Messy notes on Mogadishu
Editors Note This was originally written 3 years ago, and marks over 3 years since Afrolens made a home back home Enjoy.
When you leave Mogadishu, you must remember how terrified of the planes you were. Frantically searching the inter-webs for casualty rates of their McDonnell MD-80 flight liners. You’re a hypocrite who commits herself to all things African, unless they have wings, and trying to transport your ass from one space to another. Aviation is for the melanin challenged, your self-hating fear explains. The mortars terrified you too, as did the hungry boys who come baring body amour made of molten trauma seeking more of Mogadishu’s carcasses as penance.
You try to still your mind and not think of the 1001 ways you can expire in the next few moments while you wait for this struggling plane. Instead, you’ll sit at Aden Adde International Airport, browsing all the images that fill your Smartphone. You delight at the faces of Mogadishu’s sons and daughters, and marvel at the possible reactions those images would instil in homesick friends. Then the remains of your feeble ethics will interject and tell you that you mustn’t publish faces of children you done shit for. Social capital doesn't come cheap. You’re a writer now, and writers ought to have words in their pockets and limbs, words about what you’ve just seen in Mogadishu. But you have nothing, no letters, no poetic syntax, no scathing rhetoric, no geopolitical insight, nothing. You wanna write this city into infamy, but you won't because you have no god damn clue. None of you do. Gone decades, and now I hope to turn these empty paragraphs into authentic accounts of a deeply majestic place, lies. You’ll laugh at the girl who once wanted to create movements here, who had no answers to the, ‘how’, ‘when’ questions, but had the answers for the, ‘why’ and ‘where’ ones.
You’ve been lucky. Nothing irks you more than the life examined through the juxtaposition of one’s privileged life to the have-nots, but you’ll do it anyway. It’s the only rubric you got. You remember the nights you laid eyes wide open in you bed, while your co-citizens slept in makeshift tents made out of tired steel, smelling of muck and misery, a thought enough to split the most hardened of you into a million little privileged pieces. This could’ve been you, us, you think. And you really don’t know what to quite do with that reality. The crocodile tears you share with your citizens.
You keep your head down and windows rolled up as you drive through Mogadishu’s present, shaking your collective heads at how far you’ve fallen and the lives never lived. You know shit is bad when you to point to the dictatorship era as your very own La Belle Époque. You say a really silent secular prayer for comrade Siyaad. You hate yourself for that. Sometimes you find yourself cursing your working class wallet for not carrying enough dollars to soothe the many bellies of kids who resemble yesteryear’s mini you. And sometimes, you quiet the screaming woman inside with rationales like, “there’s so many of them, what the fuck can I do?” “It’s the bloody governments fault and the fucking UN”. You make promises to write scathing tweets about the UN and then retreat because you got friends who feed there. You’ll write a Facebook status instead.
You sip on your papaya juice with earphones belting, “Inner City Blues”, hoping you can teleport into a netherworld and dead the sounds of your hurt city spitting deafening, empty fridges rhymes. There’s not all hurt here, but beauty too. Most live on the faces of those who retreat at night. The mothers whose stories have are reduced to NGO jargon like IDPs, and in the faces of fatigued soldiers who’ve turned in their militia boots and fire for a chance at a honest living. They say they’ll die for her, Somalia, as soon and they’re paid their 100 dollar a month salary, now overdue for six months. They sit at their checkpoints, faces at war with the Mogadishu sun, waiting for generous days.
You’re what we call one of the many PTSDs running around, and you just got diagnosed in Mogadishu. Tired diasporans who tell lies about a purpose-driven return, when you’re all just looking for familiar faces and welcoming tongues. You hated Canada, and Europe won’t have any of you. If only the euros knew how little you like to work and how much you love haram liqueurs. You then ask your brother for the address holding your kid memories hostage. He gives it to you and warns you not to visit. Fears the new proclaimed tenants might view your nostalgic attempt at an Instagram moment as move to end their years with a fixed address. You go anyway and forget the camera.
You call family, mainly compromised of beloved friends, who want you out of Mogadishu. They say it’s not safe, I tell them it’s safe; the mortars in the background betray your feigned courage. How does one measure, 'safety'. Sure we got IEDs here and there, but back home, they had crippling anxiety, unhinged strangers a word away from clubbing you, and a million breeds of cancer. Your father tells you to leave, and by that he means, “don’t awaken the city we killed in 1991″…You tell him she had cancer and her death was inevitable. He laughs, partly annoyed, partly amused, calls you a cheeky troll, “Af Mishar”. You wish he would laugh like that with you again in Mogadishu.
You’re lost and sans a purpose, can no longer assembly Mogadishu in your daydreams at work, no longer create fetishized accounts of how perfect she could be. You’ve now met her and she doesn’t seem familiar or friendly. She's kinda of a bitch sometimes, but so beautiful, so misunderstood, so neglected, so coveted and desired. You’re an asshole for expecting warmth from a place you failed. This hurts you. You’re gonna stop writing now because you hear gunshots, and need Curtis Mayfield to calm you down. Your battle between the west and Mogadishu has ended, both lost, and all of you casualty. You tell your friend You’re done with Mogadishu, disgusted with the administration, the government affiliated kleptomaniacs, the pseudo feminists who enjoy the company of men in polyester suits versus the sight of the women they come to save, the sounds of foreign weapons ready to dislodge in local African bodies. You’re overwhelmed and so unprepared for this. He tells you, “what did you expect? This is Mogadishu homie”. He suggests you wrap it up and consider Nairobi or maybe South Africa as home substitute, you tell them him they harass and kills Somalis in those places too. He replies, “I thought you wanted a close substitute”. Touché. You hear Helsinki is nice and they got a Somali MP there. Anywhere but Canada, can’t go back to the one who never let you in. You’re thinking too much, maybe you should just share a picture of Lido Beach on Twitter for that coveted social capital.