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The Reversal

Photograph by Guillaume Bonn, Story by Danny Sapani

Maid Garden_GB.jpg

On this family she waits, is waiting, rooted, weighted down by this… moment. Standing so still. So still to contain her two separate selves. Her body is here, in this moment whilst her spirit, is elsewhere. Somewhere else the girl is making a stand. Stood down here but there she is standing up, standing up for something different. Standing so still, until it is time to… move! 


In her vision, heart pounding, she makes her way through the busy Nairobi streets. Through the usual cacophony of car horns and hawkers selling their wares. Alert, focussed, moving through people with purpose. She hears, smells, everything she passes. Flora, fumes, damp and human bodies. Meat of all kinds, sizzling on grills in their own fats and spices. Voices around her, then, “keep moving my perfect child”, the soft and soothing voice from deep within, “Don’t stop”. She obeys the voice and keeps going. One flip-flopped, footfall in front of the other on the dusty concrete walkway. Down there, beside broken gutters, discarded plastic wrappers of goods long since consumed, in her ‘shithole of a country’ she loves, she walks. Whilst, behind her, seemingly in another lifetime a fire rages. 

Gen, says, “The revolution will not be televised, hash-tagged, downloaded, shared, recycled or dismissed. This fire has come from within and...”


The sound of metal crashing on porcelain and a change of musak, brings her back. Her breathing still calm, intact. The smell of the same meat she had walked past in her reverie half consumed with steamed vegetables on plates. Birdsong and the running stream, to her right, mingle to create a lulling soundscape. Barely breathing now for fear of exposure, she waits. The girl in her uniform, shifts only to ease the pressure on her feet and ankles. Eyes down. Hands clenched in submission. Exactly ten feet between her and the serving table. Twenty, between her and them. A controlled distance between the have and have-nots. They have long finished eating but she knows the rules so still she waits. 


A Boom, from a blast of meteoric proportions. Perhaps, millions of years in the making, reaching her now, in this moment, in her mind. Devastation reigns as the fire consumes the hurt. Commercial buildings collapse. Streets and monuments celebrating achievements of power, the glory of civilisations built atop of others. Built, on the lies of previous obfuscations, memorials to the dead and the living, their victory songs, their names, all are obliterated. The indignity of these times reducing to rubble and ashes.


“The Reversal is coming!” Generation speaks, “and we must be ready. Re-educate ourselves in the ways of our past and reclaim our lost identities”. She is running now. “Patience is a virtue but also we must plan. For the time”… palms open to wind… “when we, the forgotten shall awake from our stupor”… faster and faster …”Whose images were destroyed in the blast, will dismantle this rigged system and once again see our own face, hear our first stories and sing our original songs.” On the outskirts of the city. “Restore justice for all, here most of all in our homeland. Our worth, cannot be bought and sold, it has no price”. She speeds, down steps into the narrow lanes. “Build homes, educate, feed, clothe and support everyone equally according to their need”. Her feet barely making contact with the ground, muscles taut. “We have the resources and the means to create a just and fair society because we have done it before”. She runs now at her limit, arriving before she slows her pace to a stop.  


“We are done now”, the family get up and begin their slow wander towards the house. She watches them leave, breaths and begins to clear their table. Putting plates one on top of the other in a methodical manner. Cutlery, glasses, napkins, table-cloth all on to the small wood serving-table. Once cleared she picks up the table and makes her way, on the long walk to the kitchen at the back of the house but stops half-way. Places the table on the ground turns her back to the house and sees. 


The fire has almost spent its power. She is at the edge of a clearing. The air shimmers like a dream and she feels for the first time alone and afraid. Wide open space stretching out in front of her for an eternity. She catches her breath at its power. She hears, “Do not be afraid my child, you are home”. From the ground and from everything she can see, pour figures and bodies of people. Reborn, reconstituted and in their minds they hold the complete story of the earth to the present which is not forgot. The clearing is full of their multitudes and she now walks among them.


As the sun begins to set on the horizon her vision takes over. Arms open to the sky she surrenders her will and becomes one with all she sees. The sky turns from gold to red to purple, yellow, pink and blue. Dark blue, to brown to black. Blacker than black, above clouds, space is again revealed, in all its twinkling cosmic immensity. The voice whispers, “Eve, you are all that ever was and from you will come all that will ever be. Lead then by the stars these first-borns and begin again. Build new walk-ways, understandings, markets, squares and rivers. Share, stories, make laws, start afresh systems to support harmony with all creation. Explore inner and outer space without malice, envy, fear or judgement. End death, end suffering and love reigns eternal. My child, you are home”. 


The fire burns out. In the garden of the big house. The strewn uniform of the girl who once stood, is scattered on the grass. Beside dirty plates, cutlery, stained glasses and napkins blown. The wood-serving table toppled, left instead to stand still, to weather the seasons. Here stand charred remains, like a warning of a place that once was.


Danny Sapani is an actor who trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama graduating in 1992. He has since worked internationally in theatre, film and television. “I have always wanted to write and this project seemed the perfect vehicle to try and expand my skills as interpreter. Guillaume Bonn's photo really spoke to me, or rather she ( the subject ) did. I felt her pain, understood her serenity and was sure of her power. Like the photographer, I felt compelled to tell her story. I am very grateful to the 1000 words team for this opportunity to explore the creative process from this side of the fence. I was inspired by the process and intend to write more.

Guillaume Bonn is a lens based artist who was born in Madagascar, he currently divides his time between the African continent and Europe. He is the author of several books and film documentaries. @guillaumebonn

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