Flashback

A Poetic Photo-Series

By Mandla Phakathi (poetry) and Kabelo Sello (photography)

Rationale:

Flashback is a body of work that reflects on the moments gone by, the times that have passed. It zooms into ghosts of the past while displaying the ghosts of seconds ago. It seeks to highlight that the now is all we as a people have, adds value to the memories we’ve created while alive and at the same time shows how quickly things can change. “The one minute they were here, now they are gone”, “That car was here seconds ago”, these are all phrases that this series aims to showcase, in hopes that we may place a better value on the importance of time.

Senses; smell, taste, touch, hearing

Experience; feelings of panic, helplessness, numbness, or entrapment.

Abuse

Cemetery

This is where they come to die we don’t live, we’ve multiplied into statues that stand on the ground above skeletons of souls that may never be remembered, in plain names scribbled as a reference to bones of loved ones.

It’s flashes of light on the scary terrain you can’t walk around here at night, it’s abandoned like stillborn babies that would have known love through life.

This is where dreams that almost saw the light of day get discussed, where life leads torn souls, the crossroads for broken souls, where they come to shed tears in hopes that the dams below their feet will bury their fears.

Reincarnation

Young, colourful, naive, full of life, it’s here that they share their hopes, it’s here that life seems more than a darkroom where their backs were born against the wall, where their life seems like an empty shell lying idle at sea.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

For a moment, a miracle, a chance, head is so wrapped up in wishes, that the now gets lost, they fade into themselves, in what they’d like to call life.

I’m a living reincarnation, a chance, cemetery’s multiplication, a moment to live, a time to share, the one you forgot while your face was captured in a screen, that moment you miss.

 

Reincarnation

Young, colourful, naive, full of life, it’s here that they share their hopes, it’s here that life seems more than a darkroom where their backs were born against the wall, where their life seems like an empty shell lying idle at sea.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

For a moment, a miracle, a chance, head is so wrapped up in wishes, that the now gets lost, they fade into themselves, in what they’d like to call life.

I’m a living reincarnation, a chance, cemetery’s multiplication, a moment to live, a time to share, the one you forgot while your face was captured in a screen, that moment you miss.

Reincarnation

Young, colourful, naive, full of life, it’s here that they share their hopes, it’s here that life seems more than a darkroom where their backs were born against the wall, where their life seems like an empty shell lying idle at sea.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

For a moment, a miracle, a chance, head is so wrapped up in wishes, that the now gets lost, they fade into themselves, in what they’d like to call life.

I’m a living reincarnation, a chance, cemetery’s multiplication, a moment to live, a time to share, the one you forgot while your face was captured in a screen, that moment you miss.

In life

I’ve moved around, through all of them, at times concurrently, they might look the same but we know they have different engines, it’s not about size, it’s about movement, knowing all the cool hangout spots makes you last longer.

I’ve taken most of them for rides they could only dream of, you should see their faces as I walk away, their wheels as I step out, my words run deeper than my lips, they’ll never forget my hips, even in my grave, they’ll always remember me.

In short skirts, I was one they wouldn’t hassle, one they knew they couldn’t handle, with me they’d have to stand by their words and their pockets could never afford to.

You’d see them look away as my front moves past, eyes stick to my rear, but let my eyes turn back and you’ll see them all try to wander into whatever they’d been acting like they were busy with when they saw me coming through.

In life

In life, I was empty bottles swallowed whole, meat dry to bone, chatter on lips destined to share saliva. I was in the moment within a moment, scattered lines of emotion spread amongst a people with fun in common.

I was heart, laughter, music, light. Houses open to strangers, as long as we shared the same interests. I was loyalty, holding my words as my shrine, I never let them slip they carried me to what I now call home.

In life

In life, I was humility content within the constraints of the land on which I stood. A mother who never finished childhood, a father who learnt fatherhood through trial and error, uGogo, always on call for the raising of yet another unplanned grandchild.

I was fights over possessions none in the ring had rights to, heirs to thrones of peasants that would never see castles, in cycles that only the darkest of diamonds could break.

In life

I was jungle masked in tar, a name on the lips of all that have walked this path, the ball that’s broken a few windows, but none have had the heart to burst it.

I was here. Taking corners on imaginary fields, hiding behind the shadows of black mampatile, out running tennis balls in the name of madzumana.

In the age of physical sweat, dust, mud, dirt. Before screens captured our souls in the name of virtual experiences, before our eyes opened to words said in folly, before umalume uyalumana left me experienced.

In life

The streets have emptied, the graves have filled up, with stolen minds on empty screens that have cut connections in the name of convenience.

The streets have emptied, the perverts have filled them up, with fear, dry tears, silent cries and shame, never forget the shame, of girls taught that they are cashiers, he is the customer, so hush baby girl because the customer is always right.

The streets have emptied, memories are all we carry, of scabs turned to scars, of wounds that have healed lost in the depths of pain we can’t place faces to.

Mourning

In a flash they return, they return to life as it was, as if nothing had changed, like a chess game continuing without a few pawns. For now, they return to their tears, they go back to your memory, saying sweet things they forgot to let ring in your ears while plants brought life to your lungs.

It’s black, bright hearts carry your passage to what they hope will be heaven, clear skies they say, dressed in all black to send you to spaces drenched in white, it baffles me.

Dry tears fall into empty spaces trying to fill voids left by moments of ignorance, so they return to circles of awkwardness, tears of pity carried by heavy hearts taught that the end of life is to be cried over and not celebrated.

Shots fired.

Blazing bullets float in the air as egos collide, “Man down!” screams nobody.

They don’t make body bags for dead souls, or dying hearts, forget the virtual torture souls fight to survive.

Shots fired, bullets missed, flesh unscathed, heart wrenched, mind torn in empty tussles of shade thrown.

Shots fired, heart hit in heats of shade thrown in folly to minds that take life seriously.

Thumbs have turned into trigger fingers typing lives away, blazing cold bullets to hearts trying to find their fire.

Bullets never run stray, they hit in full view, too many witnesses to ever count, but “snitches get stitches”, remember? Mind your own business, remember?

It’s all fun and games till the dagger is facing you, remember.

No one is safe, not only on these streets, even in those virtual worlds built in the comfort of your four-sided screens, I pray we stop them before we’re all sending flash signals from the other side.

Flashes.

I’m in pain, the memories are floating back lucidly, as if I was there in real time, I’m tossing and turning trying to find the position that will make me forget.

Help me turn this regret into beams of light that will return the spark they stole, help me inhale air that doesn’t carry pieces of them, cover their voices from my ear’s view.

Help me forget the broken pieces of pain they inflicted in parts, take away the scars while you’re at it, cover the bruises, so purple won’t be a reflection of memories gone by.

Help me breathe again, I’m tired of gasping at incomplete pieces of air, as closed eyes open to images of them.

Heart’s racing in my dead soul, I might as well be one with the soil, this life is becoming a burden, I’m cracking under the imbalance. I’m giving in to evil thoughts planted by my bad experiences, make it stop .

The Graveyard

We are gathered here today, in memory of all which was once good, in memory of childhood innocence, friendship, freedom, love, light, laughter, beauty, warmth, humility.

We welcome you to the land of savagery, nothing comes here to live, this is what we’ve come to know as home now.

Here we return to the soil, we return to that which brought us into this earth in search of the warmth only a womb can provide, but as time passes only a tomb can be a substitute for that place.

We are gathered here today, for a moment of sympathy in hopes that it may return us to our old ways, here lies all that was once good about the world.

It lies in self-pity as if digging its own grave shall revive it, as if its children have lost all connection to it in a world of snappy connections and zero intimacy.

The Final Dance

For a moment we learnt to forget all that we had once known, we allowed our bodies to intertwine with movements that only gravity could hold down.

In those moments we forgot the pain that struck the chords of our minds as we looked back,

as we saw our reflections on car windows,

when we realized we had let ourselves go beyond measure,

we tasted glory once more as our feet tapped the very concrete that would bring us to our knees,

as we smelt the aura of the gunpowder that would carry us to our grave.

For a moment we believed, that none of our reality had ever taken place

We’d never played in the street, or hosted parties, or got shamed for being ourselves.

We’d never fallen into loops of virtual reality, where the lines got so blurred that they intertwined.

We’d never been victims of our own making, or onlookers as victims were violated before us.

For a moment we forgot our shallow graves, the pastor’s last prayer for our safe passage to the other side.

We got stuck in the after tears, till memory faded our last moments into hallucinations.

In that moment the flashes forgot to visit us, we forgot life without them,

Feeling like rootless trees, we requested their return when our feet got tired of stepping.