For every artist there are two truths: how things are and how they happen. Sometimes we are new songs, and sometimes we are a painful mess, a mutilation, a slow death. Sometimes–perhaps tonight–we are the ocean, and sometimes we are what was left beneath the sea. To tell stories–to share the voices in our heads, and the voices in our souls–is hard. It takes time; it requires patience. Sometimes we are found lacking.
And yet we persist.
We take technicoloured taxis from Windhoek to Khartoum and through our archived memories. From early morning to almost midnight we travel from Mussulo, in Angola where the birds whisper secrets to each other, to sunny days in Mbabane, in Eswatini, where we dream of more. We realise, with each day, week, month, and year that we are changing seasons–our bodies, our feelings, our friendships, our families, none of these things are finite. Neither is our art, nor those who shall encounter it.
Our duty, as artists, remains the same: we find communion in the fellowship of those who create, and whatever threatens our creative family–fatigue, despondency, doubt–we bury, whatever the cost. We change ourselves, shifting from known to strange, from safe to red, glowing ember. We monitor movement with the count of our breaths and the deaths that precede and follow them. To do what we must, what we love, we put pride aside and shoulder the weight of hard work.
The struggle laughs at us: I existed long before you and I will continue to be long after you disintegrate.
Some pretend not to notice how the struggle says our name. With painful intimacy. It watches and lurks. Those who are not from here–from the place in which we create–think it is beautiful. We know otherwise.
The struggle goes on and on.
As it must.
We remember this: the magic rites of our people go with us.
And so, we too, remain. Because we are our own safe space.
This is Doek!—a literary magazine from Namibia.
Rémy is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine.
His debut novel The Eternal Audience Of One was first published in South Africa by Blackbird Books and is available worldwide from Scout Press (S&S). His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brainwavez, American Chordata, Lolwe, and Granta, among others, with more forthcoming in numerous publications. He won the Africa Regional Prize of the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020 and 2021 and was also longlisted and shortlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes respectively. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines.