Heart of Arts

Concealed Agony: Mental Health and Child Witchcraft Accusation

Claire P. Ayelotan, PhD


An impassioned plea from a child for understanding and acceptance echoes through their haunting words, “I hide under the tensely dark shadow of unlimited doom”. This powerful statement speaks volumes. Allegations of witchcraft have long had devastating repercussions across cultures and societies, often having lasting and catastrophic impacts on innocent individuals – particularly children – who must deal with social exclusion, fear, and inner turmoil. Dr Ayelotan’s powerful poem HIDE offers us an intimate look into a child’s mind when trapped within this pernicious web of prejudice and superstition, unveiling their pain, isolation, and longing for acceptance. Today’s purpose is to explore the powerful emotional and psychological ramifications of these verses, illuminating broader societal issues they address and prompting us to reconsider our responsibilities.

This introduction seeks to capture the poem’s essence, establish context, and provide a foundation for subsequent analyses. As human spirits continue to face pressures from an increasingly demanding world, the poem paints a dynamic portrait of children falsely accused of witchcraft – its words help readers empathise and understand their anguish rather than simply relaying a story.

“I hide under the tensely dark shadow of unlimited doom, even when I prefer to live I hide behind those smiles.”

From the poem’s opening lines, it is immediately evident that this child aspires to live rather than exist, yet baseless accusations have prevented them from doing so. Hiding behind smiles symbolises many children forced into wearing masks of normalcy despite harsh societal prejudices which drain away their spirits.

“All is well, I tell them, though void of hope when there is no means of survival I hide, running far from faith.”

“All is Well”, even though reality may be dire, speaks volumes about their strength as children. Life often challenges their hope, driving further away from religion – often their only source of comfort in an otherwise lonely existence. Their laments reveal just how insignificant and meaningless life has become since childhood’s innocent joy and carefree existence were taken away.

“All is lost as sad as bad, my life like a toy, forever apart from reality. A fear, a distant joy, and my history so pale.”

Reducing children to toys conveys a perception that they are disposable within society; this is reality. Where cultural values and beliefs posit African children in a position of inferiority, do they possess any moral or legal rights? A dearth of genuine happiness underscores the immense scale of emotional trauma they have been forced to endure throughout their short lives – sufferings are never-ending in these cases.

“I hide, my focus on the moon, the disabled night captivated by nightmares, a heavy day, my absence of life, nothing of interest.”

Night, usually a respite from daily difficulties, provides no solace for these emotionally troubled individuals. Nightmares continue to serve as reminders of their predicament while days become burdensome without vibrancy or engagement – exacerbating their despair further.

“I hides, and life goes on around me. The world laughs, and I join in, yet none knows my inner being, none is able to know it all.”

At large, most people remain blissfully unaware of their suffering, instead participating in worldly pleasures while keeping inner distress hidden from view. This highlights society’s tendency to ignore the deep-seated trauma experienced by children living with autism, emphasising superficial appearances over genuine welfare. These individuals’ situations are frequently documented on traditional and social media, often without regard or willingness to provide assistance and shelter to those in need. While they can easily blame anyone other than themselves when their personal affairs become chaotic, blaming others is all too convenient when one’s personal affairs become chaos. Allegations of witchcraft must be approached with great caution and consideration, considering the well-being and safety of any accused children as top priorities. Practices such as finger-pointing and accusations of witchcraft should be discouraged, and any instances should be met with appropriate discipline. Such accusations have devastating repercussions for those accused, making up part of our collective responsibility to ensure that the children accused are treated with dignity and respect by society.

“I hide far from the truth, without a face the trouble that makes me handicapped with my perishing thoughts. Nothing works anymore.”

Children unable to acknowledge the truth of their situation often become disabled and overwhelmed with despair, leading them to believe “nothing works anymore”. Attendance at miracle churches for deliverance sessions may not necessarily restore affection from parents and guardians. Instead, it may exacerbate total rejection as many view those accused as witches, neglecting their well-being.

“I hide. Many times I ask myself, always by myself, how long it will take to hide myself in the tunnel of deep obscurity of such grieving crises.”

The ending of this poem highlights the child’s frantic desire for relief from their distress, with concealment – both physically and psychologically – serving as an especially poignant symbol for how essential safety and empathy are in protecting and nurturing these young lives.

On this World Mental Health Day, we must recognise and address the psychological trauma experienced by children falsely accused of witchcraft. This poem vividly conveys their experience, prompting us to consider our society’s treatment of vulnerable community members, championing their rights while working toward creating a more equitable and compassionate world.

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