Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Card Board Box

I ran into Sega today in town.  Sega was Keita’s next- door neighbour in Kanafa, the neighbourhood where Keita lived before we were married, and where I also stayed for a while during the construction of the hotel.  Keita kept this flat on even after he moved to our new house and sublet it, so after his death there were some things there that still belonged to him. I knew that Sega had taken care of the furniture: there was not much and he was welcome to it. I had not wanted to go there: I felt it would be too upsetting to rifle through his belongings from a long time ago. I had said to Cissé and Dra to cast an eye over it just to see if there was anything I needed to deal with.

 But today Sega said that there were several boxes belonging to Keita that I should have a look at. Feeling rather apprehensive I asked Baba to join me and we went to Kanafa this morning.  It was, as I had imagined, a very melancholy affair to look through Keita’s papers and meagre belongings of his youth: he came to Djenné as a student first of all on a one year Stage (work placement) at the hospital in the beginning of the nineties.  There were several school and college exercise books , including a neatly hand written report of his one year stage. 

Now, I am incapable of throwing this sort of thing away: I was faced with my father’s German grammar exercises yet again in May when I was clearing out my London storage space and yet again I could not throw them away. (My father died before I was born).  I guess Keita’s college exercises will now be joining my father’s German grammar and move around with me for the rest of my life...

But there were pictures too:  hundreds of mementoes from his time as a young man here in Djenné before he married Mai in 2001. They were a large, close-knit, happy group of friends, many of whom I still know. The picture above shows Keita in the centre and on his right is Dra: they used to take a boom box down to Sanouna by the Bani river in the weekends- the picture, although badly reproduced here, reminds me of the current Malick Sidibé exhibition of pictures of carefree Bamako youths at Somerset House.
Yes, of course it was bittersweet to discover all these pictures and  to see a fresh faced young Keita, happy  among his peers.
 Looking through his things was somehow like looking at was is left of him. To see his life reduced to a card board box, dusty and semi-forgotten made me so sad.  At the same time the box was  potent once opened: although filled with now lost memories that only he himself would fully understand. Our spirit does not reside in things of course, but it is material things that evoke the memories most powerfully.  Once I had chosen what I wanted to take I said to burn the rest, but it felt brutal...  


Blogger David said...

How poignant. I guess that despite what you say you are very glad to have selected letters and photos.

But yes, we all accumulate too much stuff, and how much of it will anyone want when we're gone?

1:41 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Yes of course David. I am very glad to have the pictures!
But I did get rid of a lot of my own stuff in London in May: self conscious rubbish writing which I once thought was something- So very glad it found it's way to the skip!

1:53 PM  
Blogger David said...

Even rubbish writing has its value - it's part of your biography and we should all leave behind some kind of memoir for those we love. Maybe you could assemble one for Keita if you ever have any spare time...I'd certainly want to read it. And every single life is exceptional.

2:39 PM  
Blogger jm.herraiz said...

I recently moved from the office I have occupied for the last eleven years and had to deal with tons of books, writings (I thought before they were something), pictures and so on. It is bittersweet indeed. It reminds you of what you longed to be, in front of what you really are now. It´s life. You must go on.

Charming, that image of a small pack of things going with you for the rest of your life!

7:58 AM  

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