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Cousins and Kisses
Sabo Kpade on his kindred
“Manasseh is dead!” — the words come to me with a finality, the full measure of which I do not comprehend. When we spoke on the phone just last week, he sounded like himself. Today, he is no more. I would accept it if I knew the weight of his demise. At the moment, I am afraid, I do not know. I know I will never see my cousin again. I could not look at the videos and photos sent by Simbi, his younger sister, until now. If this was someone else, a tiny part of me would have regretted the practice of sharing recordings of a funeral. Right now, I'm thankful to have them. I do not intend to go through them repeatedly. It took some strength to screengrab an image in order to write about it.
I do not know any of the men in the photo. The cut off of a dressed figure on the right is that of Simbi, my cousin and Manasseh’s younger sister. I call her Aunty because as kids, she carried me on her back and helped care for me. My younger siblings do not share quite the same bond I have with her. Our mother Uwa knows better, and she has said she will never get in between me and Simbi. I know she means this because they don’t speak. The precise reason why is not clear to me. When the subject does come up, both women bring up some old hurt, some old misgiving, unresolved and unending. I know she means this; during my visit to their home in Abuja, when Simbi’s husband — a pastor and put-on puritan — complained when I kissed her on the cheeks and forehead, Uwa’s final word was, “I will never get in between the two of you,” rather than use the opportunity to cast more aspersions on Simbi and her life choices.
In my entry for CORRESPONDENCES, Maheder Haileselassie’s photo reminded me of my mother’s relationship with her older sister. In my choice of photo for KINDRED, the four elderly men presented symmetries of ages, postures, proximity and much besides. Both images become weatherposts for revisiting and re-examining relationships with family, a climate yet to be mastered. ¶
About the Contributor
Sabo Kpade is a writer, curator and journalist who specializes in the arts and cultures of Africa and its diaspora in the UK, US and Europe.
This is the #9 edition of KINDRED, a series on TENDER PHOTO. Each contributor selects a photograph from their family or personal album, pairs it with another photograph from the Tender Photo archive, and writes a short reflection on why they have selected both photographs. The idea is to find an analogy between two photographs that might be similar or dissimilar in composition, but connected to an experience, emotion, or idea.