Monday, 29 May 2017

Three and still in my heart

Dear Oge,

On 1 April 2017, I saw a dark skinned Ugandan boy, an exact replica of you. He studies Economics here in the University of Pretoria. He is in his first year. I spent about an hour studying beside him. And in that one hour,  I stole a thousand glances at him. I wished he was your ghost. Our studying was cut short because the study venue was being prepared for an event. I made sure to introduce myself before I walked away because every 'apparition' of you deserves my respect. However, I did not feel the need to take his number, offer mine or connect any further. There was no need to incarnate you. You still lived in my heart.

Six days later I saw him again but this time at a distance. He did not see me so I stared as much and as jaw droppingly as I wanted to. But this is not the story I want to tell you on the third memorial of your death. Perhaps this is not the story you want to hear. But I would not know this because you have neither reached back nor connected since you left. It's so frustrating to expect the seemingly impossible. But this is faith isn't it? Believing that the dark silence shall pass and once more there will be words and letters and communication. Or not. Perhaps this silence is bliss. Perhaps this silence is necessary.

You know Oge, sometimes I do not have the luxury of patience or shakara. Time has suddenly become too precious.  I just get up and leave. I now find solace for my writing and reading blocks in the most uncanny and unbecoming things like chocolate muffins and custard, like hiding out in the Engineering Library to study human rights, like crying at midnight when I feel like the wall is caving in.

I have also been banging the door alot these days on my tiredness, on people that won't stop being unreasonable, on my unwaning need to be present even if all it does is feed some age-long misconception that I can not leave.

But then Oge, the days are not always like this. I have learned to love and laugh and stay when I need to. I have learned that the word 'happy' in happy ending is quite relative. But also that Prince Charming is real.

On that Oge, the eagle, that eagle, that very eagle has flown. It flew away in March. Now I feel less agitated, less afraid and less inclined to engage in heated debates to assert or defend myself. I feel more alive! The home front is taking it very well, I think. At the time it felt like the right thing to do. I am very happy that I took that decision at that time. The heavens are still up there, and brown bread is still R12.

This is not the story I want to tell you either.

Oge, the truth is May 27 is still a dark day for me every year. This year I could not bring myself to tell you any story. My heart is still heavy. And for the first time I considered unloving you because grieving for you gets in the way of everything. But I can not because the memory of you blesses everything. Being with you, and receiving from you, giving to you gave me a lot- and still does. Our friendship was not everything. But it was different, complex, and safe. I wish I could look past the pain of your phyiscal absence and embrace your always being with me, in me and for me.

Fimi sile Forever is out, and has been lit up in London and Pretoria. Our names engraved in every copy. I have also temporarily withdrawn from the chaos of social media to attend  to my art, work and academics. More sweetly Oge, cupid has struck!

You are here Oge, alive and present. You still live in my heart. I still appreciate that we have moments to remember.

I still cherish the memory of you. I love you, still- it's not funny anymore.

Happy memorial Oge.

Nodi n'udo.

Oyi gi,
Nnanna




Friday, 19 May 2017

#Childnotwitch

Dear Africa,

As a child I saw the movie 'Battle of Musanga'. A nollywood film. One of the several that I was learning to love. It told the story of Mgbeke, the young Igbo woman who was forced to submit her newly birthed twins to the community because twins were believed to be an abomination.

A few years ago, I read Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' where the concept of Ogbanje was explained through storytelling. When children get too sick too often, they must be witches. We must mark them, mark them repeatedly with hot razors so that they dare not return to this world in reincarnation.

Ola Rotimi's 'The gods are not to blame' in exploring the Oedipus Rex told us the story that may be explained as the child that should have been killed. And if this child is not killed, the world will pay for it.

Sometime ago, we saw a flush of movies about child witches, lots and lots of them.

Children! These movies and art paint them as blood sucking, dark and demonic creatures.

This rain beats us all. The four year old child in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria now being chained and whipped. The 17 year old gay boy in Owerri, Nigeria starved for days and abandoned in the name of exorcism. Lesbian girls lambasted and raped by prayer warrior after prayer warriors. The victims also include parents, families and communities trapped by age long unquestioned customs of demonising the queer, the beautiful and non-conventional.

They have used art, sermons, conversations, relationships, intimidation, power, patriachy, seniority and status to force us into ignorance. And these are  the strong names in our movie industry and  literati in full support, in applause. 

Let us move beyond this, let us learn. Let us untell these stories. Let us right this wrong. Let us accept and protect children, they are not witches!

Pissed off!
Nnanna









Saturday, 6 May 2017

Counting as human first

It is not often that I identify with the race struggle. One does not become genuinely emotionally aware of it by reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, seeing Idris Elba’s rendition of the Madiba or the Sophia town play- although I believe, I came very close. ‘Race’ has not always my reality. I live here in South Africa but I do not pretend to understand it fully, yet. What I do share with this reality is the consciousness of a tedious journey of struggling towards acceptance. If this is anything to go by, the parallel realities of the several immutable features that attract pain and exclusion share the same ‘darkness’. These features, race inclusive, are gender and gender expression, sex and sexuality, disability at several levels, ethnicity and ancestry, social and political class, religious affiliations or the lack of it. There will really be no end to this list. But Freedom Day every year as the celebration of the first time that exclusion was formally stopped as regards the peoples’ right to vote is not only a symbol of so much but a parallel victory for every reality that smacks of discrimination and exclusion.
You see, elections and voting are not just a political exercise of slipping cards through card-board slots. They could be symbols of integration, involvement, community, power and continuous change. They do not only say that my preference is allowed to count. They also mean that I am here validly, unapologetically, protected by the structure, history and aspirations of the state regardless of what, who, where or how I am.  It is not just the protection that counts but that there are mechanisms set up to ensure that nothing derogates from this status with impunity. And this idea of this is a beautiful one, phenomenal even.
However, this idea does not get realised because the people have a legal right to participate and contribute. All rights are linked to one another. A person cannot enjoy his/her/their human rights to participation and voting if their humanity is not first recognised. This humanity entails the respect, protection and fulfilment of every human right in the bill of rights. And for South Africa, given the colonial history, apartheid, the state’s policing of certain citizens privacy and sexuality, post-colonial anti-white sentiments, this humanity is strongly pegged on non-discrimination and inclusion. 
The idea of this protection should mean that I may walk into classrooms and not be looked at differently because my skin is a shade of brown or black. And that my white friends are not constantly perceived as predators and oppressors. That waiters in restaurants do not look at me strangely because I am in a visibly biracial or same-sex relationship. This should mean that I may hold my head up high as I walk through the streets or into health care centres and police stations regardless of whether my sexual inclinations and gender presentations are known and visible. This should mean that the kink in my hair, sway in my hips or the lack of one or both does not get in the way of  working at work, learning at school, and ‘churching’ at church. This should mean that my life, culture, health and living standards should matter when state policies and plans are being made. This should mean that the great, little, dissimilar and similar should see me as deserving and worthy of visibility, audibility and engagement - and I reciprocating the same the whole time.
sourced from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glenn-garner/southern-gay-men-and-interracial-dating_b_5660825.html
Still, it is not often that I identify with the race struggle. It has not always been part of my reality. I know about the struggles of sexuality, gender, ethnicity and religion. I know about being looked down on because by some standards I am not cis-gender and Christian. I know about being a stranger and hiding my ‘Nigerianness’ to protect myself from homophobia and xenophobia, to guard against physical, mental and emotional hostility and to live one more productive day. I know about being silent because my spoken words do not flow out articulately and struggling to compete with the same rules as persons who do not stutter. I know about fear and repression and that my scars are not instigators but a bench mark on how people must never be treated. Most importantly, I know that the Freedom Day should mean more than voting because history exists as a symbol to be celebrated, learned from, project further and not to be limited by. I know that Freedom Day means that in our dissimilarities, we should all count the same.

Originally published on SOGIE Diaries: http://www.chr.up.ac.za/index.php/sogie-diaries-blog/1795-counting-as-humans-first.html