By Rudolf Okonkwo
I have always been afraid that when I die, my village graphic designer would paste an old picture of mine on his ubiquitous template of an obituary flyer and declare, “Exit of an Icon.”
During my visit last month, I found many flyers of those icons who have recently passed on trees and walls around my village. I have often wondered if these icons knew they were icons while they were alive. I doubt it.
Putting myself in their shoes, I have said that if I were going to be declared an icon at death, it would be good to know that I was an icon in life.
Thanks to Eleganzworld, I now know that I am an icon.
We all laughed when the former Nigerian First Lady Patience Jonathan pleaded on behalf of her fellow widows. Today, I’m talking about my fellow icons and pleading that you show us a little appreciation. It is the same sentiment, the same sacrament.
I have noticed that the things that trouble me are not the same stuff that bothers other people. I am that weird.
Sometimes, I keep quiet to avoid appearing crazy to everyone, but not today.
So, as Patience Jonathan had her fellow widows, I now have my fellow icons.
My icon-hood is happening the same month Time Magazine named Taylor Swift the Person of the Year. I am in good company.
I must confess that I do not know any song by Taylor Swift. I probably heard one or two before but did not realise she sang them. And since Time Magazine picked her as the Person of the Year, I had not bothered to check out her songs on YouTube.
I understand she is the first musician to achieve billionaire status “solely based on her songs and performances,” having sold over 137 million albums, guiding her career beyond music to numerous other ventures. Her 2023 – 2024 world tour is the highest–grossing of all time, having sold 4.35 million tickets and brought in over $1.04 billion. Besides being the most streamed artist of 2023, her influence on popular culture is gigantic. I also understand that she was the musician that Kanye West snatched the microphone from to protest that the MTV Video Music Awards given to her in 2009 should have gone to Beyonce.
The last time I heard about her was that she was dating an American footballer, Travis Kelce of the Chiefs. I do not care about the Chiefs. They beat my team every season.
For good or for bad, Taylor Swift is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2023. And for good or bad, I am Eleganzworld’s Icon of the Week.
When you think of it, just like a broken clock is right once a day, everyone is an icon once in their lifetime. Maybe just within their immediate home, village, town, state, or country, but an icon still. I have never thought about it that way.
This immense one-week icon recognition happened a day after I attended the funeral of Brigitte Ene, the wife of the indefatigable Moe Ene, in New Jersey.
The funeral left me with so many emotions: sadness, pain, gratitude, calmness. The tributes, the songs, the sermons, the procession, and the resilience of her kids moved me. To see MOE sit with the twins beside Margret’s coffin brought tears to my eyes. As she was about to be lowered into the ground, I caught myself re-evaluating the essence of this life.
As I made my way up the cemetery, looking at tombstones and their generic messages, I turned to Edna and told her what I wanted on mine: “He tried.”
No other message would be necessary, not even my name or what I did in life. He tried. Let anyone passing by know that the person inside that grave tried.
We, humans, try. Considering the mess we have made of the world and our understanding of our role, going out and returning each day is a significant accomplishment. And as MOE would say, “Everything else is embellishment.”
After the funeral, that terminal destination we all headed to became real once more. Again, I pondered if mandatory visits to hospitals and cemeteries every six months would make us better humans.
As for my village graphic designer, now that I am an icon like Taylor Swift, he will need to find a different catchphrase to caption my obituary flyer. I hope he doesn’t get angry at that additional burden and just caption it, “The Man Died.” Shikena!
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo teaches Post-Colonial African History at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show. His books include “This American Life Sef” and “Children of a Retired God,” among others. His upcoming book is called “Why I’m Disappointed in Jesus.”