Category Archives: African Arts

Hold my candor.

“There can never be another like you
You’re the only one in my eyes
And if you try to leave, I’m gone find you
Running through the back of my mind

I will search high and low, just to find you
Even though should’ve never found you
And I love what you’ve got on me baby
Can’t let you go, won’t let you go

Never try to hurt you or harm you
Well whenever you’re around
I am sometimes a little bit different, to please you
You’re the only one on my mind

I will search high and low, just to find you
Even though should’ve never found you
And I love what you’ve got on me baby
Can’t let you go, won’t let you go”    – Ro James ‘Ga$’

Every once in a while I discover a song that makes me feel present in life. I don’t mean to suggest I’m not aware of my existence in the world, I think I’m just numb to it. I recorded the video below as part of a Snapchat story. I’d gone for my usual late night workout, returned to shower and get ready to sleep. This was one of the songs I’d included on my playlist for the night and it just did it for me. Kept my energy up and broke the monotony of the exercises. Normally working out at night is the perfect lullaby. I feel a rush of endorphins, take big gulps of fresher air and I get to make up stories in my head- alternative realities that are easier to digest than truth. It’s like running away physically without really travelling anywhere at all. Living a life so foreign from that which you are resigned.

This song- it’s the way it made me feel. It was this sudden realization that some people get to present themselves on their terms to the world. They get to record their emotions and package their expression for scrutiny, having resolved that a combination of lyrics and melody are enough because they say so. So even if it’s rejected or ripped apart, it’s still there, it still makes it out onto the surface. It feels good to feel something- that’s the only reason why I’m smiling here. I felt something.

Writing is my whole life. Lately I’ve been lamenting that because it is not as in love with me as I need it to be, and I am trapped in its insecurity. I told this to someone I thought would understand a few months back. I told him I needed to write to live. I told him that the black community is failing itself by not supporting a record of our time with the necessary investment in our own stories, by our own storytellers. He tried to come back with different suggestions all of which did nothing to address the lack of readership and the inadequate representation of the black man and woman in literature. Then he stopped. He was turned off by my words and complaints, and I imagine reduced me to nothing more than, perhaps, an entitled, negative curmudgeon. And soon our conversations turned to silence on one end, and soon I stopped trying all together to redeem myself. Now I wonder why I tried at all. I didn’t lie, the black community has a poor readership. There is gross misrepresentation and underrepresentation of black people in literature. I have every reason to hurt over this. I don’t care how many black women have influenced his reaction to my lamentations, I’m done apologizing to black men for feeling deeply about things that affect our community negatively. These past two weeks in particular I’ve been dealing with the redundancies of chauvinistic, uncreative black men who think they have all the answers, but can’t provide any actual solutions to a very real problem that claims the lives of many. Apparently, my approach in their eyes is wrong, but their approach doesn’t exist altogether. So what then? Silence does not a cure make.

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I think when I hear certain songs, I envy their place in time and their unapologetic candor. I envy that 3 minutes and 20 seconds of song is enough to evoke emotion and answer pleas for euphoria. There is no point to a life that isn’t also poetic deliverance. Life is fucking hard- art is the only depiction worth living in my opinion.

Wisdom is not the free gift with purchase of age, wrinkles are.

(P.S: the iTunes version, which I have, has a better chorus in my opinion)

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I Made Savory Love to Plastic

“If you consider a woman less pure after you’ve touched her, maybe you should take a look at your hands.” – Kaija Sabbah

The day started with me calling the eldest of my sister’s to let her know my vagina was about to meet a foreigner.

“Good luck, dude.” She responded.

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I was scheduled to have a physical exam and prior to this doctor’s visit I had not disclosed any details about my sexual activity or lack thereof to the nurses and techs on duty. Once blood tests, blood pressure checks, an ACG exam, weight and height measurements were behind me, a straight-faced lady called my name and beckoned me to follow her into a room at the end of the hall. She shut the door behind me and asked if I’d ever had a pap smear before. I smiled timidly and shook my head, identifying a spot for my handbag while I moved to occupy the space next to her.

“Oh no.” She exhaled, evidently disappointed.

I panicked. “Um, is that bad? I’ve never had penetrative sex, so I guess my gynaecologist has never brought it up.”

“You haven’t had sexual intercourse?”

“No.”

“Then we can’t do this.”

“Why not? I thought it was part of the physical?”

“It won’t work if you haven’t had sex.”

“How come?”

She stood up and pulled out a packaged plastic speculum from a supply pocket and showed it to me. “This is what I will have to insert inside you. If you haven’t had sex you’ll be in a lot of pain.”

I glanced at the instrument and diverted my eyes back to her.

“I’ve tried with virgins that have insisted on getting it done and they can never go through with it because of the pain.”

“You just have to stick it in to see?”

“Well, I have to insert this and then squeeze on these ends to open you up so I can get to your cervix. Look, if you think you can get it in we can do it. But you’ll have to insert it yourself because I don’t want to hurt you.”

I paused to contemplate her suggestion.

“You think you can get this in?”

I looked at the apparatus again. “I can try.”

She ushered me over to the bed and asked me to strip off from the waist down while she lubricated the speculum. I got into the lithotomy position (lying on my back with my legs raised), admittedly unsure of where to rest my feet- resulting in my ridiculous search for stowed away stirrups on the sides of the bed.

“Ready?”

“Uh. Hmm? Yes!” I wasn’t. She knew it. I knew it.

“Your feet need to be together.”

“What?” How am I supposed to reach my vagina with my legs together?

“Your feet need to be together and then you spread your knees like this.” She made her instructions clearer as she pushed my knees apart.

“Right.” I tried to sound confident in my new position.

“Here you go.” She placed the speculum in my hands. “Let me know when you have it in. I’ll wait behind the curtain.”

I nodded obediently.

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“unknown.pleasures.” by Ludo

You can do this. The chanting had begun in my head. I was uncomfortable laying the way she’d left me and I thought to ask her if I could stand up and try to insert it like I would a tampon with an applicator. Wait, let’s think this through. No that wouldn’t work. Unless? No, there’s no way she’d agree to try look up at my cervix from the ground. Would she? No. No.

“Is it in yet?” She called out, brining me back to reality.

“Can we lubricate the tip? I don’t think it’s slippery enough. It won’t go in.”

“I already did. A lot is on there.”

“Lemme try again.” The room was silent for a few more seconds. “Wait I think I’ve- ouch!” To say I felt like a rotisserie chicken trying to figure out where my stuffing goes does well to describe how oxymoronic the whole ordeal seemed at the time.

“Anything?”

“How much of it needs to go in?”

“You need to feel like you’ve hit a wall, that’s your cervix, that’s what I need to see. Push till that.”

I took a deep breath, tried to relax my muscles and pushed till I felt the foreign object creep up my vaginal canal. I called out to the lady in attendance to offer a progress report.

“How did you manage to get it in if you don’t have sex?” She sounded sceptical.

“I don’t know? I wear tampons. I did ballet for a long time. I tried to relax. I mean- Could be any number of activities. I think.” Apparently I’d employed rambling as a defence mechanism, trying to substantiate my departure from what was supposed to be an impossible feat for virgins. Before I could enquire as to what she was insinuating, she’d pushed the curtain back and started to direct my fingertips to the ends of the speculum.

“Squeeze at your own pace and I’ll tell you when I’m able to see.”

“Okay.”

It was excruciating. I had barely pinched the ends when shocks of pain raced through the lower half of my body. It felt like needles clawing through my abdomen and legs. I tried to maintain a somewhat calm demeanor before finally conceding defeat.

“I can’t do it. It’s too painful.”

“You’ve done well to get it in. Hold on, let me try now.”

I boldly resigned the task to her, laying back in effort to focus my thoughts elsewhere.

“Nope! Can’t do it. Pull it out, please.”

So, why did I go through all of this? Penetrative sex is not the only way to catch STD’s/STI’s. Some are spread through oral sex, handgenital sexual contact (e.g HPV) and even kissing. While this may not be a novice realization, it is something I want to take more seriously. I don’t want to be careless with my body or make the kinds of mistakes that could lead to irreparable damage, or psychological pain. We’re living in times when love and sexual activity are seemingly interchangeable, and while everyone is entitled to govern themselves sexually, I think it’s dangerous to assume everyone is being as vigilant and careful with their own physical beings, as you might be with yours.

Russell Brand said something in an interview once that has stuck with me: Be careful with your soul, be careful with yourself.

I didn’t do this for the PSA on unprotected sexual activity. I did it because I am a woman. In a world where women’s vaginas and uteri have been regulated by state law; subjected to public ridicule; and reduced to sport umpired by men, I feel women have no choice but to demonstrate the respect our bodies warrant. At the very least to appreciate the power of our sexuality complemented by the delicate nature of our mortality.

Someone loves you.

Platonically. Romantically.

Take care.

P.S. Props to all the women out there keeping their cervixes clean. You’re my heroines today!

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Another Year: Reflections

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I wrote this version of me (above) out of my life because she was not strong enough to survive my circumstances. Her nails were too long to write novels and her soul too weak to take rejection. Her hair was chemically relaxed and tangled up in string and synthetic tracks; she was ruining her edges and conforming to the wrong standards of beauty. There is too much make-up on her face hiding her skin. She was struggling to maintain her individuality- her obedient stare exemplary of this. She was so young, so broken and so unsure of who she wanted to be.

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This girl (above) is not much better, but she is at least sure of who she is not. She is not the girl with the silky, soft flowing hair and she will never comb chemicals through her locs to make them straight. She detests long nails and is strong enough to face rejection because she is desperate enough to chase freedom. She is still insecure but not about her Africanity, not about the texture of her hair or her individuality. She is scared of many things but she’s also a lot stronger. She is still broken, a little older and not convinced the path she has chosen is one that has been paved for her.

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I don’t know exactly who I am or what I’m becoming but I know I’ve never been a banana. Always plantain. Never white rice, always jollof.

That’s something anyway.

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