The artist is called.
An interlocutor between the world we can see and the things we can only feel, the artist is the channel, the conduit, the medium. The artist is the healer. In synchronicity with God and the universe, she provokes the ancient knowledge contained with us, connecting us to other ways of being, nonlinear timing and universes folded and collapsed on to each other.
You are sitting on the wingback; she’s lying on her side on a brown leather four-seater. Or she is upright on the wingback and you are prostrate on the couch and when that man appears on the screen, you stifle and swallow a scream but it stays there in your throat like a threat. Like a boulder in your oesophagus or that thing that comes some nights, slinking into your bed to sit on your chest, to keep you paralysed.
Tonight you will tell her that the man on the screen was also the man on top of you. And that he forced you down and was also inside you, saying: “If this isn’t what you wanted, then why are you here?”
You are sitting on the wingback and she’s lying on her side, or you are lying on your stomach and she is upright on the chair, and you are both crying when she tells that a man who was a family member did that to her too.
This is where you will heal your mother while she tries to heal you. Later, when looking at Carrie Mae Weems’s Kitchen Table Series (of black-and-white photographs), you think: the umbilical chord might have been tendon and trauma and fibre and fear. You will have to find where yours is buried.
In a dream, a man that you love, another artist-healer, asks you how you can live in such a place. You’re both on the floor in the kitchen, his brown and your brown and the striated tan of the wooded flooring. He says: “Can’t you see it? It’s there in the corner, hiding behind that crate of records. You think you see it but you blink and it’s gone. An ugly, pitiful-looking thing. You’re going to have to tell it to leave.”
The tokoloshe is described as a dwarfish, mischievous spirit creature. In the Daily Sun headlines, it steals food and alcohol, taking bites out of newly bought polony or moving keys and hiding clothes, slamming doors and just watching. Watching. In more harrowing stories, the tokoloshe rapes indiscriminately.
In the documentary The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia, members of a Mennonite community in the Manitoba Colony believed that demons were raping the town’s women and children at night. How else could they explain waking
to semen and blood and rope-burn on their wrists, and blinding headaches that dug canyons in their memories?
In Tsietsi in Palm Ridge, east of Johannesburg, a 60-year-old woman has not cleaned her shack for about seven years. Somewhere in there is a document with a case number printed on it, stating that she was drugged, robbed and raped. And while a visit to the doctor confirmed that she and her grandchildren had been raped, the police have not been back since taking her statement in 2009. She has not cleaned the house. She is preserving the crime scene.
“They told me that I will get thrown behind bars if I tamper with the scene.”
In Bolivia, the demons turned out to be a group of men aged 19 to 43 who’d used a chemical meant to anaesthetise cows to drug whole families and rape them.
When you walk in Cape Town you can hear bones breaking and crunching under your weight. South African-Scottish author Zoë Wicomb writes that you can’t get lost in Cape Town, but the black people of Cape Town know that you can’t be found here either.
“Blackness is not a spectator sport,” wrote Percival Everett in his 2001 novel Erasure.
In South Africa, violence has been, and still is, the barometer of historical authenticity. Then there’s the brutality of “we remember”. The aggression of amnesia. And the other hurts, deposited in our bloodstream. Our pathologies of pain.
When Congolese choreographer and dancer Faustin Linyekula speaks, he touches his body. When he speaks about love, he presses one hand into the other. When he speaks about imagination, he brings his arms to his chest. When he talks about frames and parameters, he stretches his arms out on either side. It’s as though his body already contains everything he needs to know. It is as though through dance, through incorporating ritual into his corporeal being, he accesses that medicine of the ancients.
In the work of artist Mohau Modisakeng, ritual is healing.
The writer is struggling to find the words. The pain is unceasing; the anxiety is omnipresent. And part of the pain is the inability to speak about the pain, to articulate it. To polish the sharp outcrops that cut and scrape on the inside. To turn the stone into a gem.
The inability to write about the pain becomes the pain.
Poet Gustavo Pérez Firmat: “The fact that I/ am writing to you/ in English/ already falsifies what I/ wanted to tell you./ My subject:/ how to explain to you that I/ don’t belong to English/ though I belong nowhere else.”
To heal, you insulated yourself against anything that could trigger you. But now you are an island that no one can reach.
Kintsugi (golden joinery) or kintsukuroi (golden repair) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a lacquer mixed with powdered gold.
The earliest account of this is thought to date back to the 15th century, when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a broken teacup to China for repairs. When the teacup was returned to the shogun, the broken pieces were held together with staples.
The teacup was no longer beautiful; it was cracked and stapled, stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster. And so the shogun enlisted craftsmen to create more aesthetic ways of repair.
By filling the cracks with gold, Kintsugi illuminates the repairs, creating beauty out of brokenness.
What is happening within you will be enough to heal you.
Lindokuhle Nkosi is a writer and contributing editor to Chimurenga.