Excited to have been interviewed as part of a new series called The End Convos. Thanks to Godswill Ezeonyeka and his team for this. Hope you enjoy it!
Author: Emmanuel Johnson
I really enjoyed presenting (or performing?) my poem, as part of the short film, On Victory, by Coventry Elim Church. I don’t have much experience of reading my poems in front of a live audience, so this felt experimental, fresh and exciting. Check out the film below!
I’m excited to share with everyone my long awaited film series, Becoming Nigerian! See all 5 episodes below. The film series is part of my PhD study, click here to read my thesis which provides more context to the film.
Letter to Self VII
It is my absolute pleasure to write what is my last letter to you, at least in the Letters to Self series. I think it is most appropriate, firstly, to acknowledge the significance of these letters to self. Why have I been writing letters to myself since 2014? The main reason is to mark the present point in time. Time passes and so many things happen. There is an abundance of meaning that is left unrecognised when we ignore or fail to note what is happening around us, what reoccurring thoughts we are having, what lessons we are learning. Time is always in motion and is not waiting for those slow to respond. Through these letters, I have documented my reoccurring thoughts and lessons. These documentations are invaluable for future reflection, though I will not be able to remember all that was once lived or relive the emotions of the moment, I will have these letters to read again. In this letter, I address the 19-year-old Emmanuel from the first letter to self.
I ponder on what you said in your first letter in 2014, to persevere and never give up on your dreams and aspirations because they are attainable. How right you were! I wish to hug and tell you 19-year-old Emmanuel from May 2014 that you persevered and achieved those dreams you imagined. You also very touchingly urged me to be proud of my identity and never to give up on it. These are words I intend to hold dear to my heart always. I intend to always be proud of my identity, of where I have come from and never to give up on my identity.
The remainder of your letters to self have focused on your higher educational journey, as you discuss choosing media production as an area of specialism, encountering research and seeing it change your outlook on life, embracing research wholeheartedly via the decision to undertake a PhD, making To Grow a Tree as part of your research journey, and experiencing feelings of crisis in your PhD experience because of political events in Nigeria. With this letter, I conclude this journey and tell you the journey was worthwhile. You achieved what you wanted!
You went into higher education wanting to study Media because you saw in it an opportunity to express yourself. You saw its potential to reach people with meaning, in a heartfelt, personal and creative way. You wanted to explore something ultimately meaningful and share it with a wide audience of people who would engage irrespective of where they come from. So, though your PhD was in education, you made a documentary-film as part of it, to remain true to your reason for going to university. You did that PhD and completed it and made that film and screened it!
The screening was a fulfilment of the dreams and aspirations you talk about in your first letter. The ideas of identity and belonging that you realised, developed into the focus of your PhD. Being so far from home at a young age, it felt like a struggle to understand who you were and where you belonged, and what you were to do with the fact that you were in a very different society to where you came from, at 19 years old at the time of your letter! But I wish to hug you again and tell you it finally made sense. The experience of being far from home is very deep and heavy to bear. You were also not alone with this feeling. Through your work, you have made sense of this far from home experience and helped people process similar feelings. You have made a difference! Your walk has not been in vain.
Well, I guess this is it. It is providential that my last letter to self is also the seventh in the series. Seven is the biblical number of fullness or completeness. There is a future ahead and in response, I look to God for sustenance. Because God knows the future, I am confident, content and at peace trusting him.
Memories screech in circles, Memories lived, memories not lived. For memories not lived I see a beauty of what could be, I behold a promise not made. Memories lived and felt remain Deep in the heart with outpourings of affection. These affections offer a promise not made Of memories not lived. As the downpour ensues I hold onto both memories. As the billows intensify I hold on tightly with all my strength.
Auto-walking. Layers concealed, hidden within. A walk embarked, control lost in-between. Auto-running. Stomps to ground, impact unfelt. The chest tightens, climactic finale, panting ensues. Auto-flying. Back on cushion, breath set loose. A moment of rest, grips let loose, sensitivity heightens.
I look to you. I look to you. I look to you. My words rise and fall, pressured by weights too heavy. When words fail I look to you. Let your word carry what I can't. Your word pierces soul and spirit, judging thoughts of the heart. My words rise and fall. Let your word carry what I can't. Your word is alive and active, turning darkness to light. Your word is alive and active, creating things not yet seen.
O wandering heart of mine, I trace your tracks up this hill but I do not see where you go. Day and night you wander, paying little heed to burnout. Across all entrances and exits you dash simultaneously, drifting unreservedly. I trace your movements but only find traces of questions you leave behind. I cannot understand your tracks, they are unimaginably complex. I cannot number your steers, they are infinite in number. You disperse in prideful splendour to flounder in collective shatter. Your pride-filled ways mislead, moving but going nowhere precise. Your words are multi-minded, yet you push to enforce your will. You wail with outbursts of desire, yet, en route your solo dash, you desire nothing ultimately meaningful.
Eternal New Day
To turn my hurt to life.
I sit and contemplate.
Could it be, a reason for every hurt,
every mixed conflict,
moment of pain,
sorrow and disillusionment,
is eternal glory?
Eternal glory that outweighs hurt
and transforms to life?
I pause and contemplate.
I try to fix my eyes on what is eternal
be a banner over me
and take me to the place you want me.
Like a leaf that falls and dillydallies mid-air,
I too dream to land on gentle waters,
that purify the soul
and unravel a renewed horizon
of hope unto a new day.
Why did this happen? This happens, that happened. I don't understand why that happened. I would be fooling myself, speaking out of utter arrogance if I claimed to understand why it did. If my choice was mildly out of place, I would be in a different place now. A different place may produce a different outcome, a different outcome may produce a different life. What if I made a different choice? In my pursuit of truth, I stumble upon a realisation of human finitude. I don't get to make all choices so I don't get to see all things. I don't get to see all things so I don't get to know all things. I feel humbled as I return where I started. I'll no longer ask why it happened, I'll simply acknowledge that it did.