I see things I have never seen before. The formations of a laterite rock between Birnin-Kebbi and Tambuwal impress me until the scene passes. I forget the lost moment. When I find the man on a donkey, I memorise the motion of the man and his donkey because it is suddenly important to memorise this motion. Transience demands that memory make itself the collector of everything. Perhaps this is foolish; a yearning for the places our bodies pass through and all the lives we will never know fully.
On the way to Sokoto, when we drive past a bridge where the water has dried up to reveal the sand below, a woman walking past, hawking something covered in a calabash, watches my attempt to make an Instagram story of a dried up river with bemusement.
I watch a school boy walk alone down a path beyond the road. My eyes register what I think of as the loneliness of his body reenacting this journey he has to make daily. I register other things on the road. A river visible behind the isolated houses along the road. A Free Al Zakzaky protest documented on a wall along the road to Sokoto. A wall art, possibly made on the demand of a shop owner. On one side of the wall, Gaskiya Bread written in bold primary colours. On the other side, the painting of a shapely woman. This nonexistent woman, in this passing scene, the woman of the unknown artist’s dreams.
My body registers the heat of Sokoto in questions. I want to know how the bodies I see here have learnt to submit to what seems to me an unbearable life. Someone mentions how close we are to the border between Niger Republic and Sokoto; the edge of the Sahara. We decide that we might go there.
I move my body like all the other bodies I watch. When I stand with the group at a leather district and watch a man beat patches of leather with a white knob-shaped stone until the leather shines, I see how his hands have mastered this motion. Again, in the sunny quadrangle of Alh. Shehu Mai Rini Nasara Dyeing Colouring, I listen to the men explain the process of dyeing and see how this place – dye blackened floors, stained and re-stained walls – bears the mark of reenactments.
How many repetitions before a body learns capitulation?
*Cover Image Credit: Kenechukwu Nwatu