It is not so fresh a thought. It is more like the sun taking a particularly leisurely stroll at dawn, then suddenly, by surprise catching me in the eye before I have had time to squint. Then it hits me. Hey, it says, you do realise you have been holding your true creativity at bay for far too long. You do not honestly expect it to stay locked away for ever, do you?
Part of the subsequent realisation, which involved a certain amount of metaphorical squinting, was that I have spent too much of the last five years, let’s say – oh hell, ten or more – suppressing my expression in words for one or two easily identifiable reasons.
The first had to do with living in a country where to express one’s opinion was a dangerous thing indeed. The human right to freedom of speech there was not even given the thinnest gloss of lip service. In fact, there was a law against it. Now, although not de jure any longer to my knowledge, it is still de facto. Although prevention of the freedom of speech is not the cruellest torture known to humankind, it is crippling in that it alters one’s mindset, even if you are aware of it, and inwardly fight against it, and try to maintain a private, internal freedom of speech.
Speech in chains is an insidious animal. If you suppress the voicing of thoughts which run contrary to the government of the day – that is, political thoughts – by not voicing them, you might think it is only your “political” thoughts which you are not voicing. The self-censorship of “political” thoughts turns into an involuntary shutting down of other related thoughts which ought to see the light of day as they occur. The result is that you end up with too many thoughts in your head. With all that overcrowding, you delude yourself into thinking that such thoughts wither and die. Well, guess what? They do not.
As soon as those thoughts think it is safe to come out into the open again, breathe fresh air, and bathe in the sun, they do. And then they all want to come out at once. Screaming and shouting and singing and whooping for joy. Free, at last!
This process occurs shortly after emigration, but no written documentation of this phenomenon occurs. You are too busy filling out forms and getting your papers in order to write poems. You are too busy writing letters to family members whom you miss, and who are eager to hear everything you can tell them about where you have landed.
As far as talking about what you are thinking, you soon realise this is a pointless exercise. Few people can understand you or your experiences, especially if their geography of Africa is a little hazy. I know for certain that I was not put on this planet to give geography lessons! Your issues are not their issues, and never will be, and never can be. Those hoarded thoughts soon stop jumping around so crazily in glee; they give a whimper like a street dog caught in the rain, and curl up in the first warm dark corner they can find.
This brings me to the second reason for the suppression of creatively conceived words. It is called adjusting to your new country of residence. It takes longer than you think. The only thing which gets you through the difficulties you encounter is the fact that you have already encountered so many before arriving in this foreign land where you are and always will be a foreigner. You do not mind being a foreigner. It is a place to which you can retreat when you feel acutely like a foreigner.
The rest of the time you simply get on with life, and do strange things such as garden for other foreigners who hail from the country which is the former colonial power of your former homeland.
When in the act of gardening, I listen to my internal dialogue. Sometimes, it is a bit like listening to the TV, radio and a CD player all at once. Oh, those thoughts have such a party going on! They tumble out and do cartwheels on the neatly clipped lawn. They get up to all sorts of nonsense in all sorts of weather. Now and then, some of them escape, and make a beeline for intelligible conversation, a piece of paper, or furious bashing away at the keyboard. Lately, there has been a mass exodus. The lucky ones find their way into to my blog.
When did I become so utterly neat?