The dream of Malcolm X

I find it necessary to put pen to paper to record the details of a most vivid dream I had last night. From what I can recall the dream took place somewhere in Africa. The earlier part of the dream was rather vague but the latter part I can remember as clearly as if it was happening at this moment. In the dream there were a number of elephants dancing a kind of circular line dance, the kind one would see trained elephants performing in a circus; however these were wild African elephants. The skin of these animals gradually took on the quality and shape of giant tortoises, the kind I saw on a visit to a small island off the coast of Zanzibar while on holiday in East Africa. The necks of the creatures in the dream became elongated and their heads took on a form that I can only described as archetypically African. One of these creatures appeared to me to be a perfect example of a male African with well defined Bantu features. It was in fact, in the form of an ancestral bust with armour-like shoulders and upper torso. It separated itself from the rest and began moving its mouth as though trying to speak to me. Its effort however only resulted in strange incoherent mumbling noises. The mumbling gradually turned into recognisable words, but I was unable to make sense of what it was to saying to me. The creature then opened its mouth to reveal a bright reddish black molten lava-like human tongue, on the tip of which was a long forked serpent-like tongue. The whole scene was rather disturbing, as, try as I may, I was unable to make out what the creature was trying to say to me.

On waking I tried for several hours to make sense of this dream but could not come up with an interpretation that made sense. At one time I concluded that it must be some kind of warning relating to the kind of work I do, or how I should regard the things people say to me about that work. Eventually I decided that it must have something to do with the piece of sculpture I was working on at the time. The piece is a commemorative bust of Malcolm X, and I believe, the dream revealed the truth about the reality of the man. Of particular importance were the reddish-black mouth and the serpent-like tongue. Malcolm was for me, a true emissary of the African deity that rules the mouth and speech. He certainly revered and adored the magic of the word, especially in its spoken form. The red hot mouth reminded me of the fieriness of his nature and the words he spoke that burned through to the hearts of black and white people alike; words that carried a truth about the black man's condition after four hundred year of oppression in the west. Words that were often spoken in private by black people but were never before voiced in public. The serpent-like tongue signified the stinging effects of the words he dared to use as a black man in the world of the 1960's. I spent the greater part of my time on this piece, concentrating on and around the mouth. The African elephants I believe denote the untameable African force, while the armour-like shell of the tortoise denotes the indestructibility of the African spirit. These were the things that were to be at the forefront of my consciousness as I progressed towards the completion of this piece of sculpture, the second in a series of ancestral busts of black heroes.

This series of sculptures of which the Malcolm X is the second is very important in my life as a sculptor. They are the visualisation of my ideas and feelings about the heroes of my people. They were indeed great personages, the stuff of which my African consciousness is made. Finally this dream is the manifestation of the notion of the African deity of the word; the deity that certainly inspired and guided Malcolm X, who was a true Twentieth Century prophet.

April 24 1993