Commemorate (Sefi Atta)
Commemorate: to honor the memory of a person, experience or event
I have little imagination, so I play with memories in my fiction. Some of my earliest are my mother’s perfume; my father’s laugh; the grown up party smell—whiskey, cigars and air conditioning; the sight of stomach worms; the stab of a cholera inoculation; gobbling a mouthful of sugar cubes; spitting out sea water; getting my hair braided in a park by Five Cowrie Creek; almost getting run over by a red sports car on Queen’s Drive; being chased by a rabid monkey.
(Or so my brother claimed. In retrospect, it might have been a neighbor’s pet, but I believed whatever I was told when I was a girl. I had an aunt who had seen a masquerader women were forbidden to see. I was envious that my brother had seen the masquerader. He told me it was a giant, though it was just a naked man. I was too afraid to sneak a peak. I didn’t want to end up cursed like our aunt. She had no children. She’d married an Englishman who had died of a heart attack. She threatened to beat up her ex-lovers and befriended their wives.)
Sunday afternoon music—Fela, Coltrane, Strauss, Ella and Mahalia; the hymn "Jesus Bids Us Shine"; the prayer al-Fatiha; trooping out of school assembly every morning to the chorus of Bizet’s Toreador song; reciting the Yoruba alphabet, "A-Aja (Dog), B-Bata (Shoe), D-Doje (Hoe), E-Ejo (Snake)"; the civil war slogan, "To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done"; the last line of my first play, "Only cowards fight girls"; and the headline through which I learned my late father was deceased, "Atta is Dead." That was probably the moment I realized how powerful words could be.
I started writing because I had never read a story that paid tribute to my memories. They are memories of everyday occurrences in Nigeria against a succession of military coups. In the absence of monuments and ceremonies, I write so that they endure.
Pour citer cette ressource :
Sefi Atta, "Commemorate (Sefi Atta)", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), mai 2014. Consulté le 07/12/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/entretiens-et-textes-inedits/commemorate-sefi-atta-