it must be this Sachi Bundu of a person.

Sachi Bundu? What kind of name is that?

How should I know? It must be one of my wife’s students.

So how much did you buy it?

Am I crazy? How can I buy a painting like this? She never has to pay for her students' paintings anyway. They are always dashing her free paintings, those useless students. Especially paintings of naked men. I'm even thinking of stopping her from teaching in that university totally—

—the cheek of it! That is not really a masquerade head o, Rafael! Is another kind of head entirely! God forbid. If I’m you, I can never hang this on my wall! Sachi Bundu! Look at how the red is curdling on the canvas like blood. Are those white things pieces of bone? Is like they painted this thing with the leftovers from that Chainsaw Massacre film...

But it’s still fine anyway.

This is what you call fine, not so? That your wife’s student should go and apprentice himself to a mechanic.

Are you saying that my wife is worse than a—

—no no, is it not your wife that I know very well? Your wife is good, but, look at this now; is it compulsory that everybody should be a painter?

I thought you liked it, before.

Is a little bit fine, I won’t lie you. If you take away that 'head' of a thing in the corner... but, kai! The whole thing is ugly, sha.

As it is not a Ben Enwonwu, I don’t mind selling it to you for sixty thousan—

—Let’s leave that one for now. That one in your vault, I hope Ben Enwonwu signed it.

Of course. He normally signs the back of his paintings. Wait let me check this one… O God!

What is it again?

This is actually a Ben Enwonwu painting! Look!

So why did Sachi Bundu sign—

I remember now! Kai, this my memory is useless! Sachibundu is the town where Ben Enwonwu painted this picture.

Sachibundu? Sachibundu? And where it this Sachibundu?

I think it is a town in Zambia.

I never read that Enwonwu went to Zambia.

It is not every time a big man goes to toilet that the newspapers report it.

I see. It must have a lot of laterite sand, that Sachibundu.

How do you know?

See all the red in the painting. That is what Ben was trying to paint. The red laterite in Sachibundu. And you see that 'head' in the corner? It isn't a head! That Ben Enwonwu man was a genius! He was actually—

—Look my friend, let’s leave the rest to the experts, you hear? This thing is not like our spare parts business. Do you want to buy it or not?

Okay, what's your last price?




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