Finding scars has not been easy. On this trip, I have seen scars from car accidents, hot water, kerosene explosions and surgeries. There have been a lot of heavy no’s and dismissals hiccuped between amused laughter. Laughter that can’t understand why anyone would try to break through the history of once broken skin. I’ve tried not to remain too focused on discovering the process of re-learning scars from strangers. When I can, I pull away and expand the world that I have ironically been travelling but closing in on.
Even while constantly moving around, it’s easy to find routine. It’s easy to walk out with my camera and keep what I want to find mentally locked down. It’s easy to miss much along the way.
In Warri, I had been naively confident of finding women to talk to in the market place. Lesson learned, lesson learned. The marketplace is not for intimate discussions on self-recognition and love. I had resigned myself to watching my colleagues and friends work when I met Mama Ngozi.
Mama Ngozi gave me water to wash dirt out of my eye and told me not to photograph her feet. She was kind and sure in a space that announced its strangers.
Rosemary in Benin with her petrol fumes and stains laughed about her work with me. She was used to routine and having her family close.
Amina stuck with me the most. I met Amina at a Fulani settlement in Akwuke, Enugu. She moved between the homes sweeping and gathering dirt and re-tying her wrapper. Amina was grace. Her eyes said welcome before her lips. Her Pidgin flowed and her laugh fell carelessly. How could a woman be so beautiful in such heat?
I saw a scar on her arm, but I didn’t play into my usual words that would lead to a question about it. My friend and I asked after her husband, her neighbours, her home. We had been accompanied to the outskirts of the settlement but had wisely seen it best to leave the men behind and enter on our own. I remarked on her beauty and she agreed to pose for a photograph.
Amina invited us into her home that functioned as sitting room and bedroom. In a corner, a fragile baby with bright eyes lay. Muhammed. She picked him up and loosened her wrapper. I hadn’t stopped feeling the stickiness of my damp shirt and the stuffiness from the still air. How could a woman be so beautiful in such heat? But the sun continued to work her way through Amina’s skin, mixing sweat with breast-milk.
She asked us to visit again. I know that if Enugu was ever to come up in future travels, that I would. But I knew the odds. I smiled and told her that I hope I would be able to.