Tag Archives: blogging

Photographic Memory 1: props for Blood and Henna

It has been nearly a year since I posted on this blog, in the fevered anguish so many of us felt after the election and inauguration of America’s current glorious leader. After that, I lost the heart to write and I filled my time with teaching and and social media, that succubus.

But I miss writing. I miss my column in Daily Trust. And because I have no urgent deadline, I write very little these days, at least writing for myself. I do try to eke out what academic writing I need to get the job done. But, because I am not exercising my writing muscles, what I write is creaky and awkward.

Tonight, I was looking through my photos for one such academic project. I have thousands of photos, hidden in thousands of files on my laptop. And I have often thought that I should give myself a blog assignment of posting a photo a day and to write about the memory that rushes to mind. A photo a day is probably much too ambitious, so I will merely say that I will try to post more often, and I will try to look at my photos more often, and I will let myself remember and write more often. It is 2am here, but I have determined to do this, so let’s go.

 

 

So for today’s photo I went back to 5 November 2011. Only a few months earlier I had moved from Kano to Jos to try to work full time on my PhD dissertation. But in late October I went back to Kano for the Goethe Institut premiere of Duniya Juyi Juyi, a film produced by the researcher Hannah Hoechner but written, directed, and acted in by almajirai. I see, via my photos, that this was also the first time I saw my friend Sa’adatu Baba Ahmed’s newborn daughter, who is now a big girl of seven.

While in Kano, Kenneth Gyang, one of Nigeria’s most exciting and experimental directors, got in touch with me (I believe via Nafisa) and asked if I could act a bit part as an ugly-American Pfizer researcher in his historical film Blood and Henna, which touches on the tragic 1996 Pfizer meningitis trials in Kano. I said yes. So, on my way back to Kano I detoured through Kaduna where the film was being shot. We shot the hospital scenes in a school made to look like a hospital. Here a props guy is hanging a chart of a skeleton. (More photos in my flickr album, from the first and second day of shooting)

Feeling keenly my lack of training in acting and the exaggerated American accent I had put on after years of being back in Nigeria, I actually dreaded seeing this for years. It received 6 nominations at the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Awards–the first Hausa film to be honoured as such by AMAA. I finally saw it at a screening at KABAFEST, the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival put together by Lola Shoneyin this summer, and the film blew me away. Fortunately, my part is very small, and Sadiq Sani Sadiq and Nafisa Abdullahi carry the film with their powerful understated acted.  It is a quiet, moving film about the ordinary people behind the sensational headlines that make up history. It’s not as experimental as Gyang’s film Confusion Na Wa, but it’s just as striking.

I should write more, but it is much too late, and I have more academic writing and class preparations to do to tomorrow. But let this serve as a start. I will post more.

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Writing Companions

“La Danse” (second version, 1909-1910) by Henri Matisse, Photo Credit: Wikipedia

When I was a teenager and I still had an already old fashioned record player, one of my favourite albums from my parents record collection was a record of Ravel’s “Bolero.” The cover was the second version of Matisse’s painting “La Danse.” (I would love to take credit for my great knowledge of art, but I actually found it by first googling “Ravel’s Bolero record” and then “red men dancing impressionist.” It’s amazing what google can do.) The painting and the music melded, and I remember lying on my bed, eyes closed, floating on the sinuous threads of the ballet, as the shiny black record undulated under the needle. The music starts out softly with a single flute and snare drum and then a clarinet, so softly (pianissimo I whisper) you can hardly hear it, and as each instrument takes up the Bolero theme, the orchestra grows louder and more rowdy until it finally ends with a tumbling crash.  

I would play it as I daydreamed and as I read and as I wrote little stories that I never finished. It is sensual music that pulls at your body so that you have to follow its rhythms, follow Matisse’s red dancers even if you are lying down.

I think this is the same record. Photo courtesy of Positive Feedback Online, Issue 14.

 

Sensual. It is a word that comes to me every time I hear Ravel, as does my old Jos room, with its fluttering blue curtains, and yellow record player on the floor, the shimmer of the large flat disc as it spun. A dizzying array of senses: circling vinyl, circling red nudes, circling bolero theme, whirl of instruments.

I have recently discovered Spotify (unfortunately not available in Nigeria), with its endless fields of free music. I write best when I am listening to rhythmic, wordless music, so Ravel’s Bolero is at the top of my “writing music” playlist, followed by a whole lot of Bach. I sway. I type. The orchestra circles and crescendos, trumpets blasting and drums marching.  I still get chills.

Outside the windows tonight, there is a mist that shines red in the security lights. The polar vortex with its arctic temperatures has given way to the more gentle Atlanta winter, and the rain comes and goes, tapping against the wood walls. The mist and the rain make me feel safe, provide a companionable solitude. I try to write but I think more of process than content, of memories rather than analysis, round and round with the clarinet.

I am alone tonight, but for two little writing companions, insects that look like knight’s shields, with a delicate inlay of filigreed gold, painted with tiny spots of red and brown. They explore my charge cords and my wallet and patter along the top of my screen with stalk legs, extending their patterned wings out from under their shields to whir away when I startle them. I wonder where they come from, these little beings, in all this cold. I think–I should write about these creatures, but I keep pushing the urge away–attempting to work on a chapter about censorship–until the music and the rain and the living things overcome me and I run through the cold corridors of the house to find my camera and wish as I hold my kit lens close, “Oh, if only I had a macro.”

(c) CM

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Escape (c) CM

Transitions: Life changes and this blog’s 2013 in review

Happy New Year 2014

A lot has changed in my life since my last post, over a month ago. When I posted, I had just had a great writing day. I was about to submit a chapter. I was “raring to go” on the next chapter. I could see in my mind, the rest of the dissertation unfolding, almost effortlessly.  I felt like it was almost already written. It was a blessing, that day of writing.

The day before my grandmother in the American state of Louisiana had an accident. She ran off the road into a tree. We heard that she was awake when she was admitted into the hospital. I don’t think I realized how serious it was. I’m glad I got a lot of work done that day because by Friday, I was packing up my little house where I had written much of my dissertation in order to fly back to the U.S. for a funeral that we knew would be soon. Initially, we had reserved tickets on Saturday, which we held off on buying because we heard she was getting better. She passed away on Monday, and my parents and I flew to Lagos the next day (almost late because I was still trying to pack and organize the materials I was leaving behind. I am very grateful to a few kind friends who came over to help me and who are still helping me scan a box of magazines and other materials I couldn’t travel with). From Lagos, we flew overnight to Atlanta, and by Wednesday morning Eastern Time, we were in a rental car driving to Louisiana for the funeral. Perhaps I will write another post on the funeral and a longer post on my remarkable grandmother. But for now, here are two of the columns I wrote during that time: “A Death at Christmas-time,” and “Home for Christmas?” (and a third rather random piece from last week as America begins to eat my brain cells, “When the lights go out in America and other thoughts on the last day of 2013” .)

I have spent a few weeks with my sister in Florida, trying to continue writing in her quiet, peaceful house. It has been surprisingly cold here in one of America’s southern-most states, but nothing to complain about these days. I am nearly in tears every time I hear dramatic sub-zero weather forecasts further north and face thoughts of returning to scenes like this (Photos I took in Madison, WI in the winter of 2007).

hard beauty

hard beauty. Flowers of metal and ice. (c) CM

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Fangs of ice (c) CM

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Welcome to Wisconsin. Have a seat. Make yourself at home. (c) CM

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And yet there is life, shed of its green, waiting for the earth to tilt and the sun draw near once again. (c) CM

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And winter too has its beauty. (c) CM

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It’s hard to be bitter looking at these photos again. These crystal patterns sculpted by Winter herself (c) CM

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Her gift to those who stay inside the glass, to those who do not defy her. (c) CM

Yes, I posted too many frost pictures. Let me know which one you like the best.

I think of the homeless at times like this. And I hope that churches and mosques and synagogues and other community centres are opening their arms. I read from Facebook friends in Madison that the Salvation Army and public libraries are opening, and that some organizations are paying for hotel rooms.

I wonder how homelessness can be possible, how the homeless survive winter after winter in these deadly days in this part of the planet that is habitable only by those who can afford four walls and heat?

In the meantime, WordPress has cheered me up with their neat little end of the year report. I have been a little obsessed with SEO [the acronym for site optimization, though I can’t remember what the “E” stands for (UPDATE: Actually, as my friend Nwunye reminded me, its “Search Engine Optmization”… duh)] this year when my site hits dramatically and unexplainably decreased in November by around 70%, but as of December they have sprung back up to normal. That makes me happy. Here is the report WordPress sent me for 2013. Even with my November dip, 2013 still seems to have outranked 2012 by about 10,000 hits:

 

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 190,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.