Yinka Elujoba


She said to me: I have watched your words arrange themselves on the page. Why have you refused to write beyond the margin? Was it not you that first told me the words of Andre Gide in “Poetique”?

Two nights later, in a dark room, bent beneath the radiance of two candles, I scribble in black ink inside the margin of my journal:

“Art begins with resistance”



She said to me: Do you remember the Bambara Chief? I have been thinking of his words. Everything, every work, every sound. Everything is rhythm.

I remember clearly. A thin twig between his teeth. His analysis of the djembe, the sounds floating along with wind on the edges of the cornstalks behind him. He had claimed that there were only three sounds in the world:




I said to her: What has sound got to do with it?

She said to me: You trust too much in words. Words are never fully clothed. Sound is the end of all context.



A gentle Lagos evening at a quiet corner below the Ikeja City Mall. She made doodles on a tissue paper and then she said to me: Do you know why they invented icons? Because an image hardly needs translation. Words must be clothed in nuances of culture if they must be accurate in transition between languages. A translator knows that he must penetrate the senses of both worlds if he must communicate precision.

I said to her: What has this got to do with me?

She said to me: All art is translation. Every artist is a translator. Writer, how have you survived this long without knowing this?



She said to me: The last time you came here was 4 years ago. I packed all your books and sold them. I have replaced them with North African and Japanese writing. Words must make space for new words. Surely you remember Mia Couto when he says A person never stops being born ?

I said to her: Indeed. This is why memory deserves a piercing, a surgery.

She said to me: I do not like that line, but I think that it will suffice.



She ran. I was standing beside the water in Marina, listening to the afternoon. The wind tore the sunglasses from her hair. She ran. She screamed and said to me: I have found it. Why they call it poetry. Mastery is to leave the words naked. Here is where we leave our words bare.

I said to her: What happened to clothing words in nuances?

She said to me: Nakedness is the ultimate negotiation.

I said to her: I do not like that line, but I think that it will suffice.

*Photograph by Vincent "Pelourinho"

11:13pm on 16, October 2016


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