Celebration, Colonialism, Slavery: Slavery, Colonialism and African History – Part 3 of 5

While I lay prostrate writhing in a pain that lasted for centuries, I was again undone. This time nothing was taken away – but worse, an alien thing was forcibly grafted into me! This was a poison! I screamed and recoiled in horror to no avail.

A similar vile, alien spirit had also been grafted into my stolen fragments far away.

The two forms of grafting – theirs and mine – created a disability. We became disabled selves that no longer had the ability to turn. We could no longer look back at our collective pasts.

It was far more convenient to learn to forget. Alas, the same inhumanity of which we accuse the other, is also inscribed in our past bodies.

We stopped turning because we could not face a past littered with –

(1) The horror and pain of eternally bleeding ancestral gaps and holes;

(2) Captivity, bondage and dehumanization,

(3) And most shamefully, complicity, compromise, greed and cowardice.

Looking back was so painful, I created gaps in my mind. I learned the ability to forget. I began to forget. I forced on myself a learned inability to look behind me at my past.

The Amazonians say that “The future lies in the past”. Without the ability to see our past, we could no longer create a future that was truly ours. By fleeing the past, we deprived ourselves with the essential ingredient for an authentic, self-generated future. Without past or a future, I was beaten.

Homo sapiens is fundamentally an animal. Primarily – eating, sleeping, mating and defending. But personhood. Ah, a person. Contrary to a homo sapiens, a person must be grounded in cultural and historical contexts. The elevation of a homo sapiens into a person requires language. But language does not just serve to ask Femi to “Hand me the cup”. Language transmits history. Language transmits culture. Language grants you a voice and lens unique to itself. Persons cannot persist without a past, and language transmits the past.

But since the future is inevitable, we had to have a past. Any past. Incapacitated and in denial, without the emotional, mental or physical ability to look back, we requested of the Other to retrieve our past. The other obliged. But the Other returned with the embarrassing report that there was nothing worth seeing. We believed it, and were doused us in shame. So, we became ashamed. We became shame. Ashamed of our colour, we bleach our skin. Ashamed of our hair, we torture ourselves to stretch out our kinky hair, otherwise we live the lunacy of affixing discarded Asian hair on our heads.  In shame of our clothes, we endure the heat of the tropics dressed in 3-piece suits. In shame of our language, we proudly adopt and show off the languages of our curse. I was ashamed. I became shame. I was shame.

But you see, a wilful forgetting is a partial forgetting. I could never truly forget. Within my graft-induced nightmare and madness was a half-remembered self. But I could no longer tell nightmare from reality. Thus, I teach my children that Speke and Burton discovered Lake Victoria, that Mungo Park discovered River Niger. Living this nightmare, Africa became even for me, a homogenously undifferentiated dark continent, which, like me, had also been discovered.

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