00:18am – Today
As I sit here on a couch in my brother’s apartment at Iwofe, Port Harcourt, and brood over the current state of things, it hits me; all the injustices that exist in this world we inhabit.
What is happening in Palestine as I write this is no mere joke.
Why can’t a man spread his clothes to dry on the same line as another who considers himself “bigger,” because the other is a little man? A small man.
Does the sun have a human owner?
And what about the innocent queer folks constantly being mopped in every corner of this earth?
From men who claim to care about us.
And from those who don’t give a fuck about our existence.
But still, we live.
09:0-something – Many years ago
You’re seated in a classroom and your eyes are fixed on the teacher as they read out the subject they have just written on the black board: “HISTORY.” And then they go: another story about facts about your country, your people, Africa as a whole. You listen attentively. You believe these stories. And you think that it is all the history your people have to tell.
05:0-something – Some more years ago
And then you learn there’s a part of a history you were never told; a fight your people had fought with everything within them. And then you ask your father why you are just learning of it. You are twelve or so. You don’t exactly remember. Your father doesn’t have the answer to your question, or maybe he does, but then he considers it a grave sin, a disloyalty to the system should he tell you about it.
But days later, he raises the subject by himself this time, and then he tells you, “They don’t want you to know these things about us, about our people. We suffered when we picked our machetes and sticks in a war we weren’t trained properly to fight. Children died of kwashiorkor and starvation—many of them. They want to dead this history because it might be the only way to not revisit the painful past. No Victor, no vanquish. But we know that that is a mockery.”
00:29 – Today
My last note to you, dearest reader, was on the topic of memory, if you remember. This is why it gladdens me to be writing to you, once more, on Reparation. I do not know if you have seen it already, but there exists a strong connection between both subject matters. Reparation, much like memory, is a driving force for change. It is the memory of injustice, the need to recollect and acknowledge historical wrongs that compels us to fight for a just and equitable future.
For clarity, I look up the definition of the term again, and here’s what I find on Google:
1 the action of making amends for a wrong one has done, by providing payment or other assistance to those who have been wronged.
“the courts required a convicted offender to make financial reparation to his victim”
Reparation stands as a testament to the unhealed wounds inflicted by the brutal melodies of colonisation, slavery, marginalisation, systemic oppression, (fill the space with that which strikes you more personally in your experience.) Eniolá Abdulroqeeb Arówólò in Catharsis, recognises his own unhealed wound by saying: “almost all things occupied/with breath repulse me—my art, too, is losing/its spark lately, a bonfire night plundered/by a rainstorm. so much occurs in silence—/little of joy, more of sorrow. like Dazai, life/wanders on the brink of collapse.”
Like Barack Obama, this man that I’ve grown to become simply “personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged.”
As the narrative of reparative justice unfolds, Emmanuel Iduma, in the featured interview, echoes the sentiment that “The trauma is too heavy for those who experienced it.” He explains further by saying, “My point is simply that there is a degree to which a younger generation can come to terms with a traumatic experience that is impossible — or difficult — for those who lived through it.” Maybe this explains why I ask too many questions about the past, a part of history I never experienced; why I wish to do all I can to prevent ugly histories from repeating themselves. We know from Emmanuel GG Yamba’s December 16 or the loss of a good name that this trauma “presents/itself like unstable water that won’t/provide a clear reflection of your/identity.” This lets us understand that reparation in itself isn’t just about acknowledging past injustices; it’s about recognising the burden of trauma carried by generations affected by historical wrongs.
Reparation is an evolving narrative, a continuous moving on or passing by. In his featured interview, Iduma says again: “What makes memory useful for a writer is its fluidity…. The situation is the occurrence itself, and the story is the emotional truth of what happened.” The acceptance of change is the caveat that accompanies our journey toward rectifying historical injustices. We must recognise that the languages of reparative justice may evolve, taking up new shapes and functions, much like the evolution of languages in response to shifting societal landscapes.
Rukkiyah in James-Ibe Chinaza’s All That You See Here Are Broken simply longs to love and to be loved, she wants to heal from the wounds of past traumas, but perhaps, one is left to wonder, the way in which she seeks her reparation is by letting go, by taking the “wind on her breath” and eating death, allowing herself to be eaten by death. Shikina.
In Issue 43, the works lean towards the flux, the move to a next or preceding phase. It holds high a placard that reads “Say No to Systemic Oppression!” These works have strictly one aim: to point out the deep-seated traumas woven into history. To isolate them, to repair the repairables. These works speak about the longing for justice, the desire to be free (think of it as a fight for identity, if you may), and most importantly, the hope for grace. This is the perennial anxiety — the fear and love for what has been — that propels writers and readers alike to demand the resuscitation and renewal of justice.
This is what we simply do with literature, the only weapon we have: in our acts of recollection, we strive to contribute to the narrative of reparative justice. We go to war. We fight!
Dear reader, as you engage with this issue, consider these pieces as a plea for us all to keep documenting, through writing and reading, the ongoing discourse on reparation, even as innocent people still die today from the pangs of civil wars and unjust moral tragedies. We, again, sympathise with all the victims of our own choices. The world deserves better. We welcome you to create a space for these reparative narratives. Consider this issue as a call for us to collectively own this fight as a crucial element in our quest for a more just world. Paraphrasing Hector Garcia’s words in Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, the problem is not the condition we’re in, it is the decisions we make. In doing so, we may lose some preconceived notions – and that’s fine – because the value and reward we will find is in our truest freedom. And what is a man in shackles?
Welcome to an era of REPARATION!
Orji Victor Ebubechukwu,