A journey with GAO, my father...
Then I wrote to my father.
From far beyond eternity's borders
Where no god, or goddess, nor demon can go
Whence I summoned the unemotional voice:
It howled like a tempest through the star-spangled skies
Like thunder upon the plains
Re-echoing through the valleys and gorges
And shaking the great barren crags
Like trees in a gale.
Bolt after bolt of crashing lightening across the skies.
Of the Highest of the very High.
'Our father', I wrote.
'This is not a letter but a telegram,
what will you say if I invite you for a journey?
A journey to your Home; Abeokuta.
Just you and I, a long journey towards memory lane,
We shall leave far behind, that maddening noise of modern city jive,
And hurry home where tribal elders live;
Where you could perhaps tell me more about you,
About our name, about my ancestors,
About the remaining memory left with you -
There, beneath flat-topped iroko trees,
Where nestling birds with many tongues argue,
And flaming aloes bless the smiling breeze with heady scent.
There I shall sit before aging elders,
Who shall relate to me the tales of Yore,
There I shall kneel and hear legends of those-that-lived-before.
There I shall live in spirit,
Once again in those great days now gone forever more;
And see again upon the timeless plain,
The massed armies of so long ago!
The words of men long dead shall reach my soul,
From the dark depths of all-consuming Time.
Which like a medicine, shall inflame my whole -
And guide my life's canoe to shores sublime.
On This journey between the both us
- Us who are so different and so alike -
Clear with soul's time penetrating eye.
I shall see great empires rise, flourish and die.
I shall see deeds of courage or of shame,
Now carved forever on the drums of fame:
A testament that I'll then put into form, to make a Dance'.
A dreadful silence fell upon my earth. And my troubled heavens were stilled, while my sea, which had been devouring, with its wavy vast areas of land, retreated to its coast, shamefully like a boy caught in an act of naughtiness.
This might smell like a move to moralize my own paranoia, which is made all too obvious by the states I often catch myself these days, the reasons for which are mostly obvious to me, and me alone perhaps; that of melancholy, of loneliness, isolation, voluntary exile… Not that these reasons worry me so much, since they are, after all of my own making.
This year, Our father turns 80 years of age, and just suddenly, I entered a state of tranquil acceptance that Our father is aging, and that he now lives with the eternal presence of death staring him in the face. That brought me to examine my relationship with him.
I know very little about Our father and his past, nor will he recount, but it is to be hoped. What I was hoping for was to set Our father's existence, viewed as the potentiality of my own being, to be able to capture a memory that I have long lost, and I also have the feeling that even Our father cannot remember, and have not bothered himself of the importance of such memory.
The reason known to me; being that Our father was born in a country under negotiation, but I was born in a free land. He however, did surprise me with a no less indiscreet reply by proposing to take me to Abeokuta.
An opportunity opens, to pry into the Onikeku lineage, the first scoop of the spade towards the much, much deeper trench that I still have to dig out, clod by clod, from one end to the other, for there to be something to swallow me up completely in my moralizing paranoia. Though maybe I am not digging in the ground, but rather in the air, because there, one is unconfined, there, one could appear more insane than radical, and could eventually be left alone without unnecessary attentions, after all, others had engaged in similar quest in the past, and have been left alone.
It is to be a continued digging of the grounds other sons of the soil like Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka or Fela Kuti had dug for me, but simply because they did not get to our family house in Ago Owu, then I considered their work unfinished.
Hastily and without a hint of diabolical mockery, just like that I grabbed the tool from them and now, in my hand, here, I am left alone, standing here now, to finish up from where they left it, and that should explain why I have so much déjà vu. All my flashes of recognition are merely recognitions leading towards their recognition, and whatever I do or manage to dig out, will only become, but a recognition within me, that will lead me back to my dotted path...
QADDISH premiers in July 2013. At Avignon festival.