Does every new shape alter the history of a place?

Thoughts on distance

First, stasis. We enter Ibadan at night and Lagos is still very present. What is movement if a body does not feel the facts of its transition?

Ibadan does not seem far enough. Somehow, the spectre of cosmopolitan Lagos has followed me from billboard slogan to billboard slogan until I find one that implores from an Ibadan intersection: be one of us. My body travels well, my mind travels badly.

In daylight, it is easier to see how Ibadan is its own city. It is in the way that history lays siege on this city – a gentle grip. The years of dust on walls. The miles and miles of rusted roofs.

If walls could talk, there are buildings in Dugbe you can walk into that should tell you what the walls here have seen. Along a road in Dudge, the old Oyo State Library looks on at Cocoa House. The Central Bank of Nigeria building stands next to a First Bank building. Shoprite holds its new pride of place next to Cocoa House. And all these buildings look at each other, unable to speak, reliant on the custodians of history to tell the stories they hold.

A question for history: If every new shape alters the history of a place, is there a limit beyond which a place becomes completely, irrevocably different?

 

This Spiritual. Credit: Nengi Nelson

 

Hands that heal, hands that tell stories

In Ori Oke Agala, along the dust road that leads up the hill to the Bowers Tower – a historical (colonial) monument named after the first resident and travelling commissioner for the interior of Yorubaland, Captain Robert Lister Bower – Kene finds a prophetess. Ori Oke Agala is the highest point in Ibadan. There are many churches here.

As I watch Kene talk to her, a man walks up to us. He wants to know what we are doing here. When we tell him we want to have a conversation with the prophetess and possibly film her, he asks us if we need a man prophet too and then he says, I am the elder of this place.

I understand nothing Prophetess Felicia Gbadamosi says, but her hands, I watch them. They speak.

This language in which she tells us through a translator that she has been sent by God to build this church in Ori Oke Agala is not mine, but her hands, when they gesture towards the roofs of Ibadan below, or fold into themselves on her lap, or clasp to show the distress of a life I cannot imagine, the stories of these hands can be mine. This spiritual that is hers is one that I have been taught to fear and perhaps, this is why I sit on a pile of stones in front of her church that is made of uneven wooden planks, painted a chalky blue, and ask to have my picture taken there. This is where I want to leave this fear I have learnt. Or it is simply that there is something about this woman that makes me think of my father’s mother.

 


*Cover Image Credit: Kenechukwu Nwatu