To colour is to create, to embellish the
ordinary with radiance and inspire the guinea prude with the deeper hues of
folk music. So, its use in the arts is to emphasize emotion or enunciate
perspective, is a definitive presence that cures the indifference of the object
and forces us to reconsider, from it, what is new and what is familiar.
To colour is to empathize: where in its
patterns you find absolution for the pick pocket and the mob boss, harmonizing
the parallels the duality of their indulgence evokes, the selfish, conceited,
survivalist force on the one end bested by penitence on sale for anyone with a
conscience on the other.
To colour is to imagine and explore new
vices and sins till there is no room for the absurd. Incestuous gratification
and gang rapes must have palettes of their own, otherwise we will not recognize
them tomorrow when they come upon our terraced houses and friendly neighbourhood
schools. History is the closest thing we have to a rainbow.
In history, we are sure to find the black
patter of proud empires stretching from Berber North Africa to the greying
dunes of Mai Hume’s Kanem, from Sekou Ahmadu’s red rise to revolt to the orange
poise of The Great Trek.
To colour is to accept that there are
limits and bounds, that freedom is the deep end of a shallow pond and drowning
is not a choice. That our liberties are normative and must issue from the
collective fiat of convention, the healthy custom of the many against the wily
tempest of the one. Liberty then is a prison of accepted conduct, a glazed
casket waiting for us to die.
To colour is to exterminate, to accord
the new American the rights of the native Injun and expropriate his heritage,
miniaturizing centuries into costumes for a party and demonizing resistance
through burlesque reconstructions in motion pictures and stills.
To colour is to segregate, to cast
shadows over the industry of a productive class, to strip bare with whips the
humanity of a race and ridicule its history, a vile attempt at the corrective
because blue eyes tint the truth in a sea filled with sunken slave ships and
infant martyrs at a crossing of continental tales.
To colour is to do all of this and more.
Luqman Hussain is a lawyer and poet. He is a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University and is