Tuesday, October 02, 2012

listen while reading

The rain here is incredible. I noticed the darkening sky and cool air just in time to pull my clothing from the line. I arrived in Lagos a week ago and it has been so, so lovely. This past weekend I saw Call me Kuchu as part of the Lights, Camera, Africa! Film festival. It's a documentary about the LGBTI movement, activists in Uganda. “Amazing and devastating” as Ernest Hardy describes. Powerful to see a film about queerness while in Lagos.

After the film there was a short discussion with filmmaker/writer/photographer Femi Odugbemi and Mahen Bonetti, Executive Director of NY's African Film Festival, about the state and future of African film. Bonetti talked about the 'fight for the image of Africa' which has me thinking about archives. Odugbemi described how during Nigeria's celebration of fifty years of independence in 2010 the same 5 minutes of BBC footage was shown (footage which had to be purchased at a great price from the BBC). We don't have these kind of film archives in Nigeria. I am thinking about the nature and necessity of archives. Books, photographs, audio is so critical to remembering and claiming place, not just place in the physical sense of home or nation-state, but one's place in the world. An archive shows us that we have a place in the world not delineated by identity; we have a place because we witness stories that expand our notion of who we are or may become in the world.

Bonetti mentioned the importance of the recently-discovered Russian film archives of 'Africa'. Apparently, the Scandinavians have 'African' archives too. I scoured the interwebs for this footage.  Alas, I believe she was referring to a film by Alexandr Markov called Our Africa: Thousands of Kilometres of Soviet Film. Despite the obvious failings of the paternalistic title, I look forward to seeing this work if/when it plays in Lagos.  The trailer looks beautiful.

I want a million stories about one place. So to add to this endeavor...

Last Friday, September 28, my new housemate moves (a Fulbrighter researching alternatives to the juvenile justice system in Lagos...Wow!). She invites me to a party after the film festival opening. Her three guy friends pick us up around eleven and we begin the dark, bumpy journey through the streets of Yaba (my new neighborhood!). Though initially cautious (people warn not to go out after dark) I am v excited for my first Lagosian party.  Oh la la!  The guys in the car are notably quiet and about twenty minutes into the journey we slow in front of a church. Is this what she meant by party?!

The car keeps moving and we continue down the road and eventually park. We get out and are led through a large, winding house, into and out of a kitchen--where Auntie's are cooking over huge pots of vegetables, meat and rice--then up several flights of stairs. I hear my roommate ask one of the guys, “So this is your brother's bachelor party?”


Of course it was amazing. The party started on the roof where we could see an incredible lightning storm in the distance, and a full moon directly above us. At some point it began raining so we all rushed into the garage and I danced my booty off until past 5am. Then home, safe and sound, but not before I received the complement of a lifetime.

guy: Are you Yoruba?
me: Yes.
guy: I could tell by the way you dance.

And thus the bar, club, party, dance floor becomes an important site for this year's research and archive.