Monday, December 22, 2008

Jon on Flag Staff House


Jon Langdon said...

Here is the piece I read:

Flagstaff house

It stands now, behind its walls – broken down – its security check point – empty – and its razor wire – rusted crusts of decay; it stands now in the middle of a forgotten field, a memory lapse in the middle of Accra. No one walks there for fear of his spirit, for fear they will be marked down by the betrayal of others. Or rather, only one man goes there, his old zookeeper, who comes every week to see if he has returned, spends the night enfolded in memories in the front room off the portico.

This house once stood for a nation; turning his back on the Castle, its colonial days and burden now shed, Nkrumah built this grand yet functional state house. To this day, even its shell and skeletal remains still show the skill and care that went into its construction. Two long dining rooms for state dinners, a beautiful wood lined open verandah for the taking of evening air, a billiard room – the only piece of furniture that still remains, its bulk too heavy to cart away – an indoor pool to cool off in the mid afternoon sun, a library with big windows for light, and outside a vast garden for walking, on covered paths and in the open.

There are stories, images that come to life, even in this old abandoned shell:

He walks out every morning, stands on the black star on the front walk, under the covered drive and waits for his car to be driven up. What does he think in these moments? Is he already transforming under the pressure of constant assassination attempts? Is he already imagining who will be tray him next? Or is he simply meditating on the day ahead?

He stands on the long balcony out back and watches as his children play on the swing set – still dangling to this day on rusted fibers in the middle of overgrown brush. Does he picture in his mind the future ahead for his children, does he question his chosen goal of freedom for all of Africa instead of freedom for Ghanaians? Does he see unfolding the turmoil of the coming generations, where this regime will over throw that? Does his vision capture all this and try to ignore it, as he stares across his piece of peace in the world of war? Does he for one moment wonder if his iron fist should be opened and turned into a handshake for someone else, someone new?

In the verandah down stairs, he is sitting with Malcolm X. They are talking about Malcolm’s newfound direction, a direction that sees the possibility of peace. He reminds Malcolm that America is not the only place where this struggle needs to be won, that these issues are bigger than nation states, and that the future of Africa as a whole needs to be enfolded in this path. Malcolm leaves thinking deeply and almost collides with Mohammed Ali on the front steps. A verbal word lashing ensues – the stinging bee and butterfly song-dance of betrayal – as Nkrumah looks on from his portico. Perhaps he is shaking his head, wondering if all this can truly come to pass.

maame ama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maame ama pratt said...

brilliant read jon!
delivery even better!