An Igbo couple in Lagos, 1955, reads the caption. I still find myself in contemplation of the fact that once upon a time most lives lived were untold or rather undocumented. And it didn’t matter. Your world was a village. A town. Maybe the expanse of a city. And that’s all the world that might have known of you. The people you encountered. Perhaps they wouldn’t have a picture of you, so you would have only existed in the memories of people till they unremembered you. Cause you still existed in the memory. At least in real time, when you encountered and were accounted. So what can one do with images without a context? Maybe this is one of the chief reasons why fiction as a literary form is enduring and vital. These people caught in the lens of their lifetime could be any number of possibilities of character and story that is invented. It is probable, though I can’t prove it, that every human scenario has already been lived before so that even projections into vacant images to invent narratives are old tales retold in new clothes.
A complex beast is the capacity to make music that is more humane than we can sometimes be to each other. The horn plays the player as much as the player plays the horn. Francis might have been the miles of music he heard after she was gone. Do we always hurt the ones we love the most? And did that thought ever cross his mind?
Here in this candid moment we project the idea of him that is safest for us to hold. The totality of a life is not safe to hold. We are dangerous terrain and our journey to meet each other might be on an unpaved road. The sign says I Dare You. Travelling miles alongside you to discover a fraction of the universe that you are, is several lifetimes we will never live. But you can play Blue In Green. It will tell you something. Maybe enough to go down that unpaved road of the lover you uncoiled for.
One of three. Three. Free. Wanting to be. Young Disciples had that song back in the day about wanting to be free. Its called Freedom Suite. A beautiful work in three movements or parts. Carleen sang with such authority about a longing for a state of being that is not conferred on everybody. The freedom to be. Just to be. Human. To be people. Who share gifts during pagan holidays. And eat a lot during that time. Most likely, such people will have family over, and share in the merriment of that moment. It might or might not be Turkey at that table. It might be Chicken wings. Or Egusi soup. Akara. Plantain. Or good old roast potatoes with beef and gravy.
“Still in your mind all we do is keep wandering and gathering, spear chucking and dancing. You imply we must prove to you that we deserve freedom.”
Wanting to be…..
Just to be….
Just to be…..
60 years later. Multiplied by countless lives lived with a possibility that didn’t exist before a 6 year old child walked bravely to school, escorted by bodyguards and unseen Angels. To bear light. To shift time forward. Ahead of the appointment. To shake earth beneath stubborn feet. Moving the mountain aside to make a pathway for light to travel through. Bearer of….a burden. Light is a burden to harness.
This Roman city has been my stomping ground for all my life, and like a woman, it remains a mystery to me. A beautiful and sometimes infuriating mystery. And with all its challenges and failings, it has a beating heart that dares you to embrace it. Its old architecture and industry built from the profits of the slave trade, colonialism and the far reaches of the British Empire are part of London’s legacy. As a post colonial descendant, I am able to harness the history of London as both a symbol and witness of the city’s possibilities. The immigrant blood that upholds the NHS and that has permeated its way into the life and culture of Londoners is only one of many ways in which the history contends with the present. I try to see the beauty, resilience and hope that escapes into the polluted London air. I see the London of the Arts. I think of the fact that London can claim Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye as former residents. Its been the city of visionaries like William Blake. It gave the world the genius pathos of Charlie Chaplin. Its the city of Shakespeare and boasts the world’s greatest theatre scene and tradition. Charles Dickens did not hide the ugliness and brutality of London. Neither did Dizzee Rascal. As reflected in the Grime and Drill music, London has a screw face too. Knives and young lives have not been kind to eachother. But I’ll always be grateful to London because its where I found the great love of my life. She knows who she is. I hope that we will enjoy this city together again someday. A man can dream. I love London.
Fated to believe that it really does count. That numbers add up. The crosses and knives cut deeper than words and silence. Knowing that the count starts before you, runs ahead of aspiration, and the novelistic length of your thoughts. That desire carries you as far as you let it linger. A kiss inverted. You swallow your own lies. But they taste good.
Once upon a time I presented this painting, ‘The Deep Thinker’, as a gift. It was turned down because the person who it was gifted to, said the face had no eyes. And that it was tantamount to bad luck. I’ve never dealt in charms but I graciously took back my painting. It seems the only eyes we recognise more often than not are the peep holes for our iris to take a snap shot of what we percieve in surreality. In real life as we term it, we are blinded by sight or rather blunted. The optical illusion of the vision is only equaled by the delusion of what we choose not to see in plain sight. We are all complicit in the great deception and visionaries will burn at the high stakes of our unseeing eyes.
The Deep Thinker
Acrylic on canvas
Six thirty. You were on time. This time. You were here. I was on my way. Missed the train. Missed the boat too. Burnt the bridge behind the rush hour. Always Knew I could fly. Just needed you to believe. I could fly across the world between your heart and I. On my bicycle. Travelling you has been my greatest journey. So far. So far away. Too high to climb your thoughts. I tried you like you were written by Hemmingway. You were sentences that served me time in the cave of loneliness. I fell down in battle. We grow up in love and loss. Played the hand too hard. Not soon enough. Only time wins it all. Its seven.
Was it fundamental to die before we ever got to learn about who we were? Our second birth gave us skin. We await our humanity on the third go round. The unreturned, who never knew sleep didn’t discern the need to play on the hallow ground or ween on the blood of sacrifice.
Basil chases the child who runs into walls. Transparent heart is planted in a climate of hate. Lucent as the dark covering, lashes closed the eyes they never used. See through your sounds, the blind mouth utters crimes of thought, a berry too sweet to swallow all at once.
Drown deep slowly. You are continents of water. Drown long and timeless. You are bodies of murder. Drown soft, you are but a baby in all your lifetimes spent searching for your soul.
80s was Mr T and Murdoch, Wimpy for the toys that went with the grub, scuffling at the laundrette, Cheetara, He-Man and She-Ra, Ghostbusters and Thriller, Christopher Reeves was Superman, comics were Marvel, Peter Parker made sense to this kid back then, had a Mary Jane of my own wired imagination that bought me a Batman action figure in 89, best friends were Irish, Egyptian, and Indian, literature was Roald Dahl and Hardy Boys, arcades were where we hung out, if I wasn’t at the library (Damilola Taylor and I would have been buddies if our years crossed paths), Street Fighter, Pizza Tropicana was the spot where Minesh and his brother got shook, gangs snatched watches and pocket money, I got lucky one time, more than once, BMX bikes were the wheels of dreams, indoors we drove Scalextric cars, soundtrack was pop, trust was Prince, Vicki Vale was the Kim that rocked our world, View to a kill, old Roger was my Bond, caught the whiff of adventure and grabbed the hat I wear in the present, Indiana Jones, red was my colour, had to be a Jedi thing, Murphy was Robocop and Eddie, the golden child, the leader of a primary school country dance, class of 89, Mary Anne, French as my name, teacher was Polish, she remembered me too, spitting image, Nintendo, a falling wall, kinda spooky channel 4 girl at the end of transmission, never thought much about the doll…..