“Ils sont venus ce soir” / “They Came Tonight” by Leon Gontran Damas

Léon_Damas
Léon-Gontran Damas

They Came Tonight” is a poem by the celebrated French Guyanese author Léon-Gontran Damas. He is renowned as one of the founders of the Négritude movement, along Aimé Césaire and Leopold Senghor. In 1935, the three men published the first issue of the literary review L’Étudiant Noir (The Black Student), which provided the foundation for what is now known as the Négritude Movement, a literary and ideological movement of French-speaking black intellectuals, writers, and politicians of the African diaspora during the 1930s, aimed at raising and cultivating “Black consciousness” across Africa and its diaspora; this movement rejected the political, social and moral domination of the West.

Slavery_Ship1
Slaves on board a ship

They Came Tonight” is a poem similar to ‘Ils Sont Venus’ de François Sengat-Kuo / ‘They Came’ by François Sengat-Kuo. In this case, it talks about when the Europeans came during slavery time, one night as the drums were thundering, and after that many Africans were taken away from their homes, from their loved ones, many were captured, and the day was never the same, history was never the same, families were destroyed, kingdoms destroyed, and to this day, Africa has not recovered for 400 years of slavery. This poem was first published in Pigments 1937, and later in Présence africaine, 1962.

 

Ils sont venus ce soir (Pour Léopold-Sedar Senghor)

ils sont venus ce soir où le
tam
tam
roulait de
rythme en
rythme
la frénésie

des yeux
la frénésie des mains
la frénésie
des pieds de statues
DEPUIS
combien de MOI MOI MOI
sont morts
depuis qu’ils sont venus ce soir où le
tam
tam
roulait de
rythme en
rythme
la frénésie
des yeux
la frénésie
des mains
la frénésie
des pieds de statues

They Came Tonight
for Léopold-Sedar Senghor

They came the night the
drums
spun from
rhythm
to
rhythm
the frenzy

of eyes
the frenzy of hands
the frenzy
of the feet of statues
SINCE
how many of ME ME ME
are dead
since they came that night when the
drums
spun from
rhythm
to
rhythm
frenzy
of eyes
frenzy
of hands
frenzy
of the feet of statues

A Gift from the African Heritage Blog

To celebrate our 10-years anniversary, one of our contributors is offering you this amazing book on Amazon . A king, a beautiful princess, and a pot of hot chili sauce… the combination is bound to make you laugh. Enjoy this book, an African Children’s book, for young and young at heart! It is on kindle e-book in both French and English.

 

cover-image
The Hare, The Princess, and the Hot Chili Sauce

 

‘My Name’ by Magoleng wa Selepe

Colonization in Africa
Village school in French West Africa (AOF) 1900s – French assimilationism (Louis Sonolet, Source: http://exhibitions.nypl.org)

The poem ‘My Name‘ by Magoleng wa Selepe has touched many strong chords. It is the truth, and still rings true today. During colonial times, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were stripped of their names and identity: to go to school, they had to have a European name, and very often their own names were distorted because the European colonizer could not spell it properly. Depending on the origin of the colonizer, whether it was France, Great Britain, Germany, or Portugal, one ended up with a French, British, German, or Portuguese name. Enjoy !!!

African Heritage

African Savanna

I just thought about what happened to our fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and grandfathers during colonial times: to go to school African children were forced by European missionaries to adopt a christian name such as John, Peter (Jean, Pierre), etc… as opposed to their good old African name Nomzimo, Makeba, Ndoumbe, Keïta, etc.  Thus many Africans who would have just worn the name ‘Ndoumbe Mpondo‘ or ‘Binlin Dadié‘ or ‘Um Nyobé‘ had to adopt a European name such as John + their own name, such that they became: John Ndoumbe Mpondo or Bernard Binlin Dadié or Ruben Um Nyobé.  To this day, the tradition has remained… most Africans would have three or four names: their family name, and their given name, plus the European first name and in some cases a European middle name as well.  The poem below entitled…

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‘Love Poem for my Country’ by Sandile Dikeni

IMG_1652
Mt Bamboutos in Cameroon

Reblogging this all-time favorite poem on the African Heritage Blog.

A few questions for the readers: what do you like the most about this poem by Sandile Dikeni? What is special? And what made you connect to it? What in this poem describes your country or is there something in it which describes your country?

African Heritage

An antelope at dusk An antelope at dusk in the African Savannah

In the past I have always wished that we, Africans, could be patriotic.  I came across this beautiful poem ‘Love poem for my country‘ by South African writer Sandile Dikeni.  I really enjoy the way the author describes his country, the valleys, the birds, the ancient rivers, and its beauty.  He feels the peace, the wealth, and the health his country brings.  He is one with his country.  He is at home!  His country is not just words or food, or friends, or family, it is more, it is his essence!  That is true patriotism, the bond that links us to the bone to our motherland.  Enjoy!

My country is for love
so say its valleys
where ancient rivers flow
the full circle of life
under the proud eye of birds
adorning the…

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Toni Morrison : First Black Woman to Win a Nobel Prize in Literature

Toni Morrison_1
Toni Morrison (Source: OvationTV.com)

Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison, the first Black woman to win a Nobel prize in literature, has passed away at the age of 88. I have read some of her books: “The Bluest Eye” which was part of my Dad’s collection and which I devoured, “Beloved” (I saw the movie, and was left with a ‘What just happened?’ feeling at the end of it), “Song of Solomon,” and “Sula“… I have to admit that I started “Jazz” but never finished it for lack of time. To be honest, Toni Morrison and I did not jive… I read the books, but I always felt like I needed to read them more than once to actually understand them. I believe that was her signature: her books were no cookie-cutter type-literature, but profound, heartbreaking, and conscience shakers; they had this earth-shattering effect, where you really walked a mile in the protagonist’s shoes. They also always had this musical and poetic feel to them, … maybe that’s why I kept coming for more?

 

Toni Morrison_Beloved_3
‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison had an outstanding career. She started late as a writer at age 39 and was editor of textbooks at Random House before fiction: she was the first African American editor there. She then became one of the world acclaimed writer, and professor at some of the best universities in the world: Cornell University and Princeton University. She won the Nobel laureate in Literature in 1993, thereby becoming the first and only Black woman to win it to date. She was even on the cover of Time Magazine in 1998, only the second female writer of fiction and second black writer of fiction to appear on one of the most significant U.S. magazine covers of the era. And … she of course, benefited from the Oprah effect!

 

Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful — a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy,” President Obama wrote Tuesday on his Facebook page. “She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page.”

Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me,” she said in her Nobel lecture. “It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge.”

She also said, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”  So get ready… it’s your turn to carry Toni Morrison’s torch!

 

“Independencia Total” by Alda Neves da Graça do Espírito Santo

500 Fcfa_BEAO
1000 Fcfa_BEAO

I recently read the national anthem of São Tomé and Príncipe, and thought of how much it represents the aspirations of the entire African continent, especially for French speaking countries which are still under that awful nazi currency system called FCFA through which France has been siphoning over 500 billion dollars every year for free! What do I mean by free? Well, because the FCFA (France’s Colonial Tax on Africa) is a currency of servitude and is a colonial tax paid by African countries to France (Africa is funding Europe!). 14 african countries (15 if you count also the Comoros whose currency is not called the same, but is nonetheless pegged to France) are obliged by France, through a colonial pact, to put 50% (it used to be 85%, then 65%, …) of their foreign reserves into France’s central bank under the French minister of Finance control. As we speak today in 2019, Senegal and about 13 other African countries still have to pay colonial debt to France. African leaders who refuse are killed or victim of a coup. To learn more, also read The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa.

Sao Tome Flag
Flag of Sao Tome and Principe

The national anthem of São Tomé and Príncipe, rightfully titled Independência total (Total Independence), was written by Alda Neves da Graça do Espírito Santo, the celebrated Sao Tomean poet and writer who was a minister on several occasions and also the president of the national Assembly. Her poem for the national anthem was adopted in 1975. As you read it, wherever you see Sao Tome and Principe, replace by Africa, African continent and claim the total independence: “Warriors in the war without weapons, Live flame in the soul of the people, Congregating the sons of [Africa], Around the immortal Fatherland, Total independence, total and complete.” Enjoy!

Chorus:

Independência total,

Glorioso canto do povo,

Independência total,

Hino sagrado de combate.

 

Dinamismo

Na luta nacional,

Juramento eterno

No país soberano de São Tomé e Príncipe.

Guerrilheiro da guerra sem armas na mão,

Chama viva na alma do povo,

Congregando os filhos das ilhas

Em redor da Pátria Imortal.

Independência total, total e completa,

Construindo, no progresso e na paz,

A nação mais ditosa da Terra,

Com os braços heroicos do povo.

 

Chorus

Trabalhando, lutando, presente em vencendo,

Caminhamos a passos gigantes

Na cruzada dos povos africanos,

Hasteando a bandeira nacional.

Voz do povo, presente, presente em conjunto,

Vibra rijo no coro da esperança

Ser herói no hora do perigo,

Ser herói no ressurgir do País.

Chorus

Dinamismo

Na luta nacional,

Juramento eterno

No pais soberano de São Tomé e Príncipe.

Chorus:

Total independence,

Glorious song of the people,

Total independence,

Sacred hymn of combat.

 

Dynamism

In the national struggle,

Eternal oath

To the sovereign country of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Warriors in the war without weapons,

Live flame in the soul of the people,

Congregating the sons of the islands

Around the Immortal Fatherland.

Total independence, total and complete,

Building, in progress and peace,

The happiest nation on earth,

With the heroic arms of the people.

 

Chorus

Working, struggling, struggling and conquering,

We go ahead with giant steps

In the crusade of the African peoples,

Raising the national flag.

Voice of the people, present, present and united,

Strong beat in the heart of hope

To be a hero in the hour of peril,

A hero of the Nation’s resurgence.

Chorus

Dynamism

In the national struggle,

Eternal oath

To the sovereign country of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Proud to be Black: A Quote by Bernard Dadié

Mwekassa1
Zack Mwekassa, Former World Champion of Boxing and Kick Boxing (Source: Glory KickBoxing)

Je vous remercie mon Dieu, de m’avoir créé Noir, … Je suis content de la forme de ma tête faite pour porter le Monde, Satisfait de la forme de mon nez Qui doit humer tout le vent du Monde, Heureux de la forme de mes jambes Prêtes à courir toutes les étapes du Monde.

I thank you God, for making me black, I am happy with the shape of my head shaped to carry the world, Satisfied with the shape of my nose which has to smell all the scents of the world, Happy with the shape of my legs ready to run all the steps of the world.

Bernard Binlin Dadié.  The poem above is titled “I Thank you God” or “I thank you my God,”

German Warfare in Africa: 1884 Bombings in Kamerun and The Defiance of Kum’a Mbappé

douala_vue des airs
View of Douala from the airs: on the other side of the bridge (not shown) is Bonabéri, old Hickory Town

I never thought that bombing, grenades, and warships had been used in wars in Africa prior to the 20th century. Little did I know that it had been in use in the 19th century, during the European invasion of Africa that is known as the scramble for Africa. Today we will talk about the first bombings on Cameroonian soil which occurred on 22 December 1884, when Germans on warships SMS Bismarck and SMS Olga bombed Hickory Town (Bonabéri) in Cameroons Town (modern-day Douala). What might have caused these bombings by German forces on Cameroonian soil, long before the area was ever known as Kamerun?

Kamerun_Kuma Mbappe
Kum’a Mbappé, Bonaberi 1884 Liberte by Enoh Meyomesse

Well, when the 12 July 1884 Germano – Duala Treaty was signed between the representatives of the Jantzen & Thormählen firm and some of the Douala kings, King Ndumbé Lobé Bell and King Akwa, it was not a unanimous choice among the locals. As a matter of fact, most of the population was against the treaty, and sided with Kum’a Mbappé also known as Lock Priso, King of Hickorytown. The other kings had signed treaties ceding their lands to the Germans without consulting with the others. Kum’a Mbappé refused to sign the treaty. On that fateful day, when the Germans raised their flag in Hickory Town, after raising it in Joss Town, Kum’a Mbappé reacted by writing to the German consul: “Pull that flag down. No man buy we. They want to give us plenty dash, we tell them no. Leave us free and not make us plenty trouble.” The Germans, of course, did not heed the warning, and Kum’a Mbappé ordered the flag to be taken down and the mast ripped apart, a German merchant was killed in the fightings that ensued.

Kamerun_Eduard_von_Knorr
Eduard Knorr, in 1884

Kum’a Mbappé and his people courageously resisted and defeated the German army. The Germans were outnumbered. After this defeat, German consul Max Buchner wrote to Germany to send troops with real armament, cannons, bombs, grenades, in order to level out Hickory Town and kill Kum’a Mbappé who was a thorn on his side.

Opposition to German rule followed the annexation of July 1884. Lock Priso still favored the British and staged a rebellion in December 1884. Around this same time, King Bell faced off against his own people, who were largely opposed to the German rule. Bell then found himself up against the other Duala chiefs in the Duala War, which was fought over the killing of a Bonabéri Duala and Bell’s alleged refusal to share his profits with the other sub-lineages. Germans played the competitors against one another – this is a classic technique used by Europeans: divide-and-conquer. They supported the weaker King Bell to counter the powerful King Akwa.

Kamerun_Corvette allemande SMS_OLGA durant la canonnade de Hickorytown on 21 Dec 1884
SMS Olga during the shelling of Hickory Town on December 21, 1884

From December 20th – 22nd, Commander Eduard von Knorr sent by Berlin decided to intervene immediately, and sent ashore a landing party of some three hundred men from warships SMS Bismarck and SMS Olga to arrest the leaders of the anti-German tribes and destroy their villages. The troops from SMS Bismarck that went ashore and landed north of Hickorytown, while the men from SMS Olga went ashore south of the village. The Germans fought their way into the town, forcing the local forces to retreat into the mangrove forest, where they could not easily be pursued. While this operation was underway, Knorr received word that other hostile locals had attacked the trading post operated by Jantzen & Thormählen in Joss Town and had captured the company’s local manager. Knorr sent SMS Olga upriver to shell enemy positions, and on 22 December, the landing parties returned to their ships, having lost one man killed aboard SMS Olga and eight men wounded between the two ships. German sailors descended on Bonabéri, and burnt the city down; the deluge of fire was endless and lasted several days. They also stole the princely bow or Tangué from Kum’a Mbappé’s ship, considered the symbol of the Belé-Belé people (people of Hickory-Town): the Tangué is a sort of a bow, carved and personalized, sort of a pennant that identifies a king among the people of these water tribes. The German consul Max Buchner wrote in his war diary,

Kamerun_Explorer_Max_Buchner
Max Buchner

Lock Priso’s palace is plundered, a colorful and striking image. We set it on fire. But I have asked all the houses to be inspected before to find ethnographic treasures. My main booty is a great wooden carved work, the princely bow (tangué) of Lock Priso, which will be sent to Munich.” [“Le palais de Lock Priso est mis à sac, une image colorée et saisissante. Nous y mettons le feu. Mais j’ai demandé avant d’inspecter toutes les maisons pour trouver des trésors ethnographiques. Mon butin principal est une grande œuvre sculptée en bois, la proue princière (tangué or tangu’a bolo, in Duala language) de Lock Priso, qui sera envoyée à Munich.”]

Kamerun_Lock Priso
The bow, Tangué, of Kum’a Mbappé at the Ethnographic Museum of Munich (Wikipedia)

After several days of fighting, the German army won because of their superior arms, and also the help sent by other Duala kings. Negotiations went on, and a peace treaty (i.e. a treaty acknowledging defeat) was finalized on 13 January 1885, forcing Kum’a Mbappé to accept German rule in Hickory Town. This hero of Cameroonian resistance, passed away in 1916.

The symbol of the Belé-Belé people, the Tangué, was only returned over 100 years later, after tireless work from one Kum’a Mbappé’s grandsons, Prince and professor Kum’a Ndumbe III and others. To learn more, please read the book Kum’a Mbappé Bonabéri 1884 Liberté! by Enoh Meyomesse, and visit the website of this proud descendant of Kum’a Mbappé, Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III at AfricAvenir.

A Quote from Bernard Dadié: “Thank You God for Making me Black”

Laughter_1
Rire / Laughter

Je vous remercie mon Dieu, de m’avoir créé Noir, Je porte le Monde depuis l’aube des temps Et mon rire sur le Monde, dans la nuit crée le jour.

I thank you God, for having created me black, I carry the world since the beginning of times And my laughter on the world, at night created the day.

Aube_1
Aube / Dawn

Bernard Binlin Dadié.  The poem below is titled “I Thank you God” or “I thank you my God,” “Je vous Remercie Mon Dieu” de Bernard B. Dadie / “I Thank You God” from Bernard Binlin Dadie