Photographs from Lagos. Ladan Osman. (c) 2017

Photograph by Ladan Osman


Once in Madison Square, I stopped a woman with a pram and she took a photo of me next to a sculpture. I was wearing my big jacket and I had to put my bag down behind me: I kept turning to check on my bag and so in the photo I have a face like someone who is turning to look back.




Once in the car, he wanted to say something and I knew it was going to be something bad and I held my breath and I said, ‘What?’ and he stopped and shook his head slowly and said, ‘Nothing’ then he raised my hand to his lips and held it there.

That was the second time he lied.




Once when we were cleaning the kitchen my father and I both began to whistle Mera joota hai japani and while I was wiping the units as he was washing the dishes my note hit his at exactly the same point and for one clear second we both sounded like the same person.




Once I was not thinking very well and I was rather sick at the time and I did not know how or why but I got into the car and drove to his house and he was standing outside and he was wearing sandals and he was on the phone and I had not seen him for a very long time.

Sometimes I think about that moment, how I jumped into the car and drove to him without thinking.

How unlike me that was.




Once in New York City I was walking down a street and it was so cold that my big jacket was not enough to keep me warm. I paused at an intersection and something soft and white passed before my eyes and there were small gasps from the people around me and the world began to turn fuzzy and then I realised in shock what was happening and I thought it couldn’t be, it just couldn’t; it was almost April and it had not been in the forecast and this only happened in the movies but then I looked up into the mouth of the city and it was full of small snow flakes and people were rushing about and the streets were turning wet and everything became a blur.

Everything except me.

I was looking up into the sky and in that moment my heart was so full I thought I would burst open there on the pavement in front of everyone.




Someone asked me the other day about daughters; how my father had four.

Four daughters made my father tender, I said. Have you ever met a man so grateful and good?

Four daughters made my father stronger, than four sons ever could.




It must be said, surely it must be said that for a long time I loved very fully, very much and I did not know anything else beyond that.




One night in Fez I was passing a dry fountain outside my hotel and there was a woman in the darkness weeping and I was moved because of the pieces in my chest. I found her and said, ‘Are you okay?’ and she said nothing but continued to weep and I without thinking put my hand on her arm. I said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then I hugged her in the half-light of the old hotel. She did not put her arms around me, merely stood there in the grasp of my own grief. I let her go and between her sobs, she said something in Spanish but I could not understand and then she pulled out a phone and showed me a picture of a young man, a son perhaps and she pointed to the heavens.

I said he was beautiful, he was so beautiful, but she turned back into herself and continued to weep. I left then because her sadness was too big and I was too small and I worried I was disturbing her grief. Later I returned to the fountain with my phone to tell her in Spanish that, ‘He is beautiful,’ but she had already left and I knew it before I even returned.

            ‘El es hermoso.’



The first time he lied to me was on the phone and he was leaving and I asked him if it had happened and he said no.




Last night my mother was tired and she was falling asleep on the bed in her clothes and my father, he took a washcloth and wiped her feet so she wouldn’t have to get up and wash them. And then he turned to me lying on the bed watching them and he wiped my feet too. And I laughed because the cloth was rough and I couldn’t remember when last or if ever anyone had done that for me.