So, I’m participating in the SCA’s Knowne World’s Got Talent competition. No biggie. Here’s my entry (so not dressed for it, lol):

For more info on the competition itself, see here:

For info on the SCA in general, go here:


Happy Adventuring!

The Rose of Oyo

The Rose of Oyo

By: Omokehindebegbon Ayoka Opo

(mka T Johnson)

In my homeland, there are no roses. We have no ballads, no poems, no dances for them. There are no roses in Oyo. Save one. This is her story.

There was once a great queen in the southern forests of my country. she was renowned for her cunning and skill in battle, but was not invincible, and one day found herself a prisoner of a northern king. After openly displaying her as a prisoner of war for weeks, the king began to desire her as much as her kingdom.

One day, he approached her and demanded her hand, saying, “You have three days to agree or I cannot prevent your execution.”

The queen decided quickly that she’d have her own challenge for him and said, “I am an honorable woman and cannot be expected to marry a King that does not know his Queen or his Kingdom. If you learn of me, I will accept your proposal. If not, I shall consent to my own execution.” And she added, when his mouth dropped to protest, “How old was I when I conquered my first army?”

Well, the king did not care for this at all. He ranted and raved well into the night, but the queen held firm. Exhausted, he took himself back to his chambers and knelt at his bedside, preparing to ask assistance of a higher power. Normally for this problem, you would inquire of orisha such as Yemoja, mother of men and spirit of union. The northern king would prostrate himself before no woman, mortal or otherwise. So, he chose the trickster Exu.

“Oh, lord Exu, keeper of the way. I have need of guidance with a…difficult woman.”

“The southern queen?”

Oh! How the god had startled the king! The northern king straightened himself and smoothed his robes, while the withered, old god beside him puffed at his pipe patiently.

After the king explained to the orisha what the old god no doubt already knew, Exu told him, “Fear not. I will help you twice at no charge. Here is what you shall say to the southern queen.”

The next day, the king returned to his royal captive. Without giving her a chance to speak, he said, “This is a trick. When you were seven years old, two armies attacked your father’s kingdom. You disguised yourself as a water boy and slipped powerful laxatives into the water supply for two weeks. The dehydrated armies surrendered to your father shortly after.”

If she was impressed, the queen did not show it. “How many men and women serve my council?”

The king left her and, as he had the night before, summoned his lord, Exu. After listening carefully, the orisha told him what he had to say.

“Remember, this time may be without charge, but the next time will cost you dearly.”

When the king returned to his captive the next morning, he told her, “When your father died, you dissolved the council that would have forced you to marry to keep your throne. Now you listen to your people directly and solve their grievances yourself. You have no council, for all of your people are your councilors.”

The queen thought long and hard a moment and the king knew in that moment that if he could not pass the last challenge he would surely die as well. Finally, she spoke. “I was told once that women were made to be beautiful only, not to defend. We are to be gentle, not intended to protect. Find me another creation such as I, beautiful and dangerous by nature, and you shall have your queen.”

This was the hardest challenge yet, but, as it was his last, the king summoned Exu again that night. He begged and pleaded with the orisha. Exu merely laughed, taking long drags on his pipe.

“If I help you, you happiness will not last a year. I will come for the thing most precious to you.”

“I don’t care! A year with her is more to me than a lifetime without.”

Exu nodded and gave him what he needed. The pact was made.

When the king saw the queen the next day, she looked as beautiful to him as the moon on the sea. He held his gift out to her, fingers trembling.

“Are we children, that you bring a flower to buy my love–AH!”

At the sight of the blood drops on her fingertips he knew he;d won, but still he picked it up and told her, “In the far north, they sing of this flower, of its beauty and tenacity, of the pain of gaining it. It is the queen of flowers and its thorns are as renowned and precious as its beauty. A rose without thorns is merely any other flower.”

The queen, who had feared love as much as death, accepted the rose again, tenderly. They were married and a year later, the queen was so ripe with child that they were expected any day. Through sacrifice, the priests had divined it would be her only child and at the feast to celebrate, Exu arrived for his payment, scattering panicked guests like leaves in the wind.

“I’ve come for that most precious to you. Your child or your wife.”

The king looked to his queen who stood to address the orisha. “My lord, the king is a noble man. He will not marry again and I will bear no children after this.”

“That makes no matter to me. I’ll take you or your child.”

The queen looked thoughtful. “Our future son is most precious.”

“Then I shall take your son.” Exu approached and set his palm against her belly. Instantly the triumphant smile became a scowl and he backed away, balling fists.

“May she be as cunning as her mother,” he growled, and left the kingdom to thrive in peace and prosperity thereafter.

This was written for the Tourney of the Foxes XXX Rose Bardic Competition. Roses aren’t exactly native to Oyo and a Yoruba noblewoman wouldn’t really know any stories about them, so I gave a shot to writing my first competitive piece. It was a great experience. I’d like to thank Mistress Dervila of the East and Master Lorenzo of Meridies for their critiques and support. I received a request to write the story down so that it could be shared. My only request is that there be some form of credit given if it’s performed at bardic circles (“This is by Kehinde of Meridies” is all that’s really needed).

Happy adventuring!

~ Kehinde

The Old Man and the Sea

Last night, I sat at the mouth of a humid lagoon, so covered with moss and trees that not even the bloated moon’s light could penetrate the dew-dripping canopy. How strange it was to me; I had not been here for a very long time. The stone beneath me was clammy and cold and behind it was the opening to a cave, long abandoned by all but an old mother.

She gestured to me and slowly rose to greet me. When I was much younger, I would rush to meet her halfway, tripping on slippery smooth rocks and stinging myself on the glistening bones of her past dinners. I was much too old now, though, and I waited calmly, patiently for her to seat herself beside me. Her weary bones creaked like an old ship and her scent was strong and salty. She heaved a great sigh between her rotten teeth and I choked a gag back down my throat and locked it away behind a polite smile.

“You see, dearest,” she gurgled from deep in her belly, “nothing lasts forever. Not even the sea.” She raised a fragile hand that looked ready to crumble like a neglected sand castle and points to the sea. The moonlight was strong there and illuminated the otherwise intimidating black waves. Its light was merely anemic on my hands, though, as I shifted to give her more room to sit. I tried to convince myself that I was not shying away from her; when I was young, her power was overwhelming and I cowered in her presence with each meeting. Now she was decrepit, a pitiful shell of her former glory. I wonder if her power had outgrown her and had gone looking for a new home.

What I once revered, I now pitied. Her laughter was once the tides crashing against the shore, the call of sea birds, and the song of the whale. Now it was a thick trickle, pathetic and weak. She was very tired.

“I suppose not,” I told her. Her shoulder sagged and her damp, weedy hair fell onto her naked, shriveled chest. Her breath was wracked and wretched. I did not understand what had happened to her in the time since I had last seen her. The old woman laid a slimy, webbed hand on my elbow and simply gazed silently up at me, her eyes wide, but cloudy. I swallowed my baser instincts again and just nodded.
Sighing again, she rested her head on my shoulder and side by side, we watched the moon lazily sink into the sea.

In February of this year, I was still extremely new to the town. I had no in-city friends, I was far removed from a church/coven I’d only just started to feel at home with (despite never formerly meeting them), and I was broke and jobless. This short story came in the form of a dream in the midst of an extremely tumultuous time in my life and, to this moment, I think it was Yemoja speaking to me from deep inside. I shared it with a close friend, but now that I feel I’ve pulled myself out of that cycle of depression (protip: depression usually comes in cycles, difficult to cure and a bitch to treat), I can actually share it.

I will hopefully be doing more writing in the future, but if it isn’t dream/faith related, I will probably just link it through my Tumblr, which is for more creative pursuits.

So…that happened


Got this for my African Studies! I was so nervous, mostly because they had called my name when I’d just come back from getting ice cream and I couldn’t understand them (I was standing to far back of court so I didn’t disrupt anything). So a bunch of people got up and started looking for me and I was just watching, turning to John and a new friend and saying things like, “I hope they find him”.

It was a little embarrassing to find out I was the errant lady holding up court, lol.

If you look, you can see little strawberry cheesecake flavored fingerprints.

Totally worth it.

Why Don’t They Build A Bigger Loom?

Iris Faire-2074

Hi! I never update! Also, this is a copy-paste from another post I put on my Facebook. I’m lazy!

There are pictures of my newest looks for Kehinde coming soon! I promise this time!

And now the copy-pasta! All rambling notes are about the links right under them.


More research!

One mystery solved! The thin strips that I didn’t get in Yoruba medieval/traditional clothing? “Why not build a bigger loom?”

Woven by men! I know that seems kind of sexist, but bear with me.

In Yoruba culture, men and women are both weavers and their styles are complimentary. Adire is typically a male-produced cloth, made on the narrow double-heddle loom. The strips are typically 4 inches wide and used for the tie and dye process, probably because it is, like, a billion times faster and easier to tie and dye 4-inch strips than yardage when symmetry is such a big deal. So the “knight’s tunic” the German merchant acquired? Woven by a man for a man, as was traditional for political occasions, such as  a knighting or coronation. Women did weave men’s clothing, but usually for rites of passage or religious ocassions, like marriages and births.

A garment woven by a women is made on a broad-loom, typically with fewer panels and shorter in length. The broad-loom is stationary and not easy to break down, unlike the men’s thin double-heddle. The popular belief among scholars is that when Westerners saw that women were confined to the house for weaving and men could weave with double-heddles (pretty much anywhere), the assumption was that men were the professionals and women wove only for domestic items, when the case seems to be that women’s weaving was complimentary to men’s, not subordinate.

As a cheat sheet: Many thin panels sewn together to make a garment, men’s weaving. Only a couple wide panels (perhaps two panels sewn down the middle or just one big sheet), woman’s weaving.

For more interesting reading on the subject AND some interesting pictures for textiles, feel free to peruse the links below. Be warned, one of them is in French.

African textile history with a focus on adire, especially adire onika (tie and dye) and alabere (stitch resist): (Is that trim? I don’t know yet!)

An exceptionally informative, exceptionally expensive book. It has crazy illustrations and studies many techniques, including pre-colonial garments. It’s also where the majority of scholars get information on weaving taboos (yes, they exist, weirded me out, too) as well as widths and lengths, fiber content, specific patterns. Ugh, just read it.:

Hi! This is in French! However, it has fabulous imagery from the Tellum Caves excavation, including an early fila, which looks a bit like a Phrygian cap, an adire onika coif, some vertical strip cloth with horization weaving…now the coifs are something I want to point attention to for a second, because this is an 11th century find. Yes, the Tellum Caves are technically in Mali, which is a Sudanic kingdom to the east of Yorubaland, but the consensus among many scholars is that these techniques were common throughout West Africa at the time. Even if 11th century Oyo didn’t have adire onika (which it likely did and I haven’t found pictures yet), they definitely had it by the 1500s. Anyway, one coif has a definite turned hem with what  am hoping with a blind hem (I can’t see the inside) or a slipstitch. There are “stitch marks” visible on the adire coif, but it could either be sloppy stitching or a sloppy stitch resist (true adire almost always has “stitch marks”, which are really just left from the thread). IF it is left over from the stitch resist, the thread is pretty thin. They use raffia traditionally to do stitch resists because it is so dye-resistant (now they use plastic and I will be using upholstery thread because raffia is rather expensive to just turn around and throw in the trash after dyeing). So, as you can see, it’s kind of thin. Anyway, just a bit of speculation on my part. I didn’t mean to turn this into a novel. Check out the next page, too. Lined coifs and tunic patterns. Yay.:

Finally, some extremely interesting academic articles on traditional Nigerian clothing, focusing on Yoruba. Venice Lamb gets some mentions and both are written by Nigerians and have AWESOME bibliographies/sources pages. Definitely worth a read, if only for the small tidbits of information, like learning that crimson cloth was introduced to Yoruba court in the late 1400s and that the etymology for the garments suggest they are of Arab origin.:

Click to access sogunguyilepaper.pdf

Click to access asakitipki_aretha.pdf

This really turned into a book, didn’t it? Okay, well, if you have questions, let me know. =D I’m still learning, and maybe next week I will find out this is all wrong. Oh well, that’s just part of it, I guess!

Happy adventuring!


A Look at Kehinde

So, I am pretty much the worst blogger in the history of ever.

I did win NaNoWriMo this year (so there’s that).

I thought that I would show you guys a quick view of Kehinde’s progress. So, here!


What I like about this look:

The braids are super fun. They were a bit hard to do on myself–I did them at the last minute THAT MORNING–but I got a ton of compliments on them. The beads came from a four dollar craft necklace craft set from WalMart, all carved wood, glass, and malleable metal that Kehinde would have had access to. I didn’t get a picture of the hairpiece, but it’s a great, swooping bun at it was HEAVY. Much heavier than my Indian braids. Eek! The bracelet is also metal.

I am wearing two wax prints and one quilting cotton print. I love the design on the quilting (the dress), the texture and the designs on the drape and the handmade look of the second print, which you unfortunately cannot see, because it is the apron piece. When I can, I will show you the layer of this outfit. Holding this up is a macrame’d belt with wooden beads.

What I hate:

The braids were very fuzzy and VERY plain for Yoruba nobility. I need swooping, wing-like monstrosities positively bursting from my hairline and I won’t be able to achieve this without either a wig or twenty handservants (which is what Kehinde might have had…well…not twenty). The beads are nice but EXTREMELY under-done. She needs beads on beads on beads in coral and amber for her fancy dress. At my current state of dress, I am slumming it. Likewise, I need necklaces, beaded belts, bracelets, and anklets, not to mention fabulous earrings and a lovely nose ring.

I am not wearing any form of scarification in this picture. It’s extremely difficult to do makeup of that degree for an extended period of time for SCA events, so I am trying to remember to paint my face ahead of time (generally thin black lines). Scarification is crucial as a form of identity, a passing of age event, and a beauty technique for noble women of this time in medieval Western Africa (Benin and Oyo in particular). I have gotten a couple of comments on my views of this and not all of them have been encouraging. That’s okay; medieval Europeans would think scarification looked crazy, too, so it’s a good thing I’m only painting it on.

The quilter’s cotton batik. I am currently in the process of ordering new cloth (it’s all draped garments…seeing a trend in my personas?) but, for now, I’ve got a ton of this broadcloth. Ugh. It’s really cute…for a beginner…but I want to go beyond that. The broadcloth has GOT to go.

The shoes. You can’t see them, but they are super-cute sandals made of leather and decorated with metal beads. I can’t do much about that; you kind of have to have shoes in this day and age. I just wish I could go without or make the perfect set of desert sandals.

Accessories. I needs them. Many women hollowed gourds and used them for purses and pouches (not unlike my famous coconut purse). I need those. I need a grass basket. I need an animal skin cloak…probably goat or something similar. I need fancy jewelry in metal, bone, or corral. I need a better beaded belt. Macrame is not supported in my research for Kehinde, though she could have purchased it from traders from northern Africa. It’s unlikely, though, and I’d rather just get a beaded belt. I also need at least one metal of beaded necklace with a gigantic cross on it. I’m not kidding.

I have come a LONG way with this persona, and now all of you guys get to see it! Yay! But, I still have a LONG way to go, and, hopefully, it’ll only get fancier and…more African.


Now, the big question everyone is probably asking: Where are the breasts?

Well, medieval Africa is filled with breasts, yes, not unlike medieval India. However, the SCA is a family show. There is evidence leading me to believe that Christian or baptized West Africans (Kehinde is one) covered themselves out of modesty. The picture below depicts Afonso I of the Kongo and the women in the picture all have their breasts covered, whether by sashes or smocks.


It is these depictions of the most basic draped clothing that I am using as the basis for Kehinde’s garb, as she is a Christian African woman with a Portguese mother (look, Portuguese people in the picture), so the chance that she’s flashing her breasts all over, even if it’s the local fashion, is low. Yes, I am aware that the Kongo and the Kingdom of Oyo are two different places and you can’t point to one side of a continent and then another and assume they dressed the same (Poland versus France, say). However, since they are relying on draped clothing at this point in history and then their next stage of dress is obviously influenced by the same country’s traditions and religious beliefs, I think it’s safe at this moment to assume that Kehinde’s dress would not be too unlike the Christian African women of the Kongo with remarkable difference in jewelry, hair, textile design and content, cosmetics, etc. After all, her draped wrap isn’t too unlike a sari, which isn’t too unlike a kilt. You can only do so many things with a long rectangle, after all, and 90% of it seems to involve pleats.

Besides, Corpora states that I am a visitor to the European (influenced) courts of the Laurel Kingdoms. Even if Kehinde weren’t baptized and a practicing Christian, she still couldn’t flash in court. Just sayin’. If you came here for boobs, sorry ’bout that.


~ K



I was online this morning and stumbled across this video. Fascinating.


Why Western Africa?

Or “Is Africa really an acceptable choice for a SCAdian persona?” or “Are you going topless now?”

The biggest problem with medieval Africa seems to be that not too many people acknowledge that it exists.

An example, please bear with me: I was reading a couple of posts on a mailing list I follow for the SCA. A knowledgeable, nameless poster was attempting to encourage a newbie (who happened to be a POC) to choose whatever culture they felt most comfortable with. Roughly “we can choose all types of cultures. Japanese, Mongol, all of Europe, the Middle East, the New World, and even Africa.”

Even Africa.

Surely there is no more of a preposterous culture to personify in the Middle Ages as Africa, complete with its bands of savages and mud huts, yes? Not Japan, whose roster of people visiting medieval Europe (correct me if I’m wrong) was about six during the tail end of the 16th century, while Africans as far as the Congo and modern day Nigeria had been living and corresponding with Portuguese settlers and merchants since the 1400s and earlier, in some cases.

Don’t believe me?


And Here

Oh, and Here

Wait, wait, wait…This, too

And don’t forget this, this, this, and this

I know what you’re thinking. “Kehinde, if medieval western Africa were such a big deal, wouldn’t everyone know about it?”

Of course everyone knows about it. It’s not a giant black-hating conspiracy. I think it might be rather the opposite, though. A lot of ignorance I’ve encountered has been from people whose education on African history is limited to slavery in the United States. They’ve spent childhoods and adolescence being told that Africans were slaves.

“Essentially, Europeans were perpetrators and Africans were victims, and that’s terrible. The end.”

Nevermind that the slave trade was thriving during the High Middle Ages so that local chiefs could trade members of their chiefdoms for things like, oh, I dunno…crossbows. With the permission of Catholic leaders, newly converted chiefs and kings could do business with the Portuguese without worrying about becoming slaves themselves. Granted, some kings objected, but local leaders were only to happy to bypass them and set up new contracts with the Portuguese. Africans and Portuguese lived together at that point, with Africans taking Portuguese wives and visiting court and everything.

“From the very beginning the King of Kongo was treated with great respect by the Portuguese; the Ambassador who arrived in 1491 kissed his hand according to the custom of the Portuguese court, and brought assurances of friendship from John II. But the Europeans never doubted that the Kongo Authorities would wish to remodel their way of living upon the pattern of that of their Portuguese visitors as soon as possible. Masons, carpenters and artisans came out with the 1491 expedition; they arrived furnished with all the tools of their trade, and in many cases their wives accompanied them, bringing Portuguese cooking utensils.”

And also:

“In all Affonso sent more than twenty of his children, nephews and grandchildren to Portugal to study, but he was also anxious to make provision for the children who remained in Africa, building schools and pleading for Portuguese missionaries and teachers. In 1515 a newly arrived missionary reported enthusiastically on the school at Mbanza Kongo, where over a thousand sons of the Kongo nobility were learning to read and write, and were studying grammar, the humanities, and the Christian faith.”


“It appears that the relationships between Portuguese and Kongo People in the Reign of Dom Affonso usually continued to be those of mutual respect. When Simon da Silva went to the Kongo as Portuguese Ambassador in 1513, he was ordered to treat Dom Affonso as a King, not as a tributary of the Portuguese crown; he was not to govern but to aid and advise the King of Kongo; he was to model the Kongo court on the pattern of Lisbon but always at the wish and with the consent of Dom Affonso, for the King of Portugal did not wish to occupy and conquer the Kongo, but only to open the way for Portuguese trade and for Christian missionaries.’ Europeans followed the same etiquette at the court of the King of Kongo as they would have done at Lisbon.”

So, now what?

Several medieval kingdoms of Western Africa are now cool to play with. Yoruba kingdoms and republics, Edo, Benin, the Kongo, even Portuguese-heavy settlements like Badagry (Gbagle) and Lagos (Eko). Research to your heart’s content; it’s good for you. There are nearly two centuries of completely free reign for people interested in Africa beyond the Muslim spread up north. Jump in! It’s gonna be a blast.

You’ll be glad you did. Promise.

As a footnote, the source for the quoted areas can be found here, along with maps and some language information. Until I get more definitive sources to back them up, go ahead and take it with a grain of salt. If any of this information is found to be false, please bring it to my attention so that I may remove it.

Hello there, Internet!



Hi! It’s me! I guess this is my first post in what will hopefully become a lengthy legacy of posts. Not sure yet…good luck, me!

Basically, this is a place for me to easily collect my thoughts, but it is primarily for my West African persona in the SCA, Kehinde. Hope to see you guys often!

(You’re welcome.)

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