Unreal Nature

September 9, 2015

Humanity Pressed Deep and Close

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… They don’t speak much to each other, but their shadows intertwine seamlessly.

This is from the essay ‘This City’ by Chris Abani found in Africa Junctions: Capturing the City by Lard Buurman (2014):

… To witness this city, or any city, at 4 a.m. is to witness silence. You are stopped at a red light that scrutinizes you. There are no other cars in sight, no people. Just the shuffling hulk of darkened buildings, façades inscrutable, hunkered down for the night. And also the lights that beckon ceaselessly to phantom traffic. It is as though someone threw a switch somewhere and half of the spirit of the city went to sleep. The flashes of traffic lights are like neurons dying slowly in a brain. That’s when you realize it. The architectural elements are not the city. They are simply material anchored to a specific site on a specific night in April while you wait for this specific light to change.

A real city comes alive when people flood its veins and arteries like so many ants in a complex nest. A real city is a musical instrument. It is meant to be interactive. To have people sing through its strings and hollowed bones.

Buurman01
by Lard Buurman

[ … ]

… This city still wears the vestigial undergarments of its rural past, layered like the petticoats of a Victorian woman — goats wandering down freeways, chickens laying eggs in abandoned cars, kettle hawks hunting rats in the alleys, and an old man so lost he will remain ever lost. And still, what is beautiful remains.

[ … ]

… People lose their hearts in a city like this, all flat roofs and ochre, like a plate broken carelessly on the side of a cliff. You’ll be unable to cipher the clues, the indifferent paths of streets laid out like black canals, no grace, not here. Just crowds, humanity pressed deep and close. Or, the city leaves us like this; lost forever, stopped at a railroad crossing gate that holds everything in a limbo of incredible agony — the train never coming, the gate never lifting, the cars stopped, and a woman selling popcorn from her tray comes back to tap against the window like a fly caught in a screen door.

[ … ]

… A girl in a school uniform makes her way home with a group of friends. They don’t speak much to each other, but their shadows intertwine seamlessly.

Buurman02
by Lard Buurman

Earlier in the book, N’Goné Fall writes of Buurman’s photographs:

… Neither poor souls in search of civilization or salvation, nor victims of selfish Western globalization, they have the same expressions and attitudes as the people photographed in China or in Europe. They are always anonymous silhouettes moving through life in the certitude that the best is still to come.

… in the Third World, life happens on the streets, and the city reinvents itself incessantly through the grace of its inhabitants …

-Julie

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