Moments from Selves: Insights from the Unusual African Anthology

Selves is an Afro Anthology of creative nonfiction edited by Enkare Review editor Basit Jamiu and published February 2018 by Brittle Paper. It’s a powerful collection of deep, personal stories of loss, grief, imperfection and all-round experience of the human condition. The rawness and openness with which the narrations were presented made them therapeutic both for the writers, I believe, and definitely for the readers who would most probably relate, of course in their own unique ways, to some of the experiences shared.

With enviable wit and conciseness, Qamarun Nisa (QN) and Umar Turaki (UT) challenged certainty, unfairness and other optimistic misconceptions we usually hold about life:

There is no such thing as unfair in life—unfair is life. This is my consolation. (KN) …there is no such thing as certainty, there is only experience, and you take what you can from that and move on. (UT)

And have you ever considered the possibility that we’ve all been lied to, that time does not really heal. Umar Turaki and Ama Asantewa (AA) laments about the ineffectiveness of time in the art of healing a broken heart or a disturbed mind:

The idea of time being a river, the way it ferries us away from our past and towards our future, away from things we wish to forget, is a myth. (UT) There are home remedies for everything: for coughs, tummy aches, almost dead laptops. A common home remedy for a broken heart is time. Two hundred and fifteen days after you’re gone, I wish I didn’t know it has been two hundred and fifteen days since you left. Where is all the time that heals? (AA)

Ama Asantewa’s story prods the premise of love. Love would make us do things we would usually swear not to ever do, insane things, illogical things. Love will force the ego out of us and we’ll die to the self. Ama Asantewa wrote:

It took one lover leaving me for unknown reasons for me to cherish an old lover who left me for another girl. That was an obvious reason, hurtful, but reason nonetheless… You think you’re too good to beg for anything—a phone call, an answered text message, an explanation, another chance to fix a wrong you don’t know of yet to even attempt fixing it. You think you’re too good to beg for anything, until love pushes you down on your knees. (AA)

Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu (HS) and Ama Asantewa have lessons to teach us about grief—that inevitable dark tunnel, a frightening abyss with the power to break anyone:

There is the grief that astounds, the one whose full effect hits in tiny but devastating measures in undefined moments (and this is the type we carry for the rest of our lives like a hidden terminal illness) … Your heart felt like it was flailing and crashing from a storey building— only that it would never quite land. (HS) But grief has always been a game you can only win when you’ve played all the levels. Grief is the bus stop at the end of the long road I have no desire to travel. Grief is a team game I practice alone. And so it festers. Like a wound that looks healed on the surface but it’s rotting inside. This is how I deal with grief. I don’t. (AA) You likened Ma’s death to a violent punctuation put wrongly in a sentence, so that even though the words remained, their individual and collective meanings did not. (HS)

To avoid the almost unbearable pain that comes with grief, we have to first embrace grief as every other momentary occasions in our life. Qamarun Nisa tells us that grief is an unavoidable feeling:

I want to pluck out my heart, march on it a million times and then bury it back in its cage deep inside me. But I can’t; my heart isn’t mine to have. My heart is an investment; Providence has planted seeds in it: of compassion, humility, servitude, a strict and unbending obedience to conscience… From age six to the present at twenty-two, I have craved death and still do. My mental, emotional and physical inability to associate, this overwhelming sense of self-hatred that’s been eating me up for years must bury me. (QN)

Gbolahan Badmus (GB), muses on the colonization of the internet and the effect of new technologies on our well-being and I find myself nodding in agreement while reading :

The Internet came and forced our dear coveted/beloved privacy to the realms of mythology, or optimistically speaking, a rarity. Hidden flaws—recreated by Photoshop, packaged into memes, transported via retweets and likes, complemented with lol, lmao and their variants, are constantly being loaded into public domains. Full lips are photoshopped into comfortable cushions, or bouncing castles, or parachutes; a fat person walking is edited to cause earthquakes and tsunamis; a slim person’s legs become chopsticks or toothpicks. This is how the world we live in tell people how not to be and try to confine them in the cages of what they should be, hiding under the veil of humour. (GB)

Finally, deviation alert! A remark from Alithnayn Abdulkareem’s (AB) piece:

People always say a good way to gauge your future is to look at your mother. I always wanted to, but I have never asked if mothers look into their daughters and see their past. (AB)

And I find this dialogue to be apt which is also a favorite dialogue in the anthology (AB):

“It’s so stupid. Why should I lie to my mum if I want to go out?”
“Because she would never let you, otherwise.” Ayoola smiled
“But you realize that sometimes they know we are lying.”
“Babe, they want you to lie to them. Nigerian parents are begging to be lied to by their children. They can’t handle anything else.”

Selves in its entirety is a trove of interestingness, grab a free digital copy from Brittle Paper or check out the GoFundMe campaign to help get this work in print.

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