In Eloghosa Osunde’s column Melting Clocks, she takes apart the surreality of time and the senses.
If you really think about it, we were all raised inside a giant dictionary. Society as we know it is simply a collection of shared definitions. Who is normal? What is beauty? Who is a criminal? What is a woman? What is a man? What is good love? What is sex? What is fair? Who is holy? What is evil? The more you agree with the definitions you’ve been given, the more you belong. The more you belong, the farther away you are from punishment. And you want to be safe in this scary place, don’t you? So you do what you’re supposed to do, and you avoid what leads to suffering. You don’t want to be lonely either, do you, so you believe the rule: there’s nothing but nothing for you outside the defined lines. You’re told this from when you’re little, that your questions will put you in trouble, that you are and will always be too small to challenge a meaning. You’re just one person and this is how it works: society decides, you obey. But is that true? Seeing as many of us are alive on the outskirts of definitions, seeing as that’s the address that saved some of our lives, the place where we watch our safeties spring out of the ground, it’s clear that whatever was defined can be redefined. Whatever was written by a person for a people, can be edited by a person or a people. We’re proof. What is society, anyway? It’s an anthology of someones. We make it up. We have always made it up.
Art making is my strongest argument for redefinition, because nothing shows you the lie of impossibility and the multiplicity of worlds better than a body of work standing where once there was nothing. You don’t know how to turn Something into Something Else? Listen to what a remix does to a song: how in African Lady, an ADM remix, TMXO lays Masego’s music over a Lagbaja sample, rubbing two worlds against each other until they spark a three-minute-fifty-seconds long fire. Listen to the Red Hot + Riot album made in honor of Fela’s music and enter the rooms that appear when Meshell Ndegeocello, Manu Dibango, Sade Adu, Kelis, Common, Tony Allen, and D’Angelo are invited to the same house party. Or watch Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer and notice the world you hold too tight become subsumed in an alternate reality, another now. Watch the Greek film Dogtooth and remember how you were taught to see; see how every manipulation has its genesis in language, how language reshapes the cornea and whatever stands before it. Read The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa and register what feels familiar about the premise; where have you seen that before? It’s strange, isn’t it, to know that what we remember is also a collaboration. Find all five remixes to Rema’s “Dumebi” [Vandalized, Major Lazer, Henry Fong, Becky G, Matoma]. All these unalike branches, growing out of the same tree. You think language is set in stone? Listen to a Nigerian talk a person to the fringes of their own English using pidgin—a genius composition. Strict binaries and genre are real until you watch DJ Moma play a New York club or DJ Aye play a Lagos night. Technically a thing like that should be impossible—continents ejecting you onto the same dance floor, that voice meeting this synth, the low wail of a bass guitar free-falling through the deep grunt of an ancient drum: jazz meets Afrobeats meets house meets alternative meets grime meets highlife meets soukous—but there you are, all of a sudden, thinking, Wait, who said these things can’t belong together? Read More