Since I wrote the essay ‘Finding My Africa, Finding Myself,‘ I have continued to reflect on the elusive concept of home, especially in this global moment, where children of Africa continue to be caught up in violences of non-belonging through neocolonisation, racism and environmental injustices, among other things. And African states capitalise on this non-belonging through an inadequate conceptualisation and bringing to fruition of possible return. In my earlier essay, I explained how I can remember my first real experience of an African country because I returned to Nigeria from the UK when I was young. But I have no memories of being in Nigeria before then. I only have memories of return. I also talked about the racism that formed part of the reasons why my parents decided to return to Nigeria. But this return home comes with its own burdens, burdens not exactly divorced from the reasons for return. And so for children of Africa, I think, the search for belonging feels eternal, as historical un-mattering results in present and future separation from the earth. This separation may be a slow process, it may be quick, but for children of Africa, home is always a dangerous spirit, yet home is still this restless soul.

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‘In truth, many of us in the world today no longer know where home is. We spend most of our lives silently mourning the home we either never had or never knew or the home we actually lost.’ Achille Mbembe

 

Home is a dangerous spirit; home is a restless soul.

My first memories of home are of white sheets of snow,

Are memories of biting cold,

Of pale suns hiding behind dark misty clouds.

My first memories of home are also of questions:

‘Do you wash?’

‘Do you live in trees in Africa?’

My first memories of home screamed loudly to me:

‘GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!’

My first memories said to me:

‘Child, you carry home heavy on your skin.’

‘Child, you carry home heavy on your skin.’

Home is a dangerous spirit. Home is a wandering soul.

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My second memories of home are of a hot blinding sun,

Humid air sitting heavy on my skin

Dripping down in rivulets of sweat.

Sound. Smell. Bright colours. Bustling crowds.

My second memories of home embraced me.

My second memories of home told me,

‘You belong here,’

‘You are welcome here.’

But my second memories of home are also memories of struggle,

Of artificial scarcity, military unrest, imported knowledges and lost histories.

My second memories of home said to me:

‘No one was meant to survive this,’

‘This world has made no place for us’

‘This world will watch indifferently as we die here.’

‘This world will watch indifferently as we die.’

Home is a dangerous spirit. Home is a merciless soul.

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When you have been placed outside humanity,

Your life is an eternal search for home,

An for every winter we survive, a thousand tropical suns go to die.

The earth burns and we burn with it.

For every song we hear, a thousand melodies are buried in the ground.

Our rhythms halt and we halt with them.

For every false history we read, a thousand ancestral memories disappear.

Our past is destroyed, and our future times may never be.

Home is lost to us. And we are lost with it.

We are chained to the ground, not free.

We are contained by borders, trapped.

We are defined by these lines on the ground.

Yet the vast open skies extend above us,

Shooting arrows into the heavens, across horizons we will never behold.

Birds fly to the north, to the south, to the east, to the west,

But wherever we go, we are locked in.

We carry home heavy on our skin.

Home is a dangerous spirit. Home is a desperate soul.

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