I haven’t hit ‘publish’ on number forty-three because I can intuit repercussions for what I want to say. Even if I think I’ve pieced together some writing that matters beyond the underlying jab, undercut and sucker punch I know I’m under-stitching together. Forty-three has been open on my desktop since before my computer crashed in Salvador. The title comes from something that Bonaventure was saying in response to the ‘keynote’ that followed his ‘keynote’. It has blocked me from getting to forty-four, and now forty-five.
Yesterday for the first time (I’m sorry to say), I’ve read Binyavanga’s writing. I’ve known of him for some years. I’ve known him ever since he stayed at my place in São Paulo when I wasn’t there. He left a mess. After reading someone I know and know I will admire to some extent, I am careful not to sound like that person. I am a new writer I suppose. It happens visually too. At Dak’Art (or the Dakar Biennial), I was drawn to the back ‘carport’ of the vast ancien palais de justice where the works of Ousmane Sow were exhibited and supported by a french foundation. What is clear is that Simon Njami knows how to work with many forms of business. I am impressed by what he has compiled over two terms of his artistic directorship in Dakar, even if others will talk of the problems, the issues with it. Which are more likely issues with him.
When I see that the sculptures are made of horseshoes, I decide to quickly view the works and leave. I used to weld old horseshoes into coat hooks with my dad. You take two of them. One lays against the wall and the nail holes can be used to afix it. The other is soldered in a way jutting outward to hang your coat on. We made forty of these and tried to sale them at horse shows and cattle sales. Sometimes when people would see my father around — associating him to my brother and I — our sales would increase. Nepotism I suppose, but my father was never really someone that others tried to please, so this did not increase our sales exponentially. If they will let me, I will go home one day. I will be a metalworker of another sort. There is sculpture in my brain. I see it in other forms of bricolage I am capable of, and only recently does it dawn on me the size and expanse of the studio availed to me back home in Tennessee. The life I already know and now feel drawn back to. The farm. The machine shop. I will ask my dad finally to teach me to weld. It will not make everything alright, but he will see I’m not just fluffing his ego, and that I truly wish to learn. I love the sculptures of Sow, and therefore do not wish to over internalize his style.
Manthia Diawara was the last ‘art world professional’ I saw at the Dakar airport before flying out. He is always so kind even if I register that he forgets where he knows me from. In fact, I’m almost to tired to speak to him. Airports in West Africa make me nervous, even new ones. I’m reminded of the time I forced my way on the plane in Cameroon. I thought I was being heroic. My ex-wife was upset with me. Perhaps she saw a wild look in my eye that she didn’t know. And, likely, she didn’t know that I was doing it because I felt we were under attack. That the regional delegate of Air Cameroon had already insulted her and was separating our family by only giving us four of the five tickets we purchased. Perhaps she doubted my intuition that the Cape Verdean pilot would support my action. That something had passed between us when he assuaged my fury with ‘it’s his airport … and my airplane’.
I was so tired that I felt myself only whisper Manthia’s name, wondering if ‘manch-i-a’ was the correct way. I think it is. He turned and smiled. We exchanged words. I congratulated him on the opening of his new space outside of Dakar. Salah Hassan — who I sometimes speak to about Sudanese things, but who also doesn’t know my name — urged me to go, but I hadn’t had time. I told him that, but that I’d heard it was nice. We said goodbye.