I first met Emmanuel Iduma in October of 2009 at an art criticism workshop in Lagos. We had different experiences – I as facilitator and he as participant. Not a reflection on others in the group but Iduma was eager to learn and broaden his reading experience. He was, and still is, a serious, engaging, endearing, calm, generous young man, obsessively committed to his writing and whatever else he sets his mind to pursuing. At the time we first met, Saraba, the literary journal started by him and his friend Damilola Ajayi in 2008, was in it’s infancy and Iduma was still a law student at Ife University. He’s now a lawyer, a fully fledged published writer – Farad his first novel is a complex and sometimes intense series of stories that are both connected and fragmented. It is rumoured that the writing is part autobiographical or at least draws on his own life and personal relationships and his exploration of the complexities of Nigeria’s ethno-religious tensions and of madness , real or imagined, suggest an understanding way beyond his chronological years.
In 2011 and 2012 Iduma participated in the Invisible Borders: Trans Africa Photography Project traveling by road first to Sudan and then to the Congo and Saraba recently published its’ 14th issue – The Art Issue. All of this and Emmanuel is still only 24. He’s now on his way to beginning a new phase in his life – I will leave the where, why and for what up to him to explain but I know great things lie in his path and I will be following his journey closely.
Last but not least a huge thanks for all his contributions to Black Looks over the past 3 years.
In the last one week I have slept little, staying wide-awake even after I have slept barely four hours. A friend says this is anxiety. I don’t think I am anxious; it is like waiting to enter a room whose door is open.
I am making mental calculations about leaving. Repeatedly I have revised checklists, although I hardly visit the lists when making plans for the day after the list is made. I want to slow time, capture a year-full of memories. Ultimately I want to understand how the passage of time will be my ally. I want the texture of both worlds. I want to halve existence into ‘home’ and ‘diaspora.’ I want to fight nostalgia. I want to berate absence. I want to feel nothing has changed, or will change.
Affection is falling around me, like fresh wound being poked. But, why, I keep having the feeling that I am looking at affection and calling it the wrong thing. I have been prayed for, encouraged, advised, warned, and those words have formed a cordon in my head; so that I am encircled by affectionate words, all the while thinking that they will reach out to me later.
What is it about self-deprecation that is attractive? Every time I think of the congratulatory messages I have been receiving – especially after I got my visa – I fight the tendency to think that, no, this is ordinary, I am not a special person, I don’t want to be different from the others, there are hundreds of thousands who have done this before me. And the temptation to belittle myself is even more endearing when I think of the kind of glances I get when I mention I am leaving my home country, to the ‘West.’ I get the feeling like I’m being welcomed into the afterlife, like this is where my life has led to, like irrelevance will never haunt me again.
And to remember that I have invested a substantial emotional sum into the need to remain at home: I am in love; I have collected photos of my family; I have founded a new enterprise. It is even more painful when I realize that the boundaries of involvement – what becomes immediately gratifying – will shift. I will have to reshuffle my priorities; I will have to decide which projects are urgent, important or are not.
Despite shifting boundaries, I keep thinking of what new quality I will discover about love. How can I outpace distance? How can I appear everywhere so that those that love me the most will feel I am still visible? How can I berate absence?
Then, again, the passage of time – I am drawn to think that leaving Nigeria will mark the beginning of a different phase of my life, and ultimately a new variable in understanding my place in the world.