A Memory of Un-becoming: Changing my Body

Over the course of the last two years, a recurring question has pervaded my thought process and demeanor. Sometimes subtle, other times with an almost destructive rage –Who am I?

Hackneyed as it might appear, it is the reason why I have oscillated between Radiohead, Brymo and the connoisseurs of the Afro-pop genre that have dominated the Nigerian music mainstream space in recent years. It is for this same reason that I have identified as agnostic, recovering atheist (A category that is probably my creation) and finally pantheist during this period.

My trajectory of tent pitching in terms of identity has been laced with periodic, sometimes unconscious reassessment of my positions, perceptions and ways of being. Before I come off as the ideal contrarian, I must admit that my brandishing of alternative ways of seeing has most times been a reaction, or rather has been within the framework of existing categories, labels and identity markers such that the toga of ‘other’ or ‘anomalous’ that I don with so much pride has been mutilated adjuncts of the much disdained ‘usual’ or ‘normal’. All of this as however been premised against the undercurrent of change (and I must say that I in no way identify with the shibboleth that the current handlers of power in Nigeria are perpetuating).

To satisfy this yearning for self-definition, I have extrapolated from Edward Sayid and made sense of who I am in terms of my relationship with what I am not. I have tried to relive the Cartesian idea of finding out who I am through the relics of what is un-doubtable after I have rid myself of everything. I have tried to understand power within the duality of Buddhist Ying-Yang. I have tried to explain my frights with first-time meetings in the light of Orí.

Through these multiplicities of experiences, I am constantly unbecoming to give room for new ways of being (and I use new only in a spatial sense and for a want of something better), and although I have not undergone any major Kafkaesque transformation, this constancy of shedding selves and the resultant adjustments of identity—With it a delineation of boundaries to allow the new (often temporary) handlers of my body make sense of their own experiences as a function of their idiosyncrasies has been elusive to describe in terms of a reductive idea like ‘growth’.

It is no accident that I have relied on experiences that might on a cursory look appear disjointed from the body, I have only followed the Foucauldian path where the body is a site for discourse and dare I say that my body has endured as the most evident insignia of my un/becoming. It is of particular interest to me how the human body is carefully calibrated to navigate its worldly experiences while disregarding its own history in a way the worst of amnesias can only be jealous of.

The boy who distributed handbills for church crusades on the streets of Ibadan doesn’t in any way object as the job-hopping young man he has morphed into, drowns himself in shots of cheap spirit after another long day enduring the pleasures of Lagos traffic. How does the body continue to serve its carrier in the face of these opposites? Is that boy now a spectator in what he considers the destruction of that man, he no longer recognizes? Is he dead? If so how many times have I died in a couple of the last two years?

If Hegelian dialectic is anything to go by then the body exists also as a dialogical exchange—Here, the body exists because it is in constant contact with other bodies, it influences and is conceived through the mirrors of the selves that resident in other bodies, just as Tomas Tanstromer carefully highlights in Preludes “Two truths approach each other. One comes from inside, the other from outside, and where they meet we have a chance to catch sight of ourselves”

One can speak of perceptibility here, which might appear so rigid but for contrarians like me is not only fluid but also disjointed. I have watched my body juggle through a spiral of categories in terms of its perception, most times because there is a slight alteration of how I present myself—Academic, Effeminate, Buff, Traditionalist amongst other conflicting and laughable labels. I have observed how I am hectored into donning these perceptions (and I am probably guilty of slapping these labels on other bodies too) but in the face of all these social transmogrifications of this body, I the carrier can’t relate to any change in the way I am in dialogue with the multitude of selves that constitute the body.

Baldwin explores this question of perception, novelty and the black body in his essay Stranger in the Village and while Baldwin’s body was strange because of the geographical and historical contexts, mine continues to remain strange in its conception as I come into unity with new selves in this journey of unbecoming to be.

DARA Omotoso is an ever changing individual that investing more time in exploring the evil of infallibles with the goal of improving the individual and nearest community. He is a poet, essayist, critic and B.A in Modern European Languages (German and French). He is reacheable on twitter @daraomotoso.

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