How would you define happiness? By whose definitions should we abide? Would you adjudge me to be less happy or not at all if my definition doesnt resemble yours?
Last weekend I went to Makoko (or as my friend J likes to tease me for my pronunciation, "Ma-koko")with photographer friends, Teju Cole and Leke Alabi-Isama on a photo-walk/photo-canoeing and at Makoko, my heart broke and I cried.
It was not their poverty that made me cry. It was ours. Or maybe it was theirs...but what right do I have to those tears? Even while I felt pity for them, seeing through eyes coloured by my supposed enlightenment and betterment for want of a more appropriate word, I wondered how they saw me. What did they think of me? Did they want to be me?
Did they want my Gucci sunglasses or my Gucci rubber shoes or my pretty purse? Those stupid things that I hold dear. Or did they pity me for my inability to just be free from it all. And just be happy and content, as they appeared to be.
As we canoed our way through what in civilization may as well have been Venice, I wondered if they ever got out. And a voice inside immediately challenged me. Why should they? it said. They appeared to have everything they need so why leave? Are my dreams better than theirs because they are different? And then I wondered about their dreams. What was their motivation. Or had they simply stopped dreaming? And will Makoko be all they'll ever know?
Till now, all I have are questions. What do they know that I dont? What have they seen? What have they heard? Surely they must know something that I do not know now, and perhaps may never know. Surely they must know the secret to life and all the world's happiness. How else can they look so happy?
I want to know what they know, I want to hear their stories. They may break my heart. But at least I'll know.
Makoko, I will never forget.
np: Heartbeats - Jose Gonzalez
See photos taken by Leke at http://imperialmedia.shutterchance.com/