by Goddy Leye
I am sitting in front of the Cologne cathedral, amazed by this architectural masterpiece.
Wondering, like dozens of passers-by, how this was done without modern building materials and tools.
At the foot of the cathedral is an artist miming an Egyptian sculpture, perfectly establishing connections with similar mysteries surrounding the construction of the pyramids. He is covered with silver coloured paint and sometimes stands motionless. People not familiar with the performance would think he is a metal sculpture.
I am disturbed in my reverie and somewhat taken aback by the behaviour of a man who seems to get a special pleasure drinking from a Coca Cola can. He seems determined to swallow the beverage to the last drop. Finally, he empties the little container and drops it in a trash bin. But the hand that accompanied the empty can to its destination comes back with different one. The new can bears a beer brand. And the man starts drinking the precious liquid. He is about to discard the beer and dig deeper when another man enters the scene, dragging a cart. His rather hesitant movements inform me that he has some difficulties coordinating his actions. He comes close to the first man and joins the search in the bin. What is going to happen? Are both men going to peacefully share the territory?
The first man is still savouring his extraordinary beverage. The newcomer, absolutely oblivious of his neighbour’s behaviour, has already started exploring the dustbin in a hypothetical quest, seemingly, for something that would change his life. Forever.
A voice with a heavy German accent interrupts my viewing. I raise my head to face two strong looking, cleanly dressed police officers. It is noticeable that they have positioned themselves quite strategically, to prevent any attempt on my part to escape.
“Sorry?” I say. And they reply, this time in English: “Can we see your passport please?”
I hand out the required document as well as my residence card to the officers, who keenly check the veracity of the information provided and, I guess, the authenticity of the papers.
The operation takes about 5 minutes, after which they return my documents and go off to carry on with their duty.
I turn back to the scene and, to my greatest disappointment, the garbage can protagonists have disappeared.
Goddy Leye is a visual artist and educator. He’s the founder of Art Bakery, an art centre in Douala. This story of his originally featured in Chimurenga Vol. 16: The Chimurenga Chronic (available here).
Set in the week 18-24 May 2008, the Chronic, imagines the newspaper as a producer of time – a time-machine – which travels backwards and forwards, to place these events within a broader context and thereby to challenge the logic of emergencies and immediate needs that characterise contemporary African media.