• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 07

How Our Faces Suggest Many Continents

I know those eyes. Heavy lidded kajol framed & smudged into a brown-black deep. Strong eyebrows sweeping across bone. Those eyes could be my mother’s eyes; they could be my own. Map a person’s face. How our faces suggest many continents and eras and yet how we cling to a fixed time and place. Limited to the scope of our life. This girl’s face has occasioned a portrait. Has she just become a woman, undergone a rite of passage? This time in her life marked with paint by an unnamed portrait artist.

I close my own heavy-lidded eyes. I see this girl-woman squatting on the ground a rock in her hand, drawing in dirt. Behind her a village. A woman, one of her mothers, carrying a vessel of water on her head. The village is the color of the girl-woman’s dress, the girl-woman’s dress is the color of the village. Shades of brown. Those who belong to a place inhabit the place in their skin and clothes. Other kids, her own siblings, are playing in the village but she chooses to draw in dirt. The only time she can be alone. I see her so clearly, the girl-woman carrying a baby half her size into the kitchen, longing to return to her drawing.

I see this scene so clearly because I have seen scenes like this before. In a film I can't recall: a girl carrying a child too large for her to carry into a dimly lit kitchen.

I’ve decided this child is a girl-woman instead of a boy, because I see the necklace and amulet, I see the gold fleck of jewelry in their hair and I decide, girl.

I see long eyelashes and kajol rimmed eyes, I see my mother eyes and my own and I think girl-woman. But this child could be a boy, a boy-man.

I’ve decided she’s lonely because I recall my own girlhood loneliness.


How Our Faces Suggest Many Continents

I put my own experiences in her. I project images supplied to me in films made for a western audience. I see her eyes because right now we walk through the world wearing masks and our eyes are all we can see.

How we see but we never really see.