Tag archieven: Africa


At the sound of the door, two small shadows make their way towards us.
“ Ah! You’re a cat woman.”
Samuel’s big sweater fills my tiny hall. He places a messenger bag on the saddle of my bicycle.
He squats down, big fingers plucking through the white fur.
“That one is diabetic,”
A wide smile crosses his face. “So was mine! You give it insulin too?”

He leaves his phone and keys under the mirror. His empty shoes next to my high heels.
“I had no idea it would still be so cold at night,” I shiver.

I flip the switch. The bare light shines on us, on a pile of boxes, an unconnected computer, on a roll of carpet for my spare room.
“I don’t even have blinds yet.” I excuse myself.
“You have a Nimba!”
The wooden fertility sculpture with the sharply hooked nose looks small in his hands. The black layer of coaled wood has worn down.
“We used to live in Nigeria,” I say.
A solemn glance crosses over his face. “So does my father.”
His voice has dropped. There is an African word in his sentence that I don’t understand.

I reach up to kiss him, caress the biceps and chest through his clothes. Light as a feather he lifts me up. I bury my nose in his neck to smell him.
“I think it took ten whole minutes before you kissed me at the bar!” he smiles in my ear.
“It’s your scent,” I say between sniffs. “No. That’s not true. It’s everything.”

White carpet. White bed. White sheets. In the only room of the house that looks decent we undress each other. Passing cars, streetlights, moonlight. My skin looks fairer, his looks darker. I rub my legs to his. I press my breasts to his chest. Cub my hands around this skull. I cry tears in his arms when he asks me if it has really been a year.

“Tell me about Nigeria.”

And he tells me about spending his holidays in Lagos, about the sea. About the Yoruba, and missionaries who converted the parts of Nigeria where the climate was mild. He tells about the Jos Plateau, still torn between Islam and Christianity.
“Where did you live?” he asks my skin.

He tells about the North, about the Sahel, and that the desert expands every year, robbing the Touareg of their cattle.
“The drought started in the 70s, when you lived there.”
Touareg were our night watch,” I whisper.

His Dutch mother raised him in the Netherlands.
His dark skin on Dutch schools and my light tan between my black classmates.
He got swimming diplomas when I jumped in pools without supervision.
Samuel sled snow, while little Lauren caught snakes.
Our youths are a distorted mirror image of each other.

I stumble out of the bed naked. “Give me some time to find my condoms. I didn’t bother to unpack them.”

His head is resting on his hand and he throws me a superior smile.

Momma knows best

My mother is sitting on the floor, in her pyjamas, with a broken arm and a flu that just cleared up. A nest of children’s drawings, photos and wooden statues surrounds her: souvenirs from our life in Africa, in the 70’s. Large piles of books are stacked in a second circle. They originally occupied the shelf that we cleared, but now they’re cluttering the floor.
We are making an Africa exhibition.
Or at least my mother is. I am reading a Dutch novel with my feet on the table.
We are both drinking wine.

With her functional hand my mother unwraps a red clay figure with a broken-off penis. My little sister had a habit of demasculinizing art. The erections never made it to the Netherlands.

“Mom, I think I made a poem. Want to hear it?” I ask.
“Yes sure,” she says.

is like low-fat cheese;
it tells on itself.

My mother listens to MyFirstPoem, the way she once supported finger paintings and crayon drawings: with unconditional love and approval.
“That is a nice poem. But maybe people will not understand it. For most people literature is something nice.”
“You mean people read this,” I wave with a highly acclaimed Dutch novel,” and actually like it?”
“Yes, they do,” my mother assures me. “They like to get deeper thoughts.”
I shake my head with a sour mouth, and swallow the wine.
“I thought people read this because it’s good for them,” I insist. “That’s why I read it anyway.”
“I don’t think literature is good for you at all,” my mother says, as she turns back to her photos and memorabilia. “You are different.”

That is true. I am different. Different from other yoga teachers, who practice detachement. From other writers who actually like reading difficult books. From other daughters with a successful career, off-spring and a Significant Other.

To my favour, I do point out I never broke off male genitals.

“You’re cool mum,” I say. “You never bug me that I don’t give you grandchildren.”
“Why would I? You do other things,” my mother holds up a large black and white photo of a 6y.o. me, dancing naked in African monsoon rains.

That weekend she finishes her mini-exposition of Africa. We go for dinner three times, replenish wine and chocolate, design a new look for her clothes, and we book a gallery for a Retrospective of my father’s photographs in 2011.

But on the train on my way home I realize the sheets are still in the washing machine, I forgot to clean the bathroom, and there is no bread left for my mother to make breakfast.

Somehow, I don’t think she’ll mind.