Get ready for a harsh world of drug dealers, broken families, one night stands, male prostitution, unemployment and everyday monotony in which everyone would do whatever it takes to get the hell out of their working class neighborhood in Houston. Opportunities for work are scarce and gentrification is not making it any easier. Codified conversations leave you in a void and people are saying a lot by saying very little. This is a story in which everything seems to be running in circles.
I expected a lot of this book – I always do – but must confess that in the beginning of my reading I was slightly disappointed. Not for the fact that the novel introduces you to a fairly large gallery of people, but because I had the feeling that I was only going to get to know very little about each of them. In the end I realized that this was perhaps the point after all, in a world that unfolds in fragments and painfully stagnating lives in which the balance between love and hope and disappointment is most fragile. Perhaps the charm of Bryan Washington’s debut novel is exactly there! His pen did leave a mark on me and now I’m looking forward to more stories by him.
These are my latest new entries in my home library. Once again I have come to realize how beneficial it is to read books and keep a relative distance to the online world. I have selected these titles for reasons that I hope to illuminate in separate posts after having finished each book. Those reasons mirror almost subconsciously – or should I say naturally – these times of global awakenings and protests against systemic racism and also the fact that borders, margins, in-betweens, no-man’s-lands and urban space are something I have grown very accustomed to since very long.
What makes you remember a street? Is there an area in town to which you return often? Why? We all know how specific areas within any given city have their own feel and pace, depending on the time of the day. I was always a walker and in whatever town I lived, I always developed a fast understanding of my own favorite neighborhoods. In the case of Saint-Louis, it’s the northern part of the island, or the sandy stretch of land further north by the Mauritanian border in Goxum Bacc and Sal Sal.
Now during the Covid-19 pandemic I start my days by walking around the island very early in the morning, and I check the surface of the river first thing as some sort of a fortune teller or weather forecast. I would also choose my first walk or bicycle route of the day always by…
For a couple of weeks my home street has been going through some serious sewage works that started from the main mosque in the north and has been approaching our house ever since. For a few days they have now rumbled the earth right in front of the house and left a terribly noisy water pump to run through the night. Goodbye quiet nights of curfew!
I felt extra confined today for a short moment when I could not walk out of the house because of mountains of sand that had been piled up along the front of the house. But that was only a good sign. It meant that the loose earth was soon going to cover everything that had been opened up earlier, and then the works would move on in the street towards south, away from the house! When that work was done, the guys had a lunch typically in the Senegalese way on the spot. No fuzz!
Today has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It affected me very strongly to read the news in the morning about Senegal keeping its borders closed until 31st of May. This means I need to change my plan again, in other words I will stay put yet another six weeks (!) alone in the house. I tried to find out about possible repatriation flights with Air France and Air Senegal and found out that Air France has one flight on April 27 to Paris. I waited on the phone line for over an hour to find out if I could reserve a seat and it appeared that there were some places left in business class. A one-way-ticket would have cost 1800 000 fcfa, in other words over 2700 euro. That was a bitter call.
On a more positive note, I interviewed a friend called Aziz today for my video installation that I am preparing for Afropolis. It’s a work in which I chat with people about their home town. I will edit a short clip shortly and upload it on the Afropolis website and on social media on Ello. It’s a start for a series of interviews in my home residency that has been supported by The Kone Foundation. This project has a fresh and timely side vein: as I am being put on hold from shooting video material in Dakar or Nouakchott thanks to Covid-19, my focus is now on Saint-Louis full time. I am taking snapshots of people and will publish little stories in relation to these snapshots and post them in this blog. Keeping busy, are we? Six weeks will be but a blink of an eye!