I love this poem by Bernard Dadié which I have posted earlier “Seche tes pleurs, Afrique / Dry Your Tears, Afrika“. The imagery is so clear and the words so deep: O Africa, “our senses are now opened to the splendor of your beauty, the smell of your forests, … your charms…” Africa is so rich,… and it is about time that her sons and daughters stand up to reclaim their inheritance, and feel her beauty, and enjoy her bounty-ness… Yes there is so much adversity, but dry your tears African… and rise up!
Sèche tes pleurs, Afrique Ayant bu À toutes les fontaines d’infortune et de gloire, Nos sens se sont ouverts à la splendeur de ta beauté à la senteur de tes forêts, à l’enchantement de tes eaux à la limpidité de ton ciel à la caresse de ton soleil Et au charme de ta verdure emperlée de rosée.
Dry your tears, Africa! We have drunk From all the springs of ill fortune and of glory, Our senses are now opened To the splendor of your beauty To the smell of your forests, To the charm of your waters To the clearness of your skies To the cares of your sun And to the charm of your foliage pearled by the dew.
As you read Yondo’s words, you can imagine the beauty of his homeland, this island, Jebale, on the Wouri river. Jebale is known as the “emerald island, flamboyant jewel” on the Wouri estuary, on the coast of Cameroon. The author cites well-known coastal rivers of Cameroon, the Bimbia creek, the Sanaga River, the Dibamba river, the Kwa-Kwa river, and also notes other islands of the Littoral, Malimba and Suellaba. In this poem, the author anchors his words in the rich tradition of the coastal Sawa people as he cites the Miengu and the Mbeatoe, those big shrimps known as Camarões which led to the name of the country Cameroun via the Wouri River – Rio dos Camarões. For those who have visited Jebale, it is indeed an emerald island, mostly known as a small fishing village; however in the eye of Elolongue Epanya Yondo, it is his love, the one he cannot wait to come back to, from exile. Enjoy!
This poem was published in Paris on February 25th 1972, in revue Présence Africaine, numéro 84 (4e trimestre 1972), re-published in Anthologie Africaine: Poésie Vol2, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, 1988, and translated to English by Dr. Y.Afrolegends.com .
In celebration of the life of Ruben Um Nyobé, I chose to share with you his writings below on this day, 13 September, the day of his assassination in 1958 by French troops in Cameroon. These writings by Ruben Um Nyobé, leader of the UPC, were published in 1959. The book was published as “Constante politique d’unité pratiquée par Ruben Um Nyobe – 1959,” by Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC). The text below by Ruben Um Nyobe served as a preface to the book, and has been translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com . For the original, go to gallica.fr
Political Constant of Unity practiced by Ruben Um Nyobe – 1959
Author: Union des Populations du Cameroon
Inform to Enlighten by Ruben Um Nyobe, General Secretary of the Union the Populations du Cameroun (UPC), Leader of the National Resistance for the Liberation of Cameroon
The national aspiration, which has just cumulated in the recognition of our independence, Is the concrete and objective expression of the result of the struggle of our people. No one can claim that independence has been granted to us, we have conquered it. All those who fought for this national liberty, whether dead or alive, have sealed their names in the history of our motherland, their glory will be immortal! But now at the term of a crowned struggle, instead of concord uniting all members of the coalition, a storm of jealousy and hatred, still sweep over our poor little country. Until when obscene passions and the most execrable hypocrisies cease to brave virtue and honesty! Why will cruel selfishness and blind ambitions not recoil before the honor and national dignity? In this flood of provocations and hatreds, where is the future of our children, the tranquility of our homes, the future of the country? Is it possible to build a country without its population? Is there independence without independent citizens? Answer! Yes answer! All those who oppress our people and those who aim to exploit it.
I say that we must give the people the means to hope and the opportunity to have confidence in them. To reach that goal we have some preliminary work to do.
Present the people with clear options for his future.
Prepare for the people a climate of cordiality and put an end to insecurity.
Train the people’s judgment through civic and political culture / instruction.
All this is feasible/possible, so long as it is wanted. No need to dodge the work by creating tribal oppositions.
I add that all those who sow hatred and call for crimes, throw the boomerang, which unfortunately does not clarify the future. In politics, there is good sense and virtue, notwithstanding the apprentices of Machiavelli! In politics, truth is also necessary, even if it hurts and displeases because we do not define the future of the people in lies and slanders! Yes, we have to be realistic! To all my compatriots, I formally repeat this: our enemies in this crucial hour of our history, are those who divide us, because they expose us weakened to the solicitations and appetites of the foreigner…
When one reflects on current events, one reaches a first observation: it is the conception of power and sovereignty which is at stake. If it is true (and it cannot be otherwise) that power comes from the people, is it not up to the people to freely designate their interlocutors? Why pretend to take the place of the people? Why seek to abuse and deceives the masses? To get elected and impose a dictatorship, isn’t it? Finally, we believe that the events of the past should make the darkest adventurers retreat. It is only in ignorance that a dictatorship can be imposed, even if it is subtle. In these conditions our task is clear: to enlighten the people. We must do it and we will do it against all adventures. Our goal is to safeguard the national dignity and sovereignty of Kamerun.
With his poem, ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail’ / ‘I Came to Look for Work’ by Francis Bebey, the author talks about the story of many immigrants. Similarly Fatou Diome, the Franco-Senegalese author tells us about immigrants in her book Le Ventre de l’Atlantique [The Belly of the Atlantic]. It is as if Diome read Bebey’s poem, and made it into a novel. Her story The Belly of the Atlantic details the complexity of immigration, the struggles of those who have made it to maintain the image of ‘greatness’ of the promised land, and the hope those left behind have on those gone to send for them. Some young boys who are struggling to make ends meet in their home country of Senegal, and dream of immigrating to France for a ‘better future, with a loved one in Europe sending money back home. The book gives a glimpse into the families left behind, the joys, anxiety, scare, struggles, and sometimes the reconstruction of families around the women who are left behind to raise the children alone. As we have seen in reality, many will attempt to get to Europe via the Sahara desert, or even through the Atlantic on shady canoes.
As Bebey said, the immigrant “has left everything, [his] wife, [his] kids.” Sometimes, the families never hear back from those who have gone, and their goodbyes were actually final, as Francis Bebey said “my poor mother was sorry to see me go.” Sometimes, the loved one who “had long days of travel” makes it safely, and sends money back, but never returns home and forms a new family in the new country. Sometimes, the loved ones make it to the new country, find jobs, make a living, and send for the rest of the family to join them back in the new country… This is a real struggle. The story of immigration in search of a job, of a better future, is a true struggle which rips apart some families, while strengthening others.
Once those who have left come back, they are often seen as “better”, “richer”, or “foreign”. As Diome says of the loved one who comes home, “I go home as a tourist in my own country, for I have become the other for the people I continue to call my family.” For the families who raised money for the loved one to be afforded to leave, leaving is synonymous with success and failure is not a possibility. “Leaving means having the courage necessary to go and give birth to one’s self.“
Many cultures in Africa are matriarchal, and it absolutely makes sense that the homeland is constantly portrayed as a woman in African poetry. Today we will talk about the poem “Congolese Eve” by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard. Tati-Loutard is a Congolese author from the Republic of Congo or Congo-Brazzaville. As an accomplished writer, he has published several compilation of poetry, and has won several awards. In his writings, he does a deep expose of the art, life, and nature; he often incorporates the feminine element in his work. Similar to other African authors like Léopold Sédar Senghor (former president of Senegal) or Ferdinand L. Oyono (minister in Cameroon), Tati-Loutard is also a politician, who has occupied several posts in the government of his country.
Enjoy ‘Ève Congolaise‘ by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, published in Anthologie africaine: poésie, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, Hatier 1988, p. 136. Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.
Je l’ai vue quand Dieu l’a créée sur la Montagne :
C’était une pleine nuit, la lune ayant atteint
Le plus haut niveau de ses crues de lumière.
Avant que Dieu ne parût comme jadis sur l’Horeb,
L’herbe alentour marchait déjà tête baissée
Sous la brise.
Il prit de la terre non battue de quelque pied,
Et la coula – vierge comme au Jour Premier –
Dans un long rayon de lune.
En un tour de main, ce fut le tour des seins ;
Et la grâce et l’esprit giclaient d’Eve
En eclaboussements éblouissants de lumière.
Puis vint le signal :
Dans l’espace nu, le vent se mit à tourner sur lui-même
Comme s’il avait mal de ne pouvoir se détendre
Dans un arbre. Dieu reprit l’air dans le tourbillon ;
Et dans le silence plein de clarté,
L’Eve congolaise descendit vers le fleuve à l’heure
Où le soleil sort en refermant derrière lui
La porte de la nuit.
Isaw her when God created her on the Mountain:
It was a full night, the moon having reached
the fullest level of its light floods.
Before God appeared as He once did on the Horeb,
The grass around was already walking head down
Under the breeze
He took some dirt from some foot,
And the flow – virgin as on the First Day –
In a long moon ray.
In no time it was the turn of the breasts ;
And the grace and the spirit spurted from Eve
In dazzling splashes of light.
Then came the signal :
In the naked space, the wind started to turn on itself
As if it hurts not to be able to relax
In a tree. God took the air back in the whirlwind;
And in the silence full of clarity,
The Congolese eve descended towards the river at the time
More than a writer, Francis Bebey was also a musician. Below is a video where Francis Bebey introduces the viewer to the one-note flute, and the communication system invented by the pygmy peoples of Central Africa to converse with each other using that instrument. As I told you earlier, Francis Bebey headed the music department at the UNESCO‘s office in Paris, where he focused on researching and documenting African traditional music. Enjoy a lesson from the maestro!
Today, as states and countries are slowly reopening after the shelter-in-place due to the coronavirus pandemic, many have been left jobless, and are looking for a job now or in the near future. I think the poem ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail / I came to look for work‘ by the great Cameroonian writer and musician Francis Bebey is very appropriate. The poem below is the story of many immigrants traveling to a foreign land in search of a job, a better life, leaving all behind: families, friends, and country. This poem is very simple, yet so deep as it details the losses taken today, in hope for a better tomorrow. As you think about the immigrants dying in the Mediterranean sea, or those crossing the Mexico-US border, or all the countless faces in the world, take a moment to imagine families torn apart, lives in peril, and possibly no light at the end of the tunnel.
Francis Bebey was sort of a genius: in his early years, he studied mathematics, before going into broadcasting. He was called to Ghana by President Kwame Nkrumah, where he served as a journalist. He began his literary career as a journalist in the 1950s and worked in Ghana and other African countries for the French radio network, Société de radiodiffusion de la France d’outre-mer (SORAFOM) and Radio France International. Later, he wrote novels, poetry, plays, tales, short stories, nonfiction works, and established himself as a musician, sculptor, and writer. His first novel, Le Fils d’Agatha Moudio (Agatha Moudio’s Son), was published in 1967 and awarded the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire in 1968; it remains his best-known work to this day. He also headed the music department at the UNESCO‘s office in Paris, where he focused on researching and documenting African traditional music.
Enjoy ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail‘ by Francis Bebey, published in Anthologie africaine: poésie, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, Hatier 1988. Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.
Today I am sharing a poem by the great Egyptian feminist Huda Sha’arawi. As we saw earlier, Sha’arawi’s work was immense in redefining the place of the woman in Egyptian society, and led to a new dawn for Egyptian women. This woman who influenced millions of Egyptian and Arabic women was also a poet with a great love for her country and its people. She dedicated her life for the betterment of women in the Egyptian society, and immensely loved the land of her forefathers.
In these uncertain times, I thought about sharing with you this poem by the Cameroonian author Etienne Noumé, ‘Angoisse quotidienne‘ or ‘Daily Anxiety.’ His poem was published in Anthologie de la poésie camerounaise, edited by Patrice Kayo, Le Flambeau. As you read Noumé’s poem, you will find the daily anxiety of the author mounting, as he wonders where he will flee to as hurricanes come and take away his roof, where he will flee to as the torrents sweep away his fields, when will the happy future come? His questions remain of actuality: the hurricanes coming is like wondering ‘where will you sleep, or live?’; the torrents sweeping his fields is like asking ‘where will your income, your food come from?’ the question about the future is like asking ‘when will the spring come? when will this anxiety go away? when will happiness come?’
The poem ‘Angoisse quotidienne‘ by Etienne Noumé, published in Anthologie de la poésie camerounaise, P. Kayo, Le Flambeau. The translation to English is from Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com. I chose the flower above because of all the uncertainty surrounding it, and also because in the end, the light still shines on that flower!
Enjoy the poem below, and let me know what this poem brings to mind.
Oh yes… the Oxford English Dictionary has just selected 29 new Nigerian words to be part of its new edition. Allright people, make place for Chop (eat) Okada (Bend-Skin), Mama Put (eatery), Rub Minds(consult and work together), and Next tomorrow (the day after tomorrow), into the Queen’s English Dictionary…. Isn’t it marvelous how each culture adds to another? Even the conqueror at some points gets conquered (just jesting) by finding himself speaking words from the conquered. We, Africans, or those who have been colonized around the world, who have had to learn the language of the oppressor, should consider that language as part of our war trophies, because our ancestors had it pushed down their throats, and today we can speak the oppressor’s language and even understand them better than they do us, or ever wanted to, given their ‘superiority’ complex! Enjoy from the OED website.
My English-speaking is rooted in a Nigerian experience and not in a British or American or Australian one. I have taken ownership of English.
This is how acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes her relationship with English, the language which she uses in her writing, and which millions of her fellow Nigerians use in their daily communication. By taking ownership of English and using it as their own medium of expression, Nigerians have made, and are continuing to make, a unique and distinctive contribution to English as a global language. We highlight their contributions in this month’s update of the Oxford English Dictionary, as a number of Nigerian English words make it into the dictionary for the first time.
… One particularly interesting set of such loanwords and coinages has to do with Nigerian street food. The word buka, borrowed from Hausa and Yoruba and first attested in 1972, refers to a roadside restaurant or street stall that sells local fare at low prices. Another term for such eating places first evidenced in 1980 is bukateria, which adds to buka the –teria ending from the word cafeteria. An even more creative synonym is mama put, from 1979, which comes from the way that customers usually order food in a buka: they say ‘Mama, put…’ to the woman running the stall, and indicate the dish they want.
… Okada, on the other hand, is first attested twenty years later, and is the term for a motorcycle that passengers can use as a taxi service. It is a reference to Okada Air, an airline that operated in Nigeria from 1983 to 1997, and its reputation as a fast yet potentially dangerous form of transport, just like the motorcycle taxi.
… The oldest of our new additions that are originally from Nigeria is next tomorrow, which is the Nigerian way of saying ‘the day after tomorrow’. It was first used in written English as a noun in 1953, and as an adverb in 1964. The youngest of the words in this batch is Kannywood, first used in 2002, which is the name for the Hausa-language film industry based in the city of Kano. It is a play on Hollywood, following the model of Nollywood, the more general term for the Nigerian film industry that was added to the OED in 2018.
Nigerian Pidgin is another rich source of new words for Nigerian English. Sef, first evidenced in Nigerian author Ben Okri’s novel Flowers and Shadows, published in 1980, is an adverb borrowed from Pidgin, which itself could have been an adverbial use of either the English adjective safe or the pronoun self.
… A few other expressions in this update would require some explanation for non-Nigerians: a barbing salon (earliest quotation dated 1979) is a barber’s shop; a gist (1990) is a rumour, and to gist (1992) is to gossip; when a woman is said to have put to bed (1973), it means that she has given birth; something described as qualitative (1976) is excellent or of high quality.