‘Golgotha’, Christian Mystics hold, ‘is the mountain of victory’.
...it is the nature of ‘Man’ to have multiple faces. It adds thrill to the art of living. In this respect I have more than one face; there are those who like me as an artist and hate me as an African. There are some who like me as a footballer and hate me as a social critic. There are those who like me as a poet, and hate me as a journalist; the list goes on.
....yet, if I had a false face I would be in jail after seven years of sojourn here. For how long can one hide in a foreign land… particular in a place where you are not liked? I would have been exposed with delight by my enemies whose number seems to be growing by the hour. The real reason that can send me to jail here, if it’s a crime, is poverty… real and racially imposed, which I shoulder with the patience of a sacrificial lamb. In a nutshell, this is the prize for daring a system… an ideological tradition that feeds on the humiliation of ‘the other’. My ‘would-be-assassins’ are testing the ground. This, I can declare, adds thrill and further uncertainty to an already existing suspense.
‘Golgotha’, Christian Mystics hold, ‘is the mountain of victory’:-
In some quarters they say ‘The best answer to a fool is to keep quiet. At another they say no; ‘Silence is acceptance of guilt’. So? Facts:
Some three-years ago a kinsman who emerged the lead scorer in a Division One Club here, decided to switch clubs after getting an enticing offer from a rival club. Desperate to keep him (though his contract had expired, meaning he was free to go), the former club called the new club and told the manager that the said player was HIV positive. The sole reason for this demonic declaration, was to deter the new club from signing the player so that he would remain with the old club.
Nevertheless the club went ahead with the deal and in that season the player emerged again as the highest scorer of the club. This isn’t such a unique occurrence. Njitap Geremi passed through here. He was the recipient of such a rough treatment that he was forced to flee. It turned out to be luck in disguise as he moved to Spain where he ended up with Real Madrid and now with Chelsea London. Guy Feutchine was also here. The story wasn’t different. Abandoned by his club following an injury, he was ‘politely’ told by his club president to forget about soccer as, ‘you can be sure that your career is over’. This was some 4-years ago. Feutchine is now kicking the leather with Greek Division one side Salonika as well as for the Lions of Cameroon. An African in a remote, emerging setting trying to redefine Itself, experience reveals, becomes an inevitable scapegoat.
Character assassination isn’t a new phenomenon. However, it appears here the game respects no rules. It wouldn’t be superfluous to state that there is an ingrained, hash and disturbing dislike for Africans here. The accusation of being HIV positive is the latest weapon that as an African your enemy can raise against you. This ideologically inspired weapon, is strengthened by the day with disturbing literature about Africa from supposed-experts on Africa, some of whom openly boast of traveling across Africa in two weeks and return home to write volumes. What some of these hastily compiled volumes have succeeded in breeding, is a social and psychological conviction that ‘every African walking the street here is supposedly HIV positive, and woe betide anyone who dares to unravel the myth being put in place.
Some three-years ago, my girlfriend was forced by her parents to split with me after a 12-month affair. They couldn’t tolerate the fact that their daughter was dating an African. After our split she was further compelled by her relatives to undergo an HIV test to verify her medical state after this ‘unclean affair’ with an African. She did the test, which emerged negative.
Yet in spite of this deeply rooted suspicion that every walking African is a potential carrier of the virus, it is only when a person nurses a sadistic and deadly hatred against another that he/she would take the pain to go to the extent of a perplexing degree of character assassination that tantamounts to physical death. Otherwise under human norms, when someone is ill, you help the person recover if you can, or sympathise with the patient. At least this is what common sense tells us. A wife wouldn’t take to a public forum on an issue of this magnitude (I am what is known back home as a ‘Qua-kanda’, ‘bachelor’). This is a matter of choice; a decision rooted in a safety-measure strategy, resulting from two experiences; one (ideologically inspired), after losing a job as a result of my refusal to get married to a fiancé forced on me from above, and two—after a woman confessed to me that ‘her country is more important to her than her alien husband’. Several years later, (last year), another lady repeated the same message in another phrase, ‘The only love I know and can understand, is love for one’s country.. not love for a man’.
A man’s girlfriend wouldn’t lynch him on a public forum either, particularly on a subject of this magnitude; ( I do currently have a girlfriend who hasn’t done any such test, because after almost a year, she has no reason to). Of the three relationships I have had here (with each spanning more than a year), none of which was clandestine as I was known by the parents of the girls, none of them came complaining of being HIV positive. Not even a conventional enemy would go this far with such an accusation. Only a determined, ideologically motivated faceless entity with a pathological grudge would.
As an activist, I know I have set myself on the firing line.
My first visit to a hospital here was four-years ago, after I was attacked by a gang of skinheads. I had never been to a hospital to complain of headache otherwise, let alone do an HIV test. People do the test when they have a reason to.
With all what I have been through; sleeping in a conference hall for 18-months in Ghana, fighting a nightly battle with mosquitos, spending six weeks in detention there, spending another 18-months at an asylum centre here under appaling conditions, and under my curent state; running around to make ends meet, not being in a state to provide for adequate food, living in an under-heated flat with the temperature hitting sometimes below –20 degrees, writing non-stop, organising events here and there, struggling to build a theatre company, I wouldn’t be able to fool my body for long as these efforts require enough energy to keep a race-horse going for years. If I were HIV positive I would be dead.
Obviously my enemies are preparing my orbituary. However, none should be fooled should I drop dead soon. In such a case my death would have been fabricated. I consider this a much more than deadly physical attack... it is an attack on my very totality, ‘reality’ and what I stand for.
In order to grasp the fundamental drive that provokes an African antipathy here, a historical and factual reminiscing over some popular African-related theories and stories would help;
- Several years ago (I got this story from an African, which is supposed to be true), an African was accidentally rundown by a car. The matter ended up in court. The defense-lawyer’s triumpth card was that ‘under the prevailing atmospheric state when the accident occurred, the victim’s presence was ‘as dark as night’ and totally unperceivable, hence my client cannot be held responsible for this accident’. The accused went scot-free.
- Invited as a guest-poet at a High School last year, the professor who lead the session asked me to comment on a story; “Simon, please tell us, is it true that in Africa people eat raw flesh? I am asking because the daughter of a friend of mine who returned from Congo DR, told us that while at school there her friends once killed a snake, smashed it with stones and inserted the flesh between slices of bread and went on to eat this.” (Obviously, the wise professor wasn’t interested in the answer to his question. His ultimate goal was to humiliate me in the presence of the students).
- In a recent book published here, the writer asserts ‘the reason why Africans are not time-conscious and hence do not plan for the future is because ‘African languages do not have ‘future tenses’. I have been repeatedly asked by other professors to comment on this.
- A magazine founded in 1910, carried an article published last June about the state of women in Africa, stressing on how African women are victims of HIV/AIDS forced on them by unfaith husbands. The article was splashed on the front page of the magazine under the caption ‘A BLACK WOMAN IN AFRICA IS NOT A HUMAN BEING’.
- Any need to go on? The conclusion is that anyone who attempts to oppose this ideological tradition of racial nobility under the existing reality, is bound to wind up wounded.
In the midst of this storm, while Saturn carries on with its curse and course, I work to be as calm as a true son of Efasa-Moto is meant to be:
(Leopold Seda Senghor)
I must hide him
In my innermost veins
Whose stormy hide
is shot with lightening and thunder.
My animal protector,
I must hide him,
That I may not break
the barrier of scandal:
He is my faithful blood
that demands fidelity,
protecting my naked pride
and the scorn of luckier races.