archive - issue 14

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  • /

    By Ruth Barker
    On the QWERTY layout of my computer keyboard, the symbol / appears beside the questioning symbol ?. They are represented together on the same key, and
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  • Apartment / Containers

    By Vincent Bezuidenhout
    These diptychs are the start of a series of images I have been working on regarding the visual landscape we choose to surround ourselves
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  • I returned home after my first year in college to discover my younger sister had turned gorgeous. This was a disappointment, but not an
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  • Butterfly

    By Adriana de Barros
    The pupa, a silk wrap of emotionsIsolated, within breathing, wanting to bethe intense pronoun of selfIt is silly to be one's own pronounShe giggles
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  • Collage

    By Claudio Parentela
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  • Drag and Snap

    By Leigh-Anne Niehaus
    This series is inspired by the childhood game of "snapdragon", which allows for simplistic and delightful decision-making through random selections of colour and number.
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  • Evidence of Life

    By Tamlyn Martin
    Below is an extract from a series of 11 poems created in parallel with visual artworks. 5. Memories laced with visceral realityFlooding herThe gentle
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  • Forward! Slash!

    By Travis Lyle
    You think you're a forward-thinking kinda person, do you? Lemme be the one to break it to you, sunshine – you're as lame as the
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  • Human/Nature

    By Lydia Anne McCarthy
    This series explores moments between nature and human beings that are at once idealistic and unsettling. Each picture is an independent narrative, but placed
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  • Immigrants

    By Stanley Onjezani Kenani
    you want to livenothing leaveto liveyou swimor like fresh sardinesyou are packedin boatsyou leaveto live.  you leavegold in the belly of Africaoil in
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  • In Between

    By Tania van Schalkwyk
    Raised in an Arabian land of heat, fire and temper,sometimes the calm of England clamps downlike damp in a bathroom with no windowand a
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  • Letter to the Editor

    By Elan Gamaker
    Dear Sir/Madam I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue. It must first be mentioned, however, that it
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  • Or: a line drawing

    By Gabeba Baderoon
    Pencil and nothing. Her face turned almost entirely away. Forehead, cheekbone,jaw,the bun low in her neck,shoulderand down,the long linejust enoughthen left alone.
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  • p u n c t u a t i o n

    By Ula Einstein
    Einstein works with a diverse range of media, including drawings and installation with fire, thread, and blades. The series of drawings and installations with
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    By Sean Hampton-Cole
    Keys. John speaking. 'Lo?Good morning. May I speak to Bob Mitchell please?Bob in Bonds?I'm not really sure. I'm trying to...You want extension 125. This
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  • Pretty Babies

    By Peregrine Honig
    With the premise that "/ " presents what is IN and what is OUT, the "Pretty Babies" series explores the fashion industry's well-published and syndicated DOs
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  • River Bank

    By Mario Sughi
    The symbol / is intended initially as a symbol of division. A real or unreal line divides the girl from the water, the girl from
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  • Scissor

    By Charlotte Gait
    There was a time when you and I were connected by iron, acid, vitamin and blood. Where every mouthful I took was with the
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  • Seasaw

    By Sol Kjøk
    Here, the motif is conceived of as a seesaw (the typo in the title is intended, as this drawing is part of a series
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  • Series Seven Up

    By Noel Fignier
    Text by João Branco Kyron, HipnóticaThe collision is imminent and in the fraction of time left, the eyes shut and the vision is superbly
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  • A battle over samoosas between the snobbish Cinderella and a homeless electrician is mediated by Cinderella's boyfriend JJ. The samoosa battle is conflated with
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  • Wayne Porter, freelance journalist, donned his anthropologist's birthday suit and hit the bowling alley. Bar the bowlers hat tipped gently off centre, the man
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  • The Incised Wound

    By Joanne Hichens
    "Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight." Whether
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  • He had been driving for hours through that unstable, somnambulist night when he fell asleep at the wheel. He awoke with a start and
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  • The space between.

    By Mehita Iqani
    It's a handy little line, the one that we use to make our options known. Either/Or. Paper and ink or binary code? Its clichéd,
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  • Un Hombre Fuerte

    By Tamo Vonarim Written these words are, at times of a subconscious flow – whether they are mine, I don't know. All I know is that I
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  • Unbroken Awareness

    My life is now a floating shellI am a vessel on that river.The storm, the ship, the sea,Whose shores we lost in crossing.  I
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  • Untitled

    By Wilhelm Saayman
    This series of images, made using pen and ink, photographs and Photoshop, explore alternate/dream realities.
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  • Untitled

    By Aryan Kaganof
    /At R550 rand I thought I'd rather die/ My mother: can I trust this woman?/ I thought the Romans were coming, dinkum/ …and always
    Read More
Emmanuel Iduma

Emmanuel Iduma

Website URL:
Sunday, 09 December 2012 12:14

A Tradition of Longing

Everywhere in Lagos

The city unfolds in metal locomotives, road, banters, then frisking, and sometimes laughter. The times I have seen laughter: some old men are calling out to themselves; a lady shows a young man (her age? older?) her phone and when he sees it he laughs, hugs her, says congrats, God has done it; a lady is on the phone with 'Beatrice' and she is telling Beatrice, Don’t give up, don’t let the devil have his way, I would come to your house on Sunday, wait for me in your house on Sunday, then she laughs. There is always a phone conversation happening beside me: a woman is asking her child in Yoruba, Have you eaten? A man is lying to an acquaintance, I’m already seeing you. Phone conversations will keep us from falling into eternal solitariness. I know this because I think that even in an afterlife we will hold omnipresent conversations. By phone. 

This is a country of opinion. Commercial motorcyclists, known here as okada, have been banned on major Lagos roads and it is an unpopular decision, as many have expressed, as there are those who believe Governor Babatunde Fashola has turned his back on the Okada Industrial Complex that voted him in. I fear that one day our skin would be tattooed with a spilling population, a people presenting themselves as burnt-offerings of survival. But resistance is in our heads, not from our mouths. Or sometimes when there is resistance it is repeated only twice, by an angry voice protesting how much she has to pay to Oshodi. And the voice drops.

I am living in a house without electricity. Our neighbours have power supply because they have paid their bills. We have not paid our electricity bill. I sometimes go to a house not too far away, a wooden house behind a white-washed 80s-styled house to iron my shirts or to work overnight. I live with an uncle. He has been away; two weeks, at least.

I fail: every time I feel I have done nothing, I sleep too much, I miss deadlines, I break promises, I would not live up to my boss’s expectations, I am not concerned enough about family. Every time I want to outdo myself, keep a little love for myself and give the rest away. This “sentiment is banal,” says Keguro Macharia, which I know, “but it carries a certain force.” 

I am a beta version of who I am. I know this because sometimes I am awake and I feel on the verge of crying for what I am yet to do. I am not history because when tomorrow comes I would be in today; and I am not the past because I live in a day, a time, a now. I negate convictions, then realise that nothing changes, even context.

Every time Lagos is a mix of unfeeling fleetingness and yet timeless wonder. It is when I read Joan Didion’s description of somewhere similar, that I feel I have been corroborated: “New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.” 

This is why I write, for a shining yet perishable dream, to transcend myself, to reface Lagos with my presence. Desperation has overtaken me. I am (now) hungry for perspective, hoping that I do not live until an afterlife. The word for this immediacy of hope is ‘hoperoots’, defined by Naomi Klein with a sample sentence – “It’s time to stop waiting for hope to be handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots.”

I can feel a pang of longing. I live in Lagos.

The inevitable direction of my life.

One of my very best girlfriends called me and after we'd exchanged a string of sentences, she asked me, Are you happy, Emmanuel? I responded without thinking, Yes. She asked me if I was happy, and I responded. Yes.

I thought I was happy. I thought I knew the value of happiness. Or not (yet).

Hours earlier I was with Ekiko, alias Sogolo, alias Günter. He’s an old friend, now in his early 30s, studied in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Studied philosophy in Ife but was by all means a literature student. Wrote his undergraduate thesis on Dostoyevsky – and his lecturers, before they approved the topic, two months before the submission deadline, wondered how literature intersected with academic philosophy. 

It was an evening of beer and malt and waffles and cookies. A bar somewhere close to Domino, Sabo-Yaba, Lagos. Behind us was a Baptist church, the dominant feature of Raymond Street. House number 7 on Raymond is our friend Adebiyi’s office. Adebiyi is a Research Analyst, Ekiko is an Art Dealer, I am a Senior Project Manager — the description on our cards. At Ife, we had been nothing else but students who were in a system that handicapped us – we were studying Mechanical Engineering, or Law or Philosophy, but our souls were entrapped in the pursuit of language, literature, everything we weren’t being taught. Adebiyi said, once, which he has repeated time and again, which seemed to have been Mark Twain’s words, “I have learnt not to let my schooling interfere with my education.”

I told Ekiko he was wrong to be regretful about how he played out his life as a student. He was used to missing logic classes for two weeks and all the while he was writing a logical equation that disproved the existence of God through biblical injunctions. I told him he was wrong to be regretful because he had been trying to transcend a conventional educational system, one that had no regard for outliers, prodigies. I told him that, and for a brief second I had a pang of regret, I had been a conformist, never having the guts to fail Law courses, although careless and self-righteous, in a quest for greater truth.

I felt a sting of regret. It lasted a brief second. Or longer.

There was a man in the bar sitting behind me who felt practical reality was distinguishable from theoretical reality. He was a lawyer, graduated from Ife in '97, when, as he said, there was no GSM. Chinedu, the lawyer, had been half-listening to our conversation. Ekiko and I were in his thinking, theoretical realists, with our high-sounding ideas that do not work in real life, because in Nigeria ‘intellectuals’ are not respected. They are even abused, even denigrated. I wanted to tell him that I am not an intellectual, but I wasn’t sure, or I was sure, or I hadn’t read Edward Said enough to know.

Ekiko and I ended the evening talking about living, and dying, the shortness of life, essence, writing, art criticism, and a small group of us that were friends in Ife. I hugged him twice at Ikeja, where the Computer Village, and the frenzy of the almost hovering moving people, like existence itself, considered us, daring us to move. I hugged him twice, because I was happy seeing him again. I was happy.

Things passed; tomorrow like the day before I would find a bus to Yaba, then to Sabo, then would walk ten minutes to Alagomeji, somewhere on Herbert Macaulay Way. Life would go on. Then perhaps I’d stop in the middle of something I’d have the thought of being 25 and the world at my feet. Or I’d think of my friends who were 27 or 30 and how age was an illusion, how life formed a spiral circumference, or not.

That night after my friend’s call, I listened to Yasiin Bey and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, live in concert, on my computer – Coming Together by Frederic Rzewski. The words had an interesting history – Sam Melville, a prisoner, had written a letter to his brother only days before he died during the Attica prison riots. The libretto for Coming Together was from this letter. I had almost completely memorised the lines, so I muttered softly while it played out loud. A candle was burning out beside me, slowly, silent as open fire.

“I think the combination of age and the greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. Its six months now and I can tell you truthfully few periods in my life have passed so quickly. I am in excellent physical and emotional health. There are doubtless subtle surprises ahead but I feel secure and ready.

"As lovers will contrast their emotions in times of crisis, so am I dealing with my environment. In the indifferent brutality, incessant noise, the experimental chemistry of food, the ravings of lost hysterical men, I can act with clarity and meaning. I am deliberate — sometimes even calculating — seldom employ histrionics except as a test of the reactions of others. I read much, exercise, talk to guards and inmates, feeling for the inevitable direction of my life.”

That said all – an evening of friendship, happiness, and the inevitable direction of my life.
Monday, 21 March 2011 02:00

The Journey


- The capital of Cuba
A port in the Northwest
on the Gulf of Mexico,
the largest city in the
Caribbean, founded in 1514,
as San Cristobal de la
Habana by Diego Velasquez:

Let me begin
By saying
Small things,
Things to forget
And things
To dismember

You think
I am false?

Have you not heard
Of a silent mutter
And a gracious noise?

Have you not heard?

You ran into me
Chaotic and stoned:
How many times did you
think of my naked body
and healthy marrows?

Have you been honest with me?

Somebody slept over
at the house
There was a minor death
In the family
Everyone forgot.

Didn't you know?      

II Cordillera

- A series of parallel
ranges of mountains:

You see how things
Emerge out of our noses
Before we know
How to stop
For groceries.

Unfortunately, 'grocery'
Is not a word we use
in the house.

Didn't you kn


Corn borer
- The larva of a moth
native to Europe:
In E North America
a serious pest of maize:

And how I cannot tell
what has happened
overnight in the
circle of homes
flung around,
the distance.

Have you not heard?

This is what I find
Difficult to tell
My lips are sealed
But my eyes are open

My eyes are open
Can't I see?


Eden Project
- The world's largest greenhouse
Built in a disused clay pit
near St. Austell, Cornwall,
to study plant populations
on a variety of environments:

Shifting images of those
Who saw the Lord of Hosts
Sitting on a throne
High and lifted up

We see them high
And lifted up

They know nothing of us:
They have not known
Nothing about us

We thought we knew them
We thought we knew
How to be civil and saved

Who is the fool now?


- Meeting me
It was love
At first sight
You name me
For my aspirations:

When I went
And came
Went again, sojourned
You saw that
I could not be who
You are
What you are
Where you are
I am who I am

I am a lone sentinel
Walking across
Shadows and lampposts
Let me be me.

What do you think you are?


From an Epistolary Sequence
- What have we
in common besides
a name, and the fact
that we live?

Several things.
One, Hair. Two, Breath.
Three, Phones. Four, Fools.

Opposite the hill
are shadows of onetime
ecstasies, assaults
and education.

What we have in common
Should not be told;
We could sit here at night
Attempting rituals.
Yet, let's keep it in,
That badge of honour.

What is our name?

Isn't it wise
To remain silent
When silence is preferred
And noisy when noise
Is not preferred?

Where do we live?


To Elsie
- no one
to witness
and adjust,
no one to drive the car

I have once said
how difficult it is
to witness,
alongside a thousand warriors
and chaos
and far-flung hit men

There are no witnesses
in the Walls of Power

Everyone sits in the Pack
Silent as it is
And they are waiting

A shout has gone out:
'Who's there?

Who made that noise?

Who is there?

Why it Often Rains in Movies
- Because so much consequential
thinking happens in the rain

How we must move
Along side the rain

Bang, Bang, Bang

It happens that
There is no one telling
Where to move
Or where to be

Freedom was once a promise
Now a virtue

Now we have found
Things to do
Things to wear
How to wear
How to do

Re Inventions

In events of movements
Tired eyes still move
Still speak
Still remain sane

The most tired amongst us
Is that man
Without an umbrella.


In Berlin
- At the centre of the city
I came upon a hill
At the top of which
Is a very large bird:

That is the Resting Place
We talked about

Move two inches left
Two inches centre, right

On Sundays and always
Come for dinner

Ah, Dinner.

If this is not
The Resting Place,
where is it?

Who would carry us


This is the Life
- His watch is wicked,
going on without him.

Everything must have
A life of its own.

There is a stone flying overhead,
An underbridge of sorts
And the airplane has found
No passengers, no wonder, no love

Take me as I am

Take them as they're not
We must survive
We must come to terms with you

You have been with us
From the beginning
Stay until the end

But we forget too soon
Our fathers, our boredom,
We embraced you too quick

Who is the fool now?
Who once was the fool?

World without end
But we're with end
We'd live and depart

What is departure?

If there is a single way
To solve this dispute
I'll advise
We take option two

To whom is this addressed?  


- I'm beginning to see those sounds
I never even thought I would hear

If there are things left unsaid,
Forgive me

You who know how to listen
How to see what to see
How to become the woman
Of your dreams,

take this letter away.

You who know how to live
Where you live
How to see what you see

I am ashamed
of my dreams,
they come too sudden

I am ashamed
Of my name
Of my house

Take this letter
To another dispatcher
Not me
Not us.

What is our name, even?

How come we know
so less?

There's someone telling us
Who to become
And to become
What to become.

You think I've been
playing on words?


I- Collins English Dictionary, 6th Edition
II- Ibid.,
III- Ibid.,
IV- Ibid.,
V- Palmer Goedicke, Escalator
VI- Bill Henkin, From an Epistolary Sequence
VII- W.C. Williams, To Elsie
VIII- Lawrence Raab, Why it Often Rains in Movies
IX- Paul Hoover, In Berlin
X- Heather McHugh, This is the Life
XI- Jim Carroll, Heroin