Recently, I witnessed again a typical Nigerian moment. A man walked past a shop. He looked, to me, not just content but happy. Inside this shop where I had come to get my hair braided, a woman called out to this man. She addressed him by a nickname that seemed to be a private joke between them. He stopped, returned her greeting with the same enthusiasm and continued on his way. After he walked away, the people in this shop began to tell the stories they knew about him, and in the way that communal conversations unfold, pull me into their stories of this man.
This familiar moment of story sharing has always held for me the question of how a person becomes part of the fabric of a place. How the people who claim a sense of ownership witness and tell the story of a place and the people in that place. Who they share these stories with, how they share it. What they say and what they leave out of the narratives.
These are the questions or thoughts I’ll set out with as the journey unfolds. And in thinking about these questions, I’ll be seeking out the ways that people incorporate their unspeakable truths, layered histories and the identities they carry as they seek acceptance. How the permutations of these layers can change from place to place. I want to seek out in the spaces I enter, how the dominant narratives affirm themselves or fall apart. For instance, where the dominant narrative is that Nigerians ‘do not like to remember’, I am interested in how people in different places incorporate the history of violence they have witnessed or inherited into their lives.
In entering into these spaces, I’ll also be thinking about the dissonance between the private and public self. The question of how we as public and private citizens incorporate sexuality into our ideas of self and what sexual arrangements we allow into our mainstream narratives.
It interests me also to see how external narratives disrupt, overcast or strengthen these narratives. In this way, I’ll be seeking out what globalisation as the intrusive agent looks like in different places. I want to look for the commonalities and the very place-specific outcomes. And, if I am lucky, I will explore the story of the houses I enter or find fascinating as containers of silenced and spoken narratives.