Grandfather died. Today or yesterday, I do not know. This window leads into the house inside which he held his last breathe before a call to rest in the heavens. That I do know.
Grandfather died. Today or yesterday, I do not know. With those two sentences, I am borrowing French-Algerian Novelist Albert Camus’ essence of life. At least the one he spreads across, from beginning to end, in his novel, The Stranger. The philosophy of the absurd, it’s coined. Life may indeed be absurd. But in reality, Grandfather died. Mother had lost her father a few days ago; yet here I was, feeling numb for the most part. She had held a strong bond with the man who is now gone. And I felt rather unaffected by the loss - until I called her. “I lost my father”, she cried out twice, with a voice filled with pain and sorrow, enough to make the both of us cry, unreasonably. I felt it then.
In the Bété culture, predominantly present in Western Côte d’Ivoire, it’s tradition for the orphaned sons and daughters to be washed then wrapped in cloth by the community, once after their deceased parent had been buried. Mother went through the rituals as well. Her being the eldest offspring, she was also responsible in making sure that everything went according to plan, close to perfection, as far as organizing the funeral proceedings and giving hospitality to all visiting friends and families. The responsibility entrusted in her was vital, as burial ceremonies are manifestly important and well-esteemed for the grieving family. Yes indeed, Grandfather was buried with the dignity and respect owed to him.
The occasion was twice as memorable for me. One, for participating in the funerals of my last grandparent; and two, for making a return to my birthplace. Yes I was born right here, in this village, right behind this very kitchen made of wood and dirt. It’s surely symbolic of how far we’ve come, and have yet to accomplish with enough passion, ambition, and humility. But, this, is home to me. This land is where I find peace and the strength to keep on forward. Wherever I may be, wherever I may go, this land will forever remain the one true thing in my heart.
Photography: Aristide Loua / Jean-Louis Loua
Production / Text: Aristide Loua
All courtesy of Kente Gentlemen L.L.C. All rights reserved.