notes from Uzbekistan


They come to us at Independence Square, shadow-like and all whispers. They have selected a leader, perhaps the one with the best English. Now she walks up to me, without any greeting, without introduction, the group of young girls and boys – no older than early teens – standing back a few steps behind her. ‘Can I take a photo of you?’ the messenger girl says in a small, careful voice, a smile wide on her face. It’s not the first time that I’ve been asked to have my picture taken in Uzbekistan and at this point it is starting to feel a little like objectification, as if I am a spectacle of sorts, and in a way I am, because, as the guides explain to me, a black person is a rare sight in Uzbekistan. I am not in the mood, but I try to be philosophical about it. Across from where we stand, a couple is sitting on a grey-white stone bench.

more from Chinelo Okparanta at Granta here.