Working with Dialogue Books, we asked five authors to write a personal response to Shelter’s core belief that Home Is Everything. Each week, we’ll be sharing one of these responses on our blog, exploring the history, the impact and the importance of home. By Irenosen Okojie.
My grandmother placing a native pink beaded necklace over my collar bone like a quiet inheritance while her tattooed arm of tribal markings shimmers is home. The way the afternoon light rests on us at an angle, the rise and fall of our chests, the gentle whirring of the fan is a din of witnesses to an unnamed ceremony. And now, the crevices between my breathing and her loss of sight are soft furnishings of home.
Home lives in the subconscious beyond physical borders. It is my body moving towards the unknown gulf amidst our house in London and ancestral lands in Nigeria awaiting buried memories to come to the fore. Home is multiplicities oscillating as a series of comets; my mother’s pepper soup, phone conversations with my father where the static pops as if recalibrating our ideas of each other, the shorthand I share with my siblings when we lift one another up during moments of quiet devastation.
Home is the worlds I create from my pen, the cartographies of lived experiences transformed into something potent between the lines. It is my brother’s childhood pets breaching through my peripheral vision; the monkey sporting the fish’s eye and the parrot’s heart in Frankenstein’s amalgamation is something to embrace in the dark.
Home is complicated. I still run away from my ideas of home because I need to sometimes. It helps me reset myself. Once upon a time, a woman carrying tribal tattoos in her mouth on a fairground Ferris wheel carriage talks herself off the brink. Maybe this slither of light is home too.
Home is sucking on a sugar cane stick on a farm in Benin while waiting to meet your adult self in a cake paradise in Berlin, where sweetly edible miniature women wielding bright mouths have something to reveal about the necessary long walk back to places inside yourself you used to live in.
Sometimes, my favourite sense of home is when I am away from whatever it is momentarily. It gives me the opportunity to miss it, to work my way to the sensation of warmth changing slightly each time. Home is the process of identifying the similarities I share with my hero June Jordan. And that maybe, we pass each other in some revolving door offering orchids as a currency.
Did I ever tell you about the time I thought home was a handful of bloodied communion falling from the Maple tree in an east London park, waiting for me to catch it? These are the perimeters of home I carry within like the quiet rumblings of a bough. It appears rooted, easily identifiable, knowable but then it becomes a winged thing.
All of a sudden.