Jisike, according to Bradley Ogbonna, “is an Igbo phrase that means ‘use strength’ or ‘try.’” And it forms the title of Ogbonna’s extraordinary book that looks at the idea of home and origins through an elegiac lens:
“When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.”
My dad, George Ogbonna Sr., died of cancer on December 26, 2011. During the months of February and March, I returned to Nigeria for the first time as an adult to attend his funeral and to spend time in the country.
My first book, titled Jisike, is a window into the complexities and rich culture of historic and modern-day Nigeria, the legacy left behind by my dad, and my interactions as a first-generation Nigerian-American living in the diaspora.
It is a photo-memoir chronicling my time spent in Nigeria — my “home away from home.”
The book contains Polaroid photos from the past, as well as photos of contemporary Nigeria. Ogbonna’s photography strikes a balance between the documentary and the deeply personal. And his storytelling, interspersed throughout, details his own struggle to return to a society he’s been long absent from. It’s a complex and touching set of images that redefines what a memoir can be, and teaches us new ways to reflect.