My Personality in Pictures

For those of us who like photography, it becomes evident with time that a common theme runs through one’s work. This theme may say a lot about the photographer. It could hint at a purpose that is being worked out. It could even be a message one wants to share with the world. It may be as simple as a sign of admiration for the subject matter.
For instance, I like doing figure work because I admire the human body.
Beside that, I find myself often capturing the mundane around the house or even on a walk. A doorknob, bristles of a brush, a faucet. Sometimes the lens and light work together to produce something beautiful.

Faucet

I was in the bathroom when this faucet caught my eye. It was almost lonely in it’s silvery glow, smoothness and curves.

Bristles

The disorganization in the bristles reminded me of the chaos of life. Each going his or her own way but still bound together by something greater that propels us toward s a common destiny.

Bars

The bars were reminiscent of order. Even those that were out of focus were in order. Can order in one’s life be so strong as to be subconscious?

I don’t know what I am trying to say when I capture the really mundane? Could it be that I’m trying to find a meaning in every instance of life. Or maybe I need to get a life?

Through My Glasses

He asked for
My Glasses
Even as
He handed me his.
I put them on
They felt so light
Like they weren’t there.

And then I gasped
At what I saw
A bright beautiful World
Women smiling
Children playing
Men with Content
Plastered all over
Their wealthy faces.
The sun shone
The birds sang
A world like I’d never seen.

I took them off
Turned to look at him
He stared ahead
His mouth open like in disbelief
His face a grimace
Of pain and sadness
On his cheek
A lonely tear.
As he took them off and
Turned to face me
His expression said it all.
Welcome to my World.

Mimento Mori

In old Rome, when victorious generals returned from battle, they had parades held in their honor. Even as a general rode in these processions, at a time when most would feel a great sense of achievement and maybe even some hubris, the Romans had a way to keep these generals grounded. In the chariot with a victorious general was a slave. His job was to continuously whisper the words “Mimento Mori” to the general. This Latin phrase means, “Remember you must die”. This reminded the general that in spite of his recent victories, death was always just another battle away. It was reminder of their mortality and forced them to consider humility.

RestingPlaces-01

Rome fell centuries ago but this concept of reminding ourselves of our mortality has lived throughout the years. For some, it is the Skull & Cross Bones. For me, it is the cemetery.
I love cemeteries. They are my Mimento Mori symbols. Even though I love to go cemeteries for the peace and serenity and to make great pictures, they function more as a constant reminder of mortality. I am always reminded about how short life is. I almost hear a clock tick.
The main purpose of my  Mimento Mori symbol is to remind me of the lack of Time. Time. That the years are passing by. Time. That every minute in this temporary life is precious and that one has to seize each moment. Time.
As one wanders around and reads the epitaphs, pictures come to mind of lives lived, of dreams realized and shattered, of love, sorrow, pain and joy. Overwhelmingly though, one realizes that irrespective of what these souls went through, it all ended one day. Their lives were finite. My life is finite. Yours too.
I always leave resolved to do more, worry less and fill every hour but alas, once the symbol of temporariness recedes, I slide back into the delusion that I have all the time in the world. Like a victorious Roman general, I need a voice in my ear whispering Mimento Mori. I still have so many battles to fight.

Amazing Grace

But for Grace
Where would I be?
But for Grace
What would I do?
But for Grace
What would I eat?
But for Grace
No place to sleep.

I’ve not known love
Never a caress
On a face
Marred by pain
Traces so deep
They hide my tears
But for Grace.

Her shoulder
Broad and warm
Upon which I rested
Dark tales untold
Found a listening ear
That of my Grace.

So as she holds my hand
The softness soothes and
Compliments
The Sun
That’s setting
On a life of
Long days and
Cold Nights.
And so even as
Grace holds my hand
And the sounds of life
Recede,
I know
I won’t
Die
Alone.

Life as a Sisyphean Task

Sisyphus In Greek mythology, Sisyphus has been punished for his sins to roll a huge boulder up a hill in the Afterlife, only to have the boulder roll back down to the bottom of the hill once he gets to the summit.
Sisyphus is believed to have been the founder and king of Corinth who was smart, cunning and ruthless. He had no regard for Gods or men and ruled with an iron fist.
Of all the escapades of Sisyphus, the two that stand out the most and probably drew the most ire from the Gods was when he imprisoned Hades, the God of Death and when he conned his way out of the Underworld.
He was so cunning that at his appointed time, Hades himself came for him. Well, Hades showed up with handcuffs and Sisyphus asked him to demonstrate them. You can imagine what happened. Hades handcuffed himself onto the wall and Sisyphus had the key! The God of Death in handcuffs! So, for a while, no one could die. Ares, the God of war, pissed off that wars were no fun anymore (no one died), went over to Casa de Sisyphus and freed Hades. After telling Sisyphus to report immediately to the Underworld, Hades promptly scurried away.
So Sisyphus had no choice but die. Before he did that though, he asked his wife not to bury him but to throw his body into the Town Square. She was also not to put a coin under his tongue. One uses the coin to pay the ferryman on the River Styx, so he can get you to the other side. Nothing is free, you see. Not even when you are dead.
The dear wife did that so when he showed up before Hades’ wife, the Queen Persephone in the Underworld, he was totally not ready. He claimed he wasn’t buried properly and had no coin. So he sweet-talked Persephone to let him back to alleviate all the mistakes his wife made! The nerve! Persephone obliged!
He returned to life where he promptly forgot about death and partied like it was 1999! For years!
Finally Zeus had it. Sisyphus had to go. Hades wasn’t risking another trip to Casa de Sisyphus. So this time, Hermes, the God of Transitions, more cunning than Sisyphus himself went to get him. Hermes hauled his behind down to Hades where he was sentenced to hard labor, rolling the boulder.

Which finally brings me to my point. Is there a moral to this story. Well, several. Don’t piss off the Gods, would be one. Another might be that all good things must come to an end.
I can imagine that, if the Gods punished a man, a King at that, they would give him a punishment that not only probably sought to break his spirit but also was unlike anything he was used to. So hard labor for a King would be a good punishment. But then, how do you break the spirit of someone so cunning? Someone so full of spirit? Someone who apparently is goal-oriented and a visionary? Well, you take the purpose out of their lives. You put them in a situation where their very existence has no meaning. Like rolling a boulder up a hill for it to come crashing back down once you reached the summit. For you to do it endlessly – no end in sight, ever!
For us mere mortals, isn’t that our very existence? Rolling boulders up the hill of life only to have then come down just when we hit the summit? Isn’t life a series of these fruitless trips?
The little victories in life are when we get to a ledge somewhere along the hill and rest. We look back at the distance we have traveled and pat ourselves on the back. Unlike Sisyphus, we do not know yet that the boulder is going to roll back down. We kid ourselves that once we get to the top, it’ll stay. So we labor to get this boulder up there. Sometimes we get to a summit and think we’ve made it. We look up and see another peak and keep rolling. That is our curse.
Maybe, the point of life should not be in where you get the boulder to. It should be in the experience. In the day to day. In the relationships and contacts one creates. In finding some joy in this endless task. In knowing that you can roll the boulder up.
Sisyphus has been doing it all these years. Something beside the curse must keep him going. Maybe, the knowledge that even if the boulder rolls down, he still can get it up there. That no matter how many time he has to do it, he can summon the strength of spirit to move it. Maybe he has discovered that as he rolls this boulder up there, the experience is much more rewarding, the very process more fulfilling than the goal.
The very few are those who live life like Sisyphus the King. For most of us, it’s the life of Sisyphus, the boulder-roller. Find your joy in your labor. If you do, let me know how you did it.
I can’t.

We forgive you

“I forgive you. You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance to the man who murdered her mother and eight others in Mother Emmanuel on June 17, 2015.

How could they do it? Forgive a man who gunned down their loves ones in cold blood? I probably couldn’t.
The amazing effect of this act of forgiveness has been felt all over. It has melted the hearts of even die-hard confederate flag lovers. That is all good, but how could they do it?

One can surely ascribe it to their faith. Faith is a powerful thing.
Faith and spirituality is what has sustained most African-Americans through 400 years of untold misery. What you saw during that bond hearing is a product of this strong faith. It allows families of the victims to forgive a most heinous crime that reminds them of very dark times past. Yes, that is what this faith does. Then these families know that the minute they let bitterness in, they are not going to be able to deal with what awaits them when they step outside into that Charleston sunshine after the dust of solidarity has settled. They need that faith to deal with the world as is for a black person in South Carolina, in the USA.
Those words of forgiveness were also significant in that they sounded like a whole race telling another that they forgave them. Forgave them for years of slavery, lynching, raping, mass incarceration, Jim Crow and exploitation. Years of being treated like their lives didn’t matter.

Forgiveness is a powerful thing. More powerful than revenge. It frees the soul and melts hearts.
The families of the Charleston Nine have forgiven the killer. I hope this will be a teaching moment for the whole nation.

The Other Side I

Freedom

With longing
I stare
At the other side and
Wish to be there.
With tears
I wonder how
If feels to be over.
The wire that stands
Between me and my dreams
Is tougher than the spirit
That seeks
The Other Side.

I’ll dance with joy
And sing my songs
I’ll kneel and pray
Thanking the stars
To be on the other side.
Only if…
I dropped my head
Turned around
With slumped shoulders
Starring at the ground
I made my way
Back to my side.

As I plodded along
I saw lovers kiss
Looking at each other
With longing.
Not far off
Danced a man
With not a care in the world.
I spun as I heard the screaming
Well, it was only a boy
Screaming with delight
As he chased a butterfly.

I looked up
And saw dark clouds move
Over the midday sun.
Your side is beautiful too.
Your side is beautiful too.
The birds seem to sing.
The thunder clapped
The lighting bolted
So on a hot summer day
As it stormed,
I took off my shoes
And in the pouring rain
Danced and sang
Thanking the stars
For blessing me
With my side.

Dear Dad

dad

Happy Fathers’ Day!
How are the celebrations where you are?
Are you looking on at what you left behind and beaming with pride?
Well you should!
Things are not easy but we are managing.
You should see your grandkids now!
So much bigger!
Mum is doing fine.
We were all home for her 70th.
It was really good.
She didn’t say it but she misses you.
You could tell….
Just messaged Kweku with Whatspp.
Whatspp is this messaging app….
Forget it!
Probably over you head.
So Kweku and I were discussing how tough it is to be a father.
How we cannot get our boys to do anything we ask of them.
We reminisce about how you did it.
How you got us to do what you wanted us to do.
However it always felt like it was our idea.
How did you do that?
If you can find a way,
Like someone coming this way
Can you send some tips?
Abi has 3 kids now
And Kojo is finally thinking of settling down.
You know Paa,
The forever starving artist but
Such talent!
We are scattered all over but
We are trying to stick together.
You would have wanted that.
I won’t take any more of your time
Just wanted to say thank you
For teaching me
What it takes to be a father.
I am not perfect at it but
I am striving to make that bar.
You would have wanted that
You would have.

Nine Lives

A Tribute to the those massacred on the evening of June 17, 2017 in The Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

victims

Nine lives!
Nine beautiful lives.
Cut short while seeking solace in a place of worship.
Nine extraordinary lives, then every life is extraordinary.
Lives full of hope.
Lives chasing dreams.
Lives, not blobs of color that can be erased.
Lives that nurtured families and loved ones.
Lives that looked forward to tomorrow, a tomorrow that never came.
Lives that loved, cried and shared.
Shared a dream that all humans were created equal.
Lives that believed that you were more than the color of your skin.
Lives that didn’t see hate but prayed for redemption.
Nine lives.
Nine lives that should make us all look into ourselves and ask if there is not a better way.
Nine lives that stood at the intersection as racism and an out-of-control gun culture collided.
A culture that does not even respect the boundaries of faith and worship.
That left blood flowing like a river in place where peace should engulf your soul.
Nine lives!
Today we mourn and soon the sun will set and bring in a new day called Tomorrow.
Tomorrow erases memory.
It makes the heart ache less.
The terrible pictures of yesterday seem to fade.
Chances are we will forget.
Forget those lives.
The nine precious lives.
I implore you not to forget.
Then if you do, their death would have been in vain.
Hatred would have won and next time who knows how many lives it will be.
Whose son,daughter or mother?
Whose father or uncle?
It might even be you – your life.
So as you lay down tonight, say a prayer for those nine wonderful people.
Nine prayers
Nine Lives
May the next life be kinder to them.

Nanadadzie

Cracked


Cracked

My mum’s gave us a beautiful wooden bowl on one visit. The bowl was designed beautifully with adinkra symbols. One of them was the “Gye Nyame” symbol.

Gye_nyame

The symbol means “No one lives who saw its beginning and no one will live to see it’s end, except God”, popularly translated “Except God.”
Anytime I looked at it, I thought of the gift of life. I saw the bowl as a crucible that held life, the soul, the spirit. Like the gift mum brought us, life is gifted to us too. When we are given this gift of life, it comes with a reminder – Gye Nyame. That we are supposed to take care of this gift and the dear Lord, being omnipresent, is there to help.

A few months after we got the bowl, it fell and got a crack right through the “Gye Nyame” symbol! We were devastated. As I starred at the cracked bowl, it made think of what happens when we did not take care of the gift – it broke. I thought, life is a gift just like the bowl and if we don’t take care of it, we break it. We destroy it.
As life gets destroyed, the reminder, “Gye Nyame” is not enough anymore. It is just another symbol.
I took a picture of the bowl with a 150-year-old lens and printed it with a 150+ year-old technique. Sort of saying some truths are ancient..