The Weight of Nostalgia

Charmaine Denison-George, Logain Ali and Alírio Karina

Dear Reader,

We hope you have had a wonderful year and that life has been kind. Here we are with a new issue, bringing you some of the most imaginative and reflective work, hoping you can read through them and pause, take a deep breath and reflect on all the places, people, events, things, news, and everything else that have made 2023 the year it was.

Places and things can make the most inexpressible concrete. The letters, books, chairs, mirrors and desks in rooms in homes, the photographs – the many faces on many things, visible and not – are at once the marginalia of loss and portals to it. In ‘Faces on Things’, Omayeli Arenyeka’s exploration of grief and commemoration, the things – so much “stuff” – move us through how grief makes memory at once begrudging, unwilling, gracious and affectionate; how the story of nostalgia is as much one of resistance and imposition as of fond surrender. In Ruba El Melik’s ‘My Cat and the Rapid Support Forces’, a cat trapped in a war half a world away becomes a prism refracting out a complex set of relationships to the past, to memory, to home, to a loved one who has made a “permanent move to his home village”, to the many Sudanese left behind in a conflict that has since only deepened. Ọbáfẹ́mi Thanni’s ‘The Child in the Field Bears Your Father’s Name”, delicately textured by little waymarkers of promise, sacrifice, loss, memory, draws us into inhabiting a pulsing journey of reckoning with the dual charges of recognition and becoming. In ‘Introductions’, by Delela Ndlela, the fragments of account are like shards of glass, the “tangible things” cutting open a story about stories; about constructing some story in the midst of the failed tidiness of its subject matter—about self-construction, and the difference (if any) between telling a story and making a life.

There is something captivating about prose that sings; prose with a premise so strong that the story could write itself after an alluring first paragraph; prose that captures with effective diction and mastery of craft, the complexity of the human condition from the mundane to the heavy. Guest-editing this issue of Lolwe has granted me access to a cross section of stories that accomplish all that and more. Clarie Gor’s, ‘It was 2002, and We Were Unbwogable’ for example, is a melodic and humorous exploration of childhood experiences that define and remain with us. And while ‘Blind Date’ by Adewale Olasupo spells hope in a most flavourful way, Bongani Sibanda’s ‘Tailed’ paints a portrait of a world as different as it is similar to the one we know. In Wayne McCray’s ‘God has Retired’, the divine is found in community and solidarity and finally, ‘Loving Nina’ and ‘The Blossoming of a Peace Lily’ by Buke Abduba and Menenaba respectively will reward you with a memorable and clever ending.

The curated collection of poems here have well-captured our very being. This section encloses maps that have journeyed me through resilience, extraordinary displays of affection and yearning for my (Logain) home – Sudan. I trust it will have a great impact on you as well. Mirroring the very political landscape we are presently undergoing as a people, Chinecherem Enujioke allows us to find ourselves in the shadows of rhetorics. The fragility of uncertainty echoes through her verses in her poem ‘Palestine In Recent Times’, carrying with it a cry for the human spirit. Enujioke’s works have a choke-hold grip on reality, knocking out everything we think we know and immersing us in her world. Tahnia Barrie’s ‘The Night They Come For Us’ is a poignant defiance which resonates through the verses as she envisions a resilient people despite the threat of erasure. Here, dreams, myths and souls nurture the soil – a promise for a triumphant return. The streets of Kampala come to life in vivid imagery, capturing the dances through its lanes is Mildred Kiconco Barya. Through ‘The Goat, The City, The Embassy’ she shows her declarations of love and how one longs for home despite being in the midst of its bustling urban landscapes. Barya’s vibrant portraits of her hometown is a love letter to say the least – familiar in its intimacy and so easy to envision. Hauwa Saleh Abubakar helps us navigate the emotional labyrinth that individuals employ as coping mechanisms through with life’s quotidians. In the poem ‘Today’ her works explore the subtle whispers of solace in solitude and grieve engulfing oneself. On bereavement, Hauwa takes us to a different verse, guiding us through the winding journey of adaptation in the face of trials and instantly making it a communal experience relieving us from having to be alone. Tryphena Yeboah weaves stories of pain and vulnerability, from a mother’s silent partitioning of afflictions to her fear of the unexpected – a meditation on shared experiences with morality and the mysteries our bodies hold. The poems are a beautiful display of interactions between her private life and the surrounding world, her words – healing. Lizz’s ‘Manifestation of Mangoes’ unfolds in a ritualistic celebration of love and community, with the vivid tactile experience of peeling, cutting and biting of the golden fruit. It illustrates how in waiting and savouring, love manifests in a diversity of ripe blessings. Lizz’s language, across all her poems, is rich in metaphor, inviting readers to explore the intersectionality of heartache, hope and the transformative powers of love. 

Vadu Rodrigues’ photography is an exploration of home and what it means to return and see home again. Nsikanabasi Effiong delves into the complexities of daily life and what we turn to when the weight of life becomes too heavy to carry.

In the fabric of this collection of stories, poems, personal essays and photographs are shared promises, dreams, fears, hopes, love and many moments where you might want to take a deep breath. They are a testament to strength, vulnerability, and the power of words. We hope these brilliant works carry you and all your selves through the festive season and into the new year!

Thank you for joining us. To victory, prosperity and overcoming!

Charmaine Denison-George is a writer from Freetown, Sierra Leone. She is a Creative Writing (fiction) candidate at Texas State University and serves as an associate editor at Poda-Poda Stories. Her work has appeared in Brittle Paper and Isele Magazine.

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Logain Ali  is an educator, writer and poet from Sudan. Her work has been published in TVOTribe and 20.35 Africa, and she has performed at the Akè Festival. Previously, she has done editorial work for Andariya Magazine, celebrating culture and exploring the unifying threads weaving PanAfricanism. Logain currently works as assistant editor at Fasila, for the Alive-in Sudan series. 

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Alírio Karina is a Mozambican scholar and poet, writing in English and Portuguese. Their poetry examines queer life and colonial remains, and has been published in Jalada Africa, Kenyon Review, Jornal RelevO, and Blind Field Journal.

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