“Chant Funèbre Bangou / Bangou Requiem” by Etienne Noumé

Dry your tears African

There has been so much loss this year that I thought to introduce you to the “Bangou Requiem,” a poem written by the Cameroonian poet and author Etienne Noumé. Bangou (pronounce Ban-gu in English) is a town in the Western province of Cameroon, and is part of the Bamiléké grassfields. Noumé’s description of his loss is so profound, and uses typical Bamileke imagery, “My body is numb… the palms have dried under the moonlight“, “My sun went down“, my joy, my everything, “ blown away by the wind.” It is hard to lose someone dear, especially one’s child. In Bamileke culture, the parent is supposed to bury his child and not the contrary, so you can imagine the heart wrenching pain… that numbs you. “The palms have dried under the moonlight“… think about it for a minute: … can a palm dry under the moonlight?… this is Bamileke imagery for you. “My reddened pot burst” my hope blown away in an instant, without any notice, the impossible has happened. This here is a Bangou Requiem, “Chant Funebre Bangou” by Etienne Noumé, first published in Angoisse quotidienne, Le Flambeau, Yaoundé, re-published in Anthologie Africaine: Poésie Vol2, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, 1988, and translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com . Enjoy!

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Chant funèbre Bangou

 

Mon corps est engourdi

et je me meurs de froid;

mon enfant est allé

couper du bois, hélas

et n’est pas revenu

Les palmes

ont séché

à la lueur

de la lune

Sur le foyer ardent

mon pot rougi éclate :

à l’aube au marigot

mon enfant est allé

et n’est pas revenu.

Les palmes

ont séché,

à la lueur

de la lune

Mon soleil s’est couché :

mon enfant est allé

derrière la colline

emporté par le vent

et n’en reviendra jamais plus

Les palmes

ont séché,

à la lueur

de la lune

Bangou Requiem

 

My body is numb

and I am dying of cold;

my child went

to cut wood, alas

and did not come back

the palms

have dried

under the

moonlight

On the fiery hearth

my reddened pot burst :

at dawn in the backwater

my child went

and did not come back.

The palms

have dried

under the

moonlight

My sun went down :

my child went

behind the hill

blown away by the wind

and will never come back

the palms

have dried

under the

moonlight