By Olufemi Lawal
Nine and ten-year-olds in a classroom in Lagos, Nigeria. The class was geography and the teacher taught them about hummus soil. Soil which was black and rich with nutrients.
In front of a boy’s house was a plant pot. It had hummus soil that was dark and loose. The boy planted beans and tomatoes. The beans were harvested and stored in a tin box in the boy’s wardrobe. The tomatoes were plucked when green and put on the shelf in the kitchen.
The tomatoes gradually turned red, till they one day vanished as vegetables in kitchens often do.
Three teenage cousins with hands that were orange and muddy in a compound in Nigeria. They were trying to make cups out of sticky lumps of mud. Mud that was orange like a sunset with specks of scarlet red. The mud didn’t cooperate and no cups were baked on the stove like planned.
The boys gave up and washed their hands by the well with brownish water. They tried to get rid of all the mud. Doing so to avoid the fury such a mess would evoke if seen by their mothers.
On a Sunday afternoon in Kampala, Uganda, a 14-year-old boy sits beside his mother on a bus. Their faces dry and tinted red. It hasn’t rained for weeks and the air is filled with dust, flying freely in the wind.
Piles of bricks baked dark red decorated the streets and a huge jackfruit hung sturdily on the side of a cornerstone tree. In the distance was a tree littered with avocados.
The earth here was neither black nor loose but was just as rich and stung their eyes just the same.
The little lake at the university had flooded and two brothers stood by its new banks watching dead fish sway lazily with the waves.
As they stood there three local Chinese students walked by. They tried not to stare at the two foreign boys. Boys with skin colored in earthly tones.
The brothers wanted to skid pebbles on the water, a game they played when the earth was red. But there were no pebbles. There was just grey concrete and sand.
The air was crisp and cold. Winter would soon come and for the first time they would see snow. Two brothers a long way from home.
Olufemi Lawal is a photographer, songwriter and poet who has lived in China since 2009. He is the co-founder of Poetish: A poetry workshop. He enjoys taking portrait photos and documenting his experiences through song and poetry.