Clifton Gachagua: There is No Return

“Return was a myth departure coined as inceptive.” 

A. Zawacki


There’s no return. 

Memory. Reflection. Then? Alexis Teyie recently reminded me of Bly & Lorca. Vallejo. The language of translation. The rass in the cemeteries. But it is Arundhati Roy that I most remember for the kindness of Alex and family: The brothers. & Rosie Olang’. And every act of kindness. We assumed the apostrophe was by design. On designing books, Olang’ has been amazing.

Memory, then.

For the first time. Again. At Alexis’ & Olang’s place I read about Tippu Tip. I remember On Failure. For me that’s the longest non-fiction piece I’ve ever written. I read surrealism. I watched a film. I read Andre Breton’s Manifesto. Read Rankine, Kaminsky. Read Muraya. Keguro. Ngwatilo. Alex. I’ve never really been interested in manifestos— just work.

Returning to Lorca and the cemeteries: We really cannot think of African histories in a linear language–a language does not exist. Not in English, first of all. We assume that translation is by design. Rilke, for instance:  What I’d like is to read Ousmane Sembène. Not Pan-Africanism, Not anti- . But folk who did not care about capital.

We return to museums and memory and restitution. The body is the memory. The fact that it has survived this long. This memoriam, in memoria, this forgotten. Ideas of gathering, collecting these memories: while they are difficult, they demand that we listen. 

And in longing…

What does it mean then if there is nothing to long for? To desire/want? To be aware of there being nothing/ of the nothing-being of the myth of reparation. 

There is no return. 

“What do people each other when debts accrued can never be repaid? What role does culture play in a society governed in such a way that its historical inequalities are continually reproduced and widened, and its moral insolvency perpetually renewed? What do those owed nevertheless owe to each other? What possible role can art or literature play under these conditions?”

Jesse McCarthy, “Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?”

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