Thursday, January 26, 2006

Beyond the pail

There is an orange bucket in our bathroom (we use it in place of a shower whenever the need arises). On the side of the bucket is some text, which states the following "In Remembrance of Our Father, Asani Olanrewa Aju Oseni, (a.k.a Aram Aram), 1901-1978. 11th August 1978. Presented by Charlin & Children.

I have spent quite a while pondering the significance of this text. If one added all the minutes spent sitting on the toilet, or kneeling down to tip water over my body, the collective pondering must amount to several hours. Many questions bubble up: Who is Aram Aram? How did this bucket get here? Is it really 17 years old (it does not look it). If it is not, then the bucket must have come from a commemoration ceremony. Let’s imagine it’s a 25 year ceremony (so the pail is only a couple or so years old). In which case, Aram Aram’s death is still remembered and celebrated a quarter of a century afterwards. What kind of person was Aram Aram, to be remembered with such commemorative force so long after? Why did he have this nickname?

It feels somehow amiss that Aram Aram stays in our bathroom in this way. He has seen me naked on many an occasion. Meanwhile, I am an unclothed witness to his transition. We meet in the midst of our most intimate moments; me during my daily ablutions, he, during that most intimate moment of all, the moment of expiration. And the interface of our communion is made of plastic.

The humble bucket is therefore not simply a receptacle for carrying water; it is also a receptacle of memory. There is something profoundly moving about how humdrum everyday objects in Nigeria are often suffused with meaning and memory in this way. In the midst of banality lie the most precious forms of spirit.


Teju Cole 11:20 pm  

first reaction:

Ol' boy, you don craze finish! Make una comot for Abuja sun wey dey fry ya head.

second reaction:

Fascinating exercise in close reading. A beguiling mix of commemoration and phenomenology of memory. I'll have to steal this technique sometime.

Imnakoya 12:02 am  

J, you really cracked me up! I feel you bro...:)
Welcome to Nigeria, once again, and you are really close to being an original Naija man.

Well, the best ideas are often construed in bathrooms, yours is an example. This post is simply ingenious. Bravo J!

TRAE 3:48 pm  

ditto with Teju cole:

Ol' boy, you don craze finish! Make u comot for Abuja sun wey dey fry ya head

on the real nice write up. peace!

Styl Council 3:22 pm  

jay..I've just preamturely finished talking to you and thought i'll log into your blog...This is VERY FUNNY...!! Thanks for the laughs!

Anonymous,  9:53 pm  

Just to let u know I shared your souvenir plastic pail story on a thread on Its hilarious ....there is no celebration in Naija complete without a souvenir !!

Anonymous,  5:39 am  

This is very interesting, I was googling my grandfathers name and it came up on your site...funny on the side of your bathing bucket. Aram Aram was an interesting man, tall and handsome, 17 wives, 49 children and hundreds of grandchildren. Charlin or Charlene is his American daughter in law.

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