I am pleased to present you the third letter of my series of letters to my mother, where I describe our difficult reunion and express willingness to reconcile with her.
I carry this picture with me wherever I go, always. It shows you in a Somali desert. You wear a big African costume that reaches all the way the floor. It is colourful and blinding, with all the colours of the world, many golden chains hang of your neck, and your fingers are covered with rings. I know how much you like that. You look proud and sublime, your face is fresh and clean like the face of a girl. Your eyes are deep like the ocean, and perhaps that is what I love most about the picture.
The last time we saw each other in Vienna a few months ago, we had a fight. We both shouted, were furious and cried because of all the anger, disappointment and also pain. We told each other words that should have better remained unsaid. Finally, we left each other being bitter and exhausted from the fight that had gone on for hours.
Now I sit here in my small house in South Africa, a house that has become my shelter. Your picture lies in front of me on my desk and I can only sometimes avoid your eyes. I look at the sea, the waves and the small fisher boats floating off the shore. It is late afternoon, the sun is burning red, and already half drowned in the sea. The sunsets here are slow, incredibly slow, which is very different to the ones in Europe.
I didn’t sleep much in the previous nights. I felt completely distraught and confused. A fever burned inside me. I searched for a way to be close to you, but I couldn’t find one. I rolled in my bed from side to side. I still have so much to tell you, but I don’t know how. I have a confession to make, but I don’t know how. The truth is sometimes like a rose. If you reach for it, the thorns might hurt you. It is very painful for me to admit the following: ‘Waris, you have accomplished a lot in your life, but you haven’t reached your goal: to have a place in your mother’s heart.’
I have always wanted you to be proud of me, and that you talk with pride about your daughter who lives in a foreign country. That you feel admiration for the wrong-headed and stubborn Waris, she who is dealing with her new life. I know you can’t understand or approve of many things that I do or say because your traditions dictate something totally different. You live in the old Africa, imprisoned in all her rites and customs. I carry my Africa inside me. It is a modern Africa, a powerful blend of tradition and renovation. My dear mother, all I want from you is that you try to understand me.
If all the things that apparently matter could be pushed away, what would still remain the way it was before? A daughter’s love for her mother. A mother’s love for her child. There is nothing in the world as strong as this bond.
Through the nights of insomnia I had an idea. I began to write you a long letter. ‘Maybe,’ I thought, ‘I would manage to write down all the things I couldn’t say to you in person.’ After the first couple of lines I tore up the letter and threw it on the floor out of utter disappointment. But I didn’t give up and took up the pen to start again. I wrote and threw away and wrote and threw everything away again. Finally, I completed the first page; a little later, I completed a second one. My writing got faster, and I felt intoxicated through the sensations accompanying my writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote. My fingers began to hurt, but that didn’t stop me. My pen was almost flying over the paper. Time flew and I forgot to eat and drink. When I was tired I slept for a couple of hours, then I went back to my desk and continued writing like I was in trance.
Those are really intimate lines, Mama. I haven’t told anyone about many of the things I wrote, not even my closest friends. I had to force myself more than once to tell the whole truth, but the time had come. To tell the truth and nothing but the truth.
I want you to understand why I am the way I am. Maybe this letter helps me to get closer to you.
We are mother and daughter, related by blood, but we are completely different. There are thousands of kilometres between us, but our opinions are so different as if we lived on separate planets. I often offered you my hand, but you always refused it. No matter what we talked about, whether it was religion, tradition or family, we never agreed. There was no sympathy for the other’s point of view, even though my strongest desire is to be understood by you.
I am and always will be your Waris, your desert flower. I was born from your bosom in the desert of Somalia, almost beaten to death by my violent father, and genitally mutilated because of a cruel tradition. I ran away from home with nothing but my clothes on. A gracious wave carried me to London and a fortunate surge allowed me to rise in the air. Waris, the desert flower, turned into Waris, the top model, the UN Special Ambassador, the fighter against the awful injustice of FGM, the recognised writer. Millions of people have read the books about my life.
But Mama, that is not the whole story. For many years I have been carrying a secret deep inside of me. I have never talked about it. On the outside I am the strong Waris, the fighter, always beautiful and always smiling. But on the inside I am wounded, insecure, and I still feel alienated from this big, colourful world. It is the fault of a demon circulating over my life. Sometimes I believe that it is gone or that I got rid of it. But then the demon returns with such force and brutality that it takes my breath away and drags me into the darkness.
This demon has total control over my life. It decides what I feel, how far I can get in life, whether I feel good or bad. Maybe you can help me to defeat this demon, Mama. Together we are strong, mother and daughter.
Mama, with this letter I ask you for your help and love.
Your Waris, your desert flower, your daughter.
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