Sites of Diaspora Include

Published

TEXT BY RAPHAËLLE RED
ARTWORK BY INÈS DI FOLCO

THE AIR AROUND A RECENTLY TURNED OFF PETROL LAMP.
A FLY SPINS, RELISHING IN THE HEAT OF WHAT ONCE WAS, ALBEIT INVISIBLE.

“Diasporic markers acquire purpose not because of their essence, but because of their use in the context of local meaning making.”

(Adam Ewing, “Lying Up a Nation,” 2014).

in which case dislocation cannot be dislodged from space; and meaning, being contextual, must remain fragmentary. Here, I briefly mark diaspora: the air around a recently turned off petrol lamp—some heat, some matter, something so close to being held. For a moment, meaning is made. What just was so evident re-becomes fleeting after its local use; and while it does not hold the meaning, the site of diaspora holds the promise that meaning may be re-made.

Sites of diaspora include

A hotel room—

“Aren’t you proud,” the woman in it asks, “to be a part of the culture that made this?” Sun rays fall through the window onto the beige carpet. The hotel room is in the USA, where much of Blackness was made. That’s certainly why it feels so real here, and good, and like a green screen, a surface for diasporic projections. “Aren’t you proud to be a part of the culture that made this?” This is jazz music, of the sort that makes you shake hips, weeping. I am a cross-legged Afro-European sitting right here, on a beige carpet so soft, in a coastal city in the US of A, in this production site of contemporary global Blackness. I say: I wish I knew that—pride; I wish I was that—a part. I cradle myself; look at the sun setting onto buildings behind the window and, with Brent Hayes Edwards, murmur that the African diaspora relies on translations and even misrecognitions which shape it and make its existence possible (The Practice of Diaspora, 2009).

Sites of diaspora include where the salt lays dry on the reddened earth,

a few kilometers before the beach of Ouidah, Benin. I paid a man to guide me all the way from the center to the Door of No Return, last stop before the Ocean. We are not there yet; for now, he points to a wall painted with portraits and says “This is the wall of the diaspora” and asks: “Do you know what diaspora means?” I don’t get to brag and say yes, obviously I do. I get to hear him state: “Diaspora is the name given to those who return.” He has a name that invokes justice. Justice does not say that diaspora is the name he gives to those who return. He does not say: we. As in: we give; neither do I say, we return.

I hear myself asking: Wait, do I not feel like kin? “Diaspora was really just a euphemism for stranger” (Saidiya V. Hartman), and in some places this seems true whether your history is that of the African American diaspora in Ghana, which is also the history of the West African diaspora worldwide, and the history of the Black diaspora in the Atlantic, and the history of those born in Paris and raised with dead prez. That history is documented. It can hold a needy diasporic subject for a moment, when said subject is told that it was nonexistent before returning. Do I not feel like kin, I ask in that moment of neediness and spite, of everyone, but in particular of the earth—“terres sanguines, terres consanguines”—of the earth—“diaspora. Exile seed of / comrade trouble—of comrades and further sharers of blood (Aimé Césaire & Philipp Khabo Köpsell).