Where’s the Future in Nostalgia?

  1. Where’s the future in nostalgia?

Once in Igun Street, Benin, a man speaks of the past. He is a war veteran. He fought for the two sides of the Nigerian Civil War. I watch him uncertainly. Not unsure of what he says, whether true, misremembered, or poorly articulated. Unsure of why he speaks with hesitation, as if remembering is a chore. This is the beginning of a memory I’ll have: the face a man has while remembering the past: folds, creases, furrows.

Someone once said, “Our faces are cartographies.” If that is true, then the man’s face is a map of a lifetime twisted into uncertain turns. What the map of a face depicts is like the destination of a journey made while sleepwalking. Endless detours.

Where’s the future in nostalgia?

You ask a man to remember his past. Will you ask an earthquake to merge ground split under your feet?

  1. In my dream I spoke a foreign language.

Last night in my dream I spoke to a ferryman beside the Benin River. We spoke about the afterlife in an Ijaw dialect. The village was so small—in one glance I could tell all the faces I’d seen in my entire life, what conversations I’d had with each person—and yet the ferrymen milled around, like slaves forgotten on an island with an exiled monarch. One moment folded into another and I became a slave. I perceived, in fact, that earlier, when I conversed with the ferryman, I was talking to my earlier self, from another life. I woke up breathless. My first thought? I am tired of these comings and goings and crossings, these several seasons.


Cover image: a photograph by Emeka Okereke. Read the accompanying text.