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The Lonely Ones (1935) by Edvard Munch

“In traditional societies, everything that made sense of the world was real; the surrounding chaos existed and was threatening, but it was threatening because it was unreal. Without a home at the center of the real, one was not only shelterless, but also lost in non-being, in unreality. Without a home everything was fragmentation…

“Emigration does not only involve leaving behind, crossing water, living amongst strangers, but, also, undoing the very meaning of the world and—at its most extreme—abandoning oneself to the unreal which is the absurd.”1

If home is the center of the world, in an ontological (not geographical) sense, have I shifted centers?

I feel I have been beguiled by physicality; I hadn’t known that it is through the visible that one orientates himself with the world. These days I am disoriented by the simple fact that I can’t find her face on every street.

 “The very sense of loss keeps alive an expectation.”

I have lost the ability to recall her face without looking at a photograph.

 “Without a history of choice no dwelling can be a home.”

When does a dwelling become “home”? If you could feel uprooted in every city you’ve chosen to settle in, what can you claim as home? What is your center?

 “The mortar which holds the improvised ‘home’ together—even for a child—is memory. Within it, visible, tangible mementoes are arranged….but the roof and four walls which safeguard the lives within, these are invisible, intangible, and biographical.”

You have to realize, as I have, that home is memory and memory prostitutes itself.

“Meanwhile, we live not just our own lives but the longings of our century.”

I am implicated by demands higher than myself; it has carried me afield. It seems all my life I will have to keep outpacing distance, covering the tenuous ground between my Self and other Selves.

Follow Emmanuel on Twitter @emmaiduma

If you liked this piece, you might also enjoy The Second Hermit of Bulgaria.

1. All quotations from: John Berger. And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos (London: Writers and Readers, 1984): 54-67.

Emmanuel Iduma, born and raised in Nigeria, works as a writer of fiction and art criticism, and a cultural operator. He is the author of the novel Farad and co-editor of Gambit: Newer African Writing. He is director of Saraba Magazine, which he co-founded, and has worked with Invisible Borders, a trans-African arts organization. A lawyer by training, he is currently studying for an MFA in Art Criticism and Writing at the School of Visual Arts, New York. More: