Love Letter On Coming Home

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This marks the year I finally came home. Sure, I’ve been back every chance moments of my fullest self could be stolen away from America. But this homecoming has been different. I am making a home here. You can’t do that in two-week escapes spent worrying about the boss hyperventilating in America and the many relatives you visit, who all want to know why you’re not yet pregnant and how come you’re now fat?

America is good to me. You lie. You grin.

Yes, it has. Because if I’m honest with myself, America has been very good to me. It’s even made me a home. But in the most familial way, America remains a foreign comfort to me. I’ve spent my entire adulthood in this place of plenty and I still don’t trust it. Not all the way. Not in the come what may territory that marks blood from water.

And that’s not just my outrage at imperial injustices speaking, nor my astute study of how America’s original sin continues to mar the milk with tar and spoil the honey with bitter root for anyone who looks like me. No. It’s just that America is not my mother. America did not bear my birth wounds in the folds of her mountains and in the excess of her skin the way South Africa did. America didn’t imprint thick membranes made of her own skin into my veins. That’s a separate DNA. A thing made of me before I was even born.

It’s no surprise then, how much South Africa permeates the page when I sit down to write. This land is my beginning. It may very well also be my end. That’s what coming home means to me--the unfinished territory we return to again, and again. Both in the wounds and light we carry, but also in the deep comforts we crave.

Coming home is not simple. And in a way, you can never return to your old home. You make a new one. Any immigrant will tell you that. Home is far from any place. It’s too primal for that kind of geographic precision. And true home is hardwon. It takes love and commitment and courage. I’m reminded of Yara Said, a Syrian Amsterdam-based refugee who packed herself into a small boat and risked everything to carve out a home filled with making art. “What I need most is a place to create--to be surrounded with colours”.

Yara designed a moving image that is a symbol of displacement and making new homes--the Nation of Refugees flag. It is inspired by the bright orange life vests we watch refugees clutch from the comfort of our homes. It is the most moving flag I’ve ever seen. And it perfectly encapsulates the power of a creative mind--staying open, chasing life and coming home no matter where you find yourself planted.



Makhene