Over My Dead Body: Everyone That Calls Me Brother, Brother Is My Brother Indeed

A text by Fogha Mc Cornilius Refem

I have to work on this text from the back. I usually start a text by figuring out what I want to call it and then I start writing so that I do not worry about it. The text has a title already on my phone, well there are two texts and they are slightly related. Too much has happened and I am struggling with both of them but I have to start from somewhere. I perhaps should ground you again.

 

Over My Dead Body: Everyone That Calls Me Brother, Brother Is My Brother Indeed 

Wan [wo layir] mkpfe 

 

Johannesburg 28. Sep.2023 

 

“If you die in a mine and it is covered up, it is not a grave. If a house collapses and buries you, it is not a coffin even if it is a wooden house. If you get trapped in a burning house, it is not your cremation….The story is the grave” 
Abiral Kumar: private conversation 28.09.2023


I have to work on this text from the back. I usually start a text by figuring out what I want to call it and then I start writing so that I do not worry about it. The text has a title already on my phone, well there are two texts and they are slightly related. Too much has happened and I am struggling with both of them but I have to start from somewhere. I perhaps should ground you again. I am back in room 209 where I am lodged at the GIBS campus in Johannesburg. It is 13:28 PM and we have just returned from a walking tour of Ferreirsdorp with Victoria Collis-Buthelezi. I have kept a recluse and retreated figure during the tour hiding under the purple shadow of my windbreaker and have spoken to only a very few people. The conversations have been about different things and I do not yet know how they will or if they will appear in this text in the same way. I hope I can type as quickly as the emotions are flowing. I had a discomfort in my left thumb because of the way I type and have been struggling with that a lot, now however as I type this text, it is not the only physical problem I have, my body is failing me, and my right index finger is acting up too. I do not know what this is, maybe some kind of arthritis? Well I must write it, I must write, I can’t do otherwise. But it is also the emotional and mental labor of writing this text. I am not sure why I have to write or for whom I want to write, why is it so important that I say it? I am not even sure who I imagine reading this text but I know I am not writing it for myself. I am not a good reader, I do not even like editing my own texts because I have to read them again and I read too slowly for this world. So sometimes I have to make up my own stories, and sometimes I make up stories from book titles, that is why I prefer to make a title first and then write and this time, I am just all over the place. I have to return promptly to this place again. And yet I am not even sure why I write, one might think this curse of making up stories is an uncontrolled gift then there is the voice in my head, that tells me the story is not worth reading, and to some extent that is true, this story might carry no meaning for you and maybe it should not, it is just a narcissistic exercise, me fighting with my own demons trying to prove to them that I can write. I am not addressing you maybe, maybe you are only hear as a pun or a witness to this egotistic speil. I apologize, well who am I kidding, I will assault your senses still.

The others are having launch and sometimes when I write, I can still socialize, I talk with people to bounce ideas back and forth, but this time, on the little sleep, because I stayed up last night writing about the storm that might be brewing within academia and slept at 2:30 am and woke up at 6:40 am. I have had 3 toast 3 slices of bacon and a cup of coffee in which I put milk. Until now, all I felt was something between hunger and tiredness. I am not sure what I feel now, if I am body or mind or neither but I could not sit to eat, I ran across the campus or walked, or flew or teleported, I really can not remember how I got here. But I am here now, a do not disturb sign hanging, I hope, outside the door and I have taken my shoes off. There is a cold I feel through my socks but I am not even able to sort that out yet. I am still in my windbreaker and have switched my sunglasses for my lenses. I am listening to Bob Marley and the Wailer's Duppy Conqueror and it seems this song has started to calm me down, at this point, it is 13:43 pm. I feel calm enough to start from everything that happened today. I hope I am able to reconstruct the journey for you in some form. And here the titles come now, I will try to capture for you what the talks were, invite you into that conversation and I guess try to show exactly what I think the point I was trying to make at that moment was. It is possible that at the time you are reading this, I have changed my mind on some of these issues, or some of them no longer apply anymore. I hope that if that is the case, which we should celebrate, this provides you some moment of escape or a reminder of what it used to be like, albeit from my very subjective or egotistic perspective. It is also possible that at the time you read this, I might be dead altogether and do not have the opportunity to change my mind on these issues, please extend them, caution me, summon my spirit, and admonish me. Do it in front of the children so they may remember. I am perhaps not an ancestor at this point, I have never inherited the earth from anyone, I have only borrowed it from you at this point. It is possible that as you read this and I am dead already, some of the violence might be happening to me. At this point in the story still, I have not figured out a title for this section, but the sections that follow are titles I noted on my iPhone Notes app as we talked so that they could serve as the repository of my thoughts, I might edit some of them slightly and if I do, I will inform you. I hope that they were not leaky and that we can open their guts and watch the things, hopes, thoughts, and fears I have spilled on them spill. 

 

“Over My Dead Body”: I Hope I Am Dead When It Happens Again And A New Name For My Siblings 

Before now, this container that carried these thoughts was “At the underground museum!” it has been changed to include and demarcate the emotions and thoughts. Some of these things will spill into each other and I hope you forgive me for that, If they do however repeat I hope you can look at it as creative repetition. I am not sure what song really moves this section, I am taking some seconds to skip the songs on my playlist and then I settle on Jovi’s Bad Influence, its title might just fit. This explicit content-rated text from his album Bad Music might exactly be how rebellious and vulnerable I feel now. I hope you get the time to listen to it before you continue reading. I am also not sure if this might be published in my lifetime or if they will prefer to publish it when I am dead and some fucker, yes, the editor would be a fucker, has cut out the

parts of this where I have been unapologetic, vicious or otherwise too explicit and insensitive. I do not want that filter, as I have said elsewhere when I die, I hope people can at least have the balls to say that I was a cheat, a liar, an insensitive son of a corpse, and if they can’t say that much at least, because I have been all these things sometimes all at once all through my short life now. I am selfish narcissistic careless frivolous and bad with numbers and clearly with words and emotional intelligence and also with getting to the point. I am shitty, if they can not acknowledge this about me then do not believe them, when I die and someone talks about me somewhere, if they do not say I have been all these horrible things and some more that I myself am either too afraid or too unaware of to mention, do not believe anything they say about me. 

That said, some of these things will traumatize you. Some of them will appear careless, some will be too harsh too sensitive, and too much to mention. You can either not read them or skip them. But I will write them, I will write them, I will write them, I will write them, I will write them. I write what I feel, perhaps to riff on Steve Biko, I write what I like but I do not necessarily like what I write and you should not have to like it too. I have felt all of these things and I will try to say them as I feel them. If they appall you or annoy you, I hope that it can give you what it feels like to be trapped in this body that is a coffin, to be forced to live in a body that is a coffin. Or to be a corpse in a marketplace, on a busy street, in a stampede where everyone is doing their own thing and does not even notice you rutting and smelling, and even when they do, they only look at you to make you know you should not be there, and if they burry you, it is not because you are human but because your presence is an eye sour so they discard of you quickly. 

I have considered if some of these things might not be better served to address them as or through fiction, but I am sorry, the urgency of the matter is so much that I have very little agency to decide on that form. And I do not have the luxury of time either, I might be killed before I am able to figure out that form, I am in a constant state of risks in these spaces and if I am not killed by that system, or called to my ancestors too early, I might decide to end my own life quickly. I feel that I can go through this life with ease because I have the possibility of suicide. To whom death is promised, life is easy. People might consider me pessimistic, and my life is not even that bad, but that is true actually. The book I am currently reading at this point I am writing is the book by Marise Conde which my friend Luca Tamara Amponsa recommended to me. In the book, John (this is how bad I am with names, I can not even remember the name and I am not sure if it is John, and I can not stop now to check) John tells Tituba that The duty of a slave is to survive. This perhaps makes my point, If you refuse me the possibility of suicide, having denied me the possibility of life on my own terms, I am essentially your slave and I am only surviving for you. When I die, I can not refuse you the right to mourn me, to those who will, but I hope you can also celebrate my death and I wish you, however this might sound, death on your own terms. Claude McKay might be a good poem to return to at this point If we must die.

After having made this point, I guess it is time for a different energy to flow out of the container, I have emptied it of its demons and its excuses and now I hope its sadness may come and sit with you. I am listening to Blue Sky Mind by Trevor Hall now and it is 14:18. At this point, I can feel my soul start to arrive at my body from that underground museum. It comes with some lucidity, it makes me even reconsider abandoning the writing now and coming back to it later I might but for now, I am struggling to travel back with my soul riding on the back of my thoughts and a memory train that is succumbing to tiredness now. 

I think it was just about 20 past noon and I had run back to the museum, I did not really hear too much about the context. We had been waiting in front of the elevator door to go into the museum and it only takes a few people in. My friend Abiral had just mentioned to Anni that I had had a theoretical breakthrough. I had engaged him in a conversation about the disparity and lines of desire that were still very present in the city, albeit invisibly. I had gone back to take a picture of the situation in the designated smoking area which I thought was a very poignant portrait of what I assume are the disparities in this country and in Cameroon. The streets were almost the same, when they allowed black life to happen on the streets, they refused to clean them, and like in avenue Kennedy constantly flooded, they burry that life in garbage and discarded it and let it happen over blocked sewers and let the floods dispel it. I will get to this when we open the next container, but it has indeed as I warned started sipping into this. These things mix and have no clarity and sometimes I am simply drinking the same drink from a different bottle. I had come back and the door of the museum elevator was open as it beckoned me to fall into its mouth. I still had on my sunshades. I am not sure what I feel, I am not sure what I want to see or what I expect, I have missed the context and I notice that some people have already returned from the belly. So I decided without any context to go inside. I know of course that it has to do with mining but I am not sure what I will see or what to expect. 

I step in the elevator and before I can figure out what command to give it, its door closes as if it was telling me I had no choice in the matter and quickly starts descending. I did not press a button which will explain why when I wanted to escape it, I entered the elevator and was standing there waiting for it to go up on its own, but it did not. This time I have to tell it I want out. It is perhaps like those bodies that are forced to build and clean these places, reduced to nothing but tools or tool holders without their consent. It perhaps captures the structure. I have been known to take pictures to also help me revisit the places and mode and ambiance when I write, but I forget that I have a phone. I walk out of the elevator and the first picture I see is of white miners. I do not even know what to think, if it is a justification, if it is saying, hey look we were miners too, or what. I move through them looking for nothing in particular and my eyes are glancing over things while my brain just blanks out. I do not even remember the pictures but there are some with black people and a few white people. Then there is this and there is that. But I am not here, I do not want to be here, my body registers that before I can articulate it. It is not cold, but I am cold, I am getting goosebumps but when I look at my skin I can not see them. I get

claustrophobic sometimes but I do not feel that here. There is nothing stopping me from walking into the wall, the remnants of the mine perhaps, not even a line or sign. There might have been but I scan the place quickly and find nothing. I look up and there is just a camera, I wonder what it is for, if someone is just watching to see what I do. I wonder if they know that I can not do it, that I can not cross the tiles into the mine. 

My body is refusing to move. I can not take it and I have been here only for less than one minute, the elevator has not even gone back up. There are a lot of interested people having interesting pictures making pictures, comments, and nodding. I am trying to escape it, but it is not this space that I am escaping, it is what is beyond it. It is the belly of the slave ship, it is the very cold hands of Mandela’s prison, of the concentration camps, of a plantation. I am trying to escape it. I enter the elevator and am joined by two other black people, a man and a woman. I know the man's name, I should know, we introduced ourselves a few days ago, had wine, and talked about his research on Zimbabweaness. But since then, which I assumed was probably because when we met I was obnoxious and drunk we have not really talked, we have nodded at each other here and there when meet on corridors between presentations or on our way to eat. 

As I complete this line, a message from my father, whose name I recently changed on my phone from Dad to Papa comes in. He is asking me “How is South Africa? Are you done with your presentations?” I wonder what it will do to them as parents if they ever read this text. I am taken by a profound sense of silence and of a text that I started to write but as of now have not finished, an open letter to them, I am sure that now, the only thing I have is just an introduction or the title or the idea, “I am no longer just your child” I want to call it. I want to disown them so that when I die and they say I was a black man, it does not hurt them. That is why I unnamed myself, wan wo layir, I am not trying to claim the family name, I want to free them. I want them to understand that the spaces I navigate are not safe or I am not safe. I am either a threat or threatened. Every other thing comes after that. In Nso, when I am asked to introduce myself, the correct way to do it is to say I am the son of this and that person, who are children of this and those people from these and those families and from these and those lineages. Here, I am a Black….(man, brother, academic, etc.). I want them to know with this unnaming that what will be killed or commit suicide is not their son but a Black…. I do not call my father Dad, I saved it like that so that, I do not even know, maybe to establish distance when I moved to Europe, maybe to, maybe to, I do not know. I call him Papa, and before I traveled to Cameroon in April 2023, close to 5 years since I left in 2018, I renamed him Papa and my mother mama in my phone again. My mother had caused this unnaming actually, she had read one of my texts and asked why I no longer write happy texts. I will write those from beyond the grave. 

Here, however, I am claiming a different name that has never made sense to me until now. I am visited by my great-grandmother’s spirit, she always called me “Wan Mkfe” as an endearing name. What this, translated literally is “the child of a corpse”. I was first amused by it, then

annoyed, then puzzled by it. None of my parents were dead. Well sometimes we do not choose our kin she tells me now whispering through the disappearing goose bumps. Me and the two other black people here are in fact that. We are the children of the corpses. We have inherited the earth from no one in particular, there is nothing to inherit. We are the descendants of corpses, not spirits, not even ancestors yet, we are the descendants in this space and in most spaces in this world except near the gravesites of our ancestors, left unclaimed by nobody, no state, no boats. Not even the Mediterranean Sea and its creatures or the Sahara desert in its vast expanse or the prison cell or the streets really claim us. The sea spits us out as if we were more tasteless than its saltiness. The vultures refuse to fly over the sea. The makeshift boats we travel in refuse our bodies. The countries we call ours refuse our dreams and bodies, they refuse to claim us and we even refuse to claim them sometimes. We are running but the earth won’t even stay still. The airplanes do not claim us as their passengers except if they are transporting us to the next point of our rejection. The Sahara desert will not stay still under our feet and the bullets and borders that keep us out would not even accept that we are dying because of them because they have been spread so far and so insidious that we sometimes do not even notice them and die in a trap where the hunter will not even claim us, when our corpses fall in the hot sand of the Sahara desert it refused to claim us. It really does, and when the sand tries, the wind comes once more and blows our corpses open for the sun to scorch for the vultures to scrape, and for the hunter to once again refuse. They have trapped us and left our bodies for the vultures. If it is bad to be hunted like game, it is even worse to be unclaimed by hunters or to be hunted only to feed vultures. Or to be caught in another trap, ensnared without possibility of escape and given away to the cold, that eats us up. The hunter refuses his trap once again, the emergency in greece is not that we are trapped, no, it is that we are cold. The hunter has no intention of claiming us, and the trap spits us out only to be trapped by another trap again, yet again unclaimed. We are only claimed by or can only claim a corpse in order to be claimed, that is if we are (un)lucky enough to not be that corpse. 

“Wan mkpfe” I whisper to myself and we start talking with no invitation. I throw it in the room, this is such a white people thing, only they can look at this and claim to find it interesting. It is very very triggering she replies and he nodes and before he can even gather his thoughts I tell him that only those who are assured return can embark on this journey comfortably. I ask under what constellations we go to these meetings to these things, if we will go of our own volition or if we simply want to bury our dead and move on. To allow ourselves new parameters of claiming kinship and not these morbid corpses that have claimed us and refused to let go. What is this doing to us? Who is getting the money from it? How does one even explain that this is found in the basement of a bank building, cleaned and maintained by black bodies? As we have this conversation, there are two black men, sitting next to one of these stations where you sit with your shoes and have them cleaned. They do not hear us or even understand us but there is a moment of silence when we all look at each other and once again, claimed by this corpse, nod in

acceptance of how fucked up it is. I thought the ghost of apatheid still haunted this city but it does not. Apartheid just retreated into the shadows but it is still there. 

I have to pause here, I have to tell you now that you can stop and that you do not have to continue after this point. There is nothing but morbidity that follows from this point on and if you do continue to read, consider listening to Blick Bassy’s Hola Me which I am listening to at this point. did you get it? I must say, as one of the signs read today at the Marshall Street Mall hanging on a memorial, even the memorial refused to claim us, it was literally labeled disclaimer. I will [dis]claim you now too. 

 

Disclaimer 

Anyone reading this text from this paragraph on does so entirely at their own risk. Neither the author, the spirit that possessed them, the muse or the hands that typed it, the publication or the medium through which you read this, or anyone else concerned therewith shall have or bear any liability or responsibility whatsoever for injury, trauma, tears, hurt, anger or death of any person or any loss of property, orientation, interest, or of damage to mood, hope, worldview or politics, however, caused and even if arising from negligence of any degree. From this point on, not even the corpses claim you. The author is possessed and is absolved of any criticism and attack, especially by white people who feel guilt from reading this or the unclaimed who feel despair from reading this. By order. 

I only register now that if I had been trapped in that space, there would have been no one to claim me but death. If the memorial even rejects us, what or who claims us? I then turned to them, possessed, careless, incensed, or otherwise unhinged and proclaimed. This is a serial killer's lair. You have to understand that the serial killer is motivated more by the imagery of the violence than by the act itself. In fact, some of them do not like the act of committing violence, they like to watch it simply and masturbate to it. When there is no one to commit the crime or when the other would much rather have bones transported to their houses, or other objects, art, and whole bodies, living and dead, others prefer to come and settle amongst their prey and then to kill them and quickly burry them and sit in the sites where those corpses were buried and once again, with their houses built on those graves masturbate to the fantasy. The fantasy and imagery must stay alive in their heads, they conscript us to do that work for them. They even pay us, this is me doing that work for free in some way. They are masturbating as they read this text. The very location is that fantasy, it is the serial killer who collects memorabilia, some collect teeth, some collect bones, others collect shoes and hair, and others, after refusing to claim the bodies that have been tortured there, clear the corpses and make the spot suitable for their descendants to come and live that fantasy again. Sometimes the orgasm from this masturbation comes as catharsis, sometimes they cry, but they will not break the fantasy down. If we break the fantasy down, they will build a new one, or descend on us severely. They are serial killers and we have

caught them red-handed with the corpses, shoes, clothes, rings, chairs, and other remains of our ancestors, these corpses that claim us and have asked them to let us bury them, to let us demolish the houses on their graves but they will not. How else will they masturbate? They need those bodies, the corpses that claim us are claimed by those who killed them but do not intend to bury them or let them live. 

The point of the serial killer is masturbation and when the fantasy no longer feeds that pleasure, they will come back even worse. The two other people I spoke with, we have shared a most intimate fear and a most intimate bond and I have not asked for their names. Why would I, they are also claimed by the corpses. We did not need that, we share the same family name wan mkpfe. We are claimed by the bloodline of these unburied corpses, the corpses that show up as qualifications on our names and identities, the corpses that qualify and label us before we are ever named. The corpses, the corpses that metamorphose as identities, those corpses for whom the only consensual relationship is incestuous or as the academics might call it, intersectional, those corpses, oh those corpses that either have to remember and or be forgotten, those corpses that smell, that we carry around that weigh down on us but we can not afford to burry because the moment we do, we become the corpses. The moment you forget that you are a black boy, you are a memory. Those corpses that… those bodies that… those claimed unclaimed. Those for whom outside of this incest, the other option is only one that turns us into corpses again. Those corpses whose duty it is to survive, those corpses that do not exist in the present, past or future, those corpses too human to be alien, too alien to be human. Those corpses we want to cover up… no we are that kinship for whom the only safe space and moment of respite or celebration is the hour of our death, for whom the site for these rituals of celebration, the safe space is our gravesite, those corpses that have experience pain only in joy because it is too fleeting and joy only in pain because it is too permanent to take oneself too seriously. Those unclaimed, those untamed, those murdered but unburied, those owned but unclaimed, those owned but unidentified, those, those, those, sewn together to make the monster that cleans and feeds and cares for those that despise them. Those corpses only find life by or admission to humanity by listing the conditions of their dehumanization. Those walking dead. They haunt us daily… and today and in this city more than in other places and times. We should be able to decide what happens, if the only options are to remember or forget, we should decide for ourselves what after all is so bad with forgetting, those corpses cursed to burry themselves and then refused land, those corpses that are asked to dig themselves from the grave again by their failing fingers only to earn the right to burial again. When I die, forget me, please. Those corpses who are hung by the neck and when the blood is done dripping from their cracked necks, the flies and the vultures done feeding and the smell has dispelled them and the only thing left is a pleasure[less] lifeless body is only claimed by memory. Those corpses that… those corpses that… those corpses that can not afford to be forgotten but also can not afford to be remembered. Those corpses that claim us, the ones we are told if we dare take down, the perpetrator may forget the fantasy that makes them masturbate when we are not watching and coming for us. Those corpses that however

painful to see…. Oh, I can not continue doing this to you or myself. We just have to accept the fact that some of us will never get graves. I am a very hopeful person, please do not take this pessimism, but I hope I die before it starts all over again and I wish you all the same. Over my dead body. 

It is 15:54 and I have lost control of the music. I must exorcise myself from this trance. Damian Marley’s So a Child May Follow is playing now. I will come back to the other texts later. I shall stand up now and stretch, I have not moved from this chair since I came and my feet are too cold. I will walk a little and maybe make a friend read this, in its broken grammar and with the red lines, I hope it comes to you as such too. That the grammar, or the lack thereof, haunts you as these corpses haunt us all. Now I will go back and title the text. 

 

Addendum 
29/09/2023 

Later yesterday evening, we went out to the Marabi Jazz Club, do not get me started on that. It was good music but also too weird, why did I travel to Africa to come and eat like this? With their damn molecular cuisine and all that fancy blah. I felt so out of place there, just waiting it out. I was hopping from chair to chair, spewing my annoyance and even at some point wishing that it would have at least been a little better if I were being served by white people calling me sir and bowing to me as the siblings here did, which made me cringe. I found Fayayo and we started talking again. Yes, Fayayo is his name, Sibhekisipho Fayayo and I also asked for the sista’s name which he told me was “Confidence Joseph[… silence… jump… ]and she is a Doctor, Doctor Confidence”. This morning having come back home at 1 AM, and missed breakfast, I met Confidence again, we have not been able to talk in great detail about this yet, but I hope they will get this text which I dedicate to them. 

As I spoke with Fayayo in this bar that weirded us both out, with a township wall in its architecture and no township people, we reflected again on the point that the memorial, in a bank basement, or even on the streets does not only refuse us, but it also says we only get in here at our risk. You return to look at the past at your own risk. 

The oppression of black people is not historical, not only, it is also present. It has never stopped. The unclaimed corpses were covered with sand and the bodies that survived were built by their sweat and blood these banks that house the wealth that was brought from the ground. Today, the bodies that would have been sent into the mines to dig up the dust to bring up the shiny platinum are now on the surface, cleaning the streets and wiping their shoes. Same shit different toilet, Same day different shit. 

 

For Doctor Confidence Joseph, Sibhekisipho Fayayo, and all those who call me brotha, brotha, we are all siblings indeed.