100 years after René Maran, An African wins the Prestigious Prix Goncourt

Mbougar Sarr
Mohamed Mbougar Sarr (Source: France 24)

Meet Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, the Senegalese writer who has just won the Prix Goncourt, France’s oldest and most prestigious literary prize. This makes him the first writer from sub-Saharan Africa, a Black African, to win the prize. Isn’t it funny that I was recently reading about René Maran, the first person of African descent (from French Guyana) to win the prestigious Goncourt prize in 1921 for his novel Batouala? This was the first French novel to openly criticize European colonialism in Africa, which caused violent reactions and was banned in all French colonies. So 100 years later, we have the first African to win the prize.

Mbougar Sarr-la plus secrete memoire des hommes
“La plus secrète mémoire des hommes” de Mohamed Mbougar Sarr

Mbougar Sarr is the youngest winner of the Goncourt since 1976. He hails from Senegal, where he grew up in the city of Diourbel, a small city located about 100 miles from the capital Dakar, before moving to France to study literature. His winning novel, La plus secrète mémoire des hommes (The Most Secret Memory of Men), tells the story of a young Senegalese writer living in Paris who stumbles by chance across a novel published in 1938 by a fictional African author named TC Elimane, nicknamed “the Black Rimbaud” by an ecstatic Paris media. The story, described as a reflection on the links between fiction and reality, follows the life of a cursed African writer echoing the real-life experience of the Malian writer Yambo Ouologuem who in 1968 was the first African winner of the prix Renaudot, but was later accused of plagiarism, and had to flee France and vanish from public

life.

Rene Maran_1
Posting of René Maran as he won the Prix Goncourt for Batouala

Previous works by Mbougar Sarr, Terre Ceinte (his first novel published in 2015) and Silence du choeur (2017) have won several prizes including the Prix Ahmadou-Kourouma, and the Grand prix du roman métis. Congratulations to Mohamed Mbougar Sarr for winning the 2021 Prix Goncourt. It took 100 years after René Maran for Sub-Saharan Africa to have a winner of the Goncourt !!! 

Who killed Thomas Sankara? The Trial starts in Burkina Faso

We all know who killed Thomas Sankara… and we all know that it was an international affair with Blaise Compaoré at the center, France, Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Cote d’Ivoire and even Liberians… we all know… but with all the cover-ups, and the powerful owing the justice, will we, citizens of Burkina Faso and Africa ever get justice for Thomas Sankara and his family? Well, the trial started this past Monday in Ouagadougou, without the main actor Blaise Compaoré, the coward previous president of Burkina Faso who got Ivorian citizenship to avoid getting extradited to face his crimes against the people of Burkina Faso… really a coward… how could someone like that have ever governed people? Excerpts below are from the BBC. Enjoy!

====

Thirty-four years, almost to the day, since the shocking killing of Burkina Faso‘s then President, Thomas Sankara, 14 men are going on trial, accused of complicity in the murder of the man known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”.

The charismatic Pan-Africanist was shot dead aged 37 by soldiers during a coup on 15 October 1987, which saw his close friend, Blaise Compaoré, come to power.

Four years previously, the pair had staged the takeover which saw Sankara become president.

Mr Compaoré is among the 14 accused but he is currently in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast, where he fled after being forced to resign during mass protests in 2014. He has repeatedly denied involvement in Sankara’s death and is boycotting the trial.

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” the former president’s widow Mariam Sankara told the BBC. “I want to know the truth, and who did what.”

Sankara remains something of an icon across Africa – … across the continent in South Africa, radical opposition leader Julius Malema cites him as one of his inspirations.

Amilcar Cabral on the Colonizer installing Puppets

Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin
Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin

As you all know, we have seen in recent coups and throughout history, that the colonizers/oppressors in Africa tend to install fake chiefs, or rather puppets to serve their interests. Remember when Agoli-Agbo (French puppet) was installed after King Behanzin was deposed in 1894? or Patrice Lumumba with Joseph Mobutu in 1961, or more recently Thomas Sankara by Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso in 1987, and countless others … history repeats itself. This behavior is not just observed at the top of the country, but even at the levels of the local traditional chiefs… where the successions are contested thus breaking the will of the people, and the passing on of a culture, effectively destroying the oppressed. I could not have said it better than  Amilcar Cabral, himself during his February 20, 1970 speech, as part of the Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, under the auspices of The Program of Eastern African Studies. Enjoy!

Amilcar Cabral
Amilcar Cabral

====

the colonizer who represses or inhibits significant cultural activity on the part of the masses at the base of the social pyramid, strengthens and protects the prestige and the cultural influence of the ruling class at the summit. The colonizer installs chiefs who support him and who are to some degree accepted by the masses; he gives these chiefs material privileges such as education for their eldest children, creates chiefdoms where they did not exist before, develops cordial relations with religious leaders, builds mosques, organizes journeys to Mecca, etc. And above all, by means of the repressive organs of colonial administration, he guarantees economic and social privileges to the ruling class in their relations with the masses. All this does not make it impossible that, among these ruling classes, there may be individuals or groups of individuals who join the liberation movement, although less frequently than in the case of the assimilated “petite bourgeoisie.” Several traditional and religious leaders join the struggle at the very beginning or during its development, making an enthusiastic contribution to the cause of liberation.

But here again vigilance is indispensable: preserving deep down the cultural prejudices of their class, individuals in this category generally see in the liberation movement the only valid means, using the sacrifices of the masses, to eliminate colonial oppression of their own class and to re-establish in this way their complete political and cultural domination of the people.

… among the oppressor’s most loyal allies are found some high officials and intellectuals of the liberal professions, assimilated people, and also a significant number of representatives of the ruling class from rural areas.

… Without minimizing the positive contribution which privileged classes may bring to the struggle, the liberation movement must, on the cultural level just as on the political level, base its action in popular culture, whatever may be the diversity of levels of cultures in the country. The cultural combat against colonial domination–the first phase of the liberation movement–can be planned efficiently only on the basis of the culture of the rural and urban working masses, including the nationalist (revolutionary) “petite bourgeoisie” who have been re-Africanized  or who are ready for cultural reconversion. Whatever may be the complexity of this basic cultural panorama, the liberation movement must be capable of distinguishing within it the essential from the secondary, the positive from the negative, the progressive from the reactionary in order to characterize the master line which defines progressively a national culture.

Confronted with such a necessity, the liberation struggle is, above all, a struggle both for the preservation and survival of the cultural values of the people and for the harmonization and development of these values within a national framework.

Ruben Um Nyobe and Liberation

Ruben Um Nyobé
Ruben Um Nyobé

A while back, I asked a serious question: “How do We Continue the Fight when the Head has been Cut Off?” The struggle is big, and we cannot afford to live it in the hands of one person.

Ruben Um Nyobé said it so well, “The colonial peoples can neither do the policy of a party, nor that of a state, nor a fortiori that of a man. Colonial peoples make their own policy which is the policy of liberation from the colonial yoke and in their struggle for this so noble objective, the colonial peoples observe and judge. They observe the government, the parties, the persons, the media, not on their ideology or their program, but only and only on their attitude towards the demands of the people of our countries.

This is the position of the U.P.C. [Union des Populations du Cameroon (Cameroon People’s Union] at the service of the people of Cameroon.”

(« Les peuples coloniaux ne peuvent faire ni la politique d’un parti, ni celle d’un Etat ni à plus forte raison celle d’un homme. Les peuples coloniaux font leur propre politique qui est la politique de libération du joug colonial et dans leur lutte pour cet objectif si noble, les peuples coloniaux observent et jugent. Ils observent les gouvernements, les partis, les  personnages, les organes de presse, non sur leur idéologie our leur programme, mais seulement et seulement sur leur attitude à l’égard des revendications des populations de nos pays.

Voilà la position de l’U.P.C. au service du peuple camerounais. »)

Ruben Um NyobéCe que veut le people camerounais p. 103

As you can see, his answer does not just apply to Cameroon, or Africa, but to the entire world. The real government should be of the people by the people, for the people, and no person should stand against the will of the people or muffle its will, or sit on top of the people.

Celebrating Amilcar Cabral – National Liberation and Culture

Amilcar Cabral
Amilcar Cabral

Every September 12, we like to celebrate the life of Amilcar Cabral, the father of Cape Verdean and Guinea Bissau’s independence. As you all know, Cabral fought for the independence of his land, of his people, from the imperial Portuguese domination. He also talked a lot about understanding the link between national liberation and culture. The extract below is part of a speech originally delivered on February 20, 1970, as part of the Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, under the auspices of The Program of Eastern African Studies. It was translated from the French by Maureen Webster. Enjoy!

====

A people who free themselves from foreign domination will be free culturally only if, without complexes and without underestimating the importance of positive accretions from the oppressor and other cultures, they return to the upward paths of their own culture, which is nourished by the living reality of its environment, and which negates both harmful influences and any kind of subjection to foreign culture. Thus, it may be seen that if imperialist domination has the vital need to practice cultural oppression, national liberation is necessarily an act of culture.

On the basis of what has just been said, we may consider the national liberation movement as the organized political expression of the culture of the people who are undertaking the struggle. For this reason, those who lead the movement must have a clear idea of the value of the culture in the framework of the struggle and must have a thorough knowledge of the people’s culture, whatever may be their level of economic development.

… The experience of colonial domination shows that, in the effort to perpetuate exploitation, the colonizers not only creates a system to repress the cultural life of the colonized people; he also provokes and develops the cultural alienation of a part of the population, either by so-called assimilation of indigenous people, or by creating a social gap between the indigenous elites and the popular masses. As a result of this process of dividing or of deepening the divisions in the society, it happens that a considerable part of the population, notably the urban or peasant petite bourgeoisie, assimilates the colonizer’s mentality, considers itself culturally superior to its own people and ignores or looks down upon their cultural values. This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated or alienated group with direct implications for the behaviour of individuals in this group in relation to the liberation movement. A reconversion of minds–of mental set–is thus indispensable to the true integration of people into the liberation movement. Such reconversion–re-Africanization, in our case–may take place before the struggle, but it is completed only during the course of the struggle, through daily contact with the popular masses in the communion of sacrifice required by the struggle.

Lucy, the 3.2 Million Year Old Mankind’s Ancestor … in a Line of Ancestors

As we continue to learn more about Lucy, and the origin of mankind, I thought of sharing the video below. It is a short interview of Donald Johanson who found Lucy in 1974 in the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia. It is “In Conversation with Donald Johanson, a film by Pierangelo Pirak” on the BBC Earth. It is just a snippets, but it helps to perceive the change that occurred with the discovery of Lucy in our understanding of the human evolution and origin. There are definitely other documentaries, much longer that will give more information, but this is to wet your appetite. Since the discovery of Lucy, more Australopithecus afarensis have been found, and even older remains like those of the Kenyantropus platyops (3.5 million years) or the Ardipithecus (dated 4.4 million years).  Enjoy!

African Wins at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia winning the Gold during the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo 2020 (Source: ca.sports.yahoo.com)

This week more history has been made for Africa at the Olympics. Records have been broken and Africans have responded present with strength.

Tunisia, with Ahmed Hafnaoui offered the African continent its first medal of the games, by winning gold in the 400m freestyle swimming. Then, Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won silver in the Men’s 58kg Taekwondo.

Hugues Fabrice Zango getting his triple jump (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Burkina Faso got its first ever medal since the creation of the Olympic games. Hugues Fabrice Zango won the bronze medal in the Men’s triple jump. It was really good to watch him, and I am proud for this son of the land of Thomas Sankara. Moreover, he won his medal, Burkina Faso’s medal on the 61st anniversary of the country’s independence (as you know most Francophone countries are not really independent from France because of the FCFA, but this is a story for another day).

Namibia Christine Mboma came back from behind to win silver in the Women’s 200m in front of some of the world’s best. Now remember that Christine Mboma and her compatriot Beatrice Masilingi were barred from running their favorite distance, 400m, just a month ago, and had to all of sudden readjust to run 200m. They were declared ineligible for the longer race because of a genetic condition that raises their testosterone levels. South African Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion in the 800m (2016 and 2012), is the most famous DSD (difference in sexual development) athlete who has been stopped from running in Tokyo. All three 800m medallists at the 2016 Rio Olympics – Semenya, Burundi’s silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan bronze winner Margaret Wambui – were DSD athletes… I am not sure I understand the whole issue, because for me, I wonder how one can be born female and then one day some organization tells them that they are not female. I find it hard to fathom. So let’s see what will happen. Mboma is the first Namibian female to win an olympic medal… she is following in the tracks of the great Namibian athlete Frankie Fredericks (Frankie Fredericks: Sprinting to the Finish for Namibia).

Christine Mboma of Namibia (Source: indianExpress)

Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria won Silver in the Women’s freestyle 68kg. Ese Brume did not disappoint and won Nigeria’s first medal of the Tokyo Olympic Games, taking bronze in the women’s long jump.

Ethiopia Selemon Barega gave Ethiopia its first Men’s 10,000m gold since Kenenisa Bekele in 2008. Lamecha Girma won silver in the Men’s 3000m steeplechase. Gudaf Tsegay won bronze in the Women’s 5000m race, while Letesenbet Gidey won the bronze medal in Women’s 10000m.

Uganda Joshua Cheptegei, the World champion and world record holder, ran a controlled race to take the men’s 5000m gold; last week, he had also won silver in the Men’s 10,000m. Jacob Kiplimo won the bronze medal in the Men’s 10,000m racePeruth Chemutai became the first Ugandan woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal on Wednesday – triumphing in the Women’s 3,000m steeplechase.

Eliud Kipchoge winning gold at the Men’s marathon (Source: OregonLive.com)

Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, who had been training with legends like marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge thwarted World champion’s Sifan Hassan’s plans of winning a distance treble in Tokyo by retaining the women’s 1500m title by pulling ahead after the bell and winning gold. Her compatriot Peres Jepchirchir won the women’s marathon, defeating world record holder Brigid Kosgei  in the closing stages and winning in 2h27min20s, and Kosgei had to settle for silver. Hellen Obiri took home silver in Women’s 5,000m, while Hyvin Kiyeng won bronze in Women’s 3000m steeplechase. The men’s 800m gold went to Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir of Kenya, and his teammate Ferguson Rotich took silver. Timothy Cheruiyot took silver in the Men’s 1500m, while Compatriot Benjamin Kiven took bronze in the men’s 3000m steeplechase. Eliud Kipchoge successfully defended his olympic title at the marathon; he is only the 3rd person in the history of the games to win successive marathons.

South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker won gold, and broke the Women’s 200m world record for breaststroke on Friday. This earned her a call from the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, to congratulate her on her victory. Schoenmaker had previously won silver in the Women’s 100m breastrokes, while Bianca Buitendag took silver in surfing

Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali triumphed in the Olympic Men’s 3,000m steeplechase – ending Kenya’s 41-year unbeaten run on the distance.

Egypt’s Giana Farouk (Lotfy) won bronze in the Women’s kumite karate. Seif Eissa, Hedaya Malak, and Mohammed Elsayed Elsayed all won bronze medals in the Men’s 80kg taekwondo, Women’s 67kg taekwondo and Men’s 67kg Greco-Roman wrestling respectively.

Faith Kipyegon winning the 1500m (Source: si.com)

Ruth Gbagbi of Cote d’Ivoire won bronze in the Women’s 67kg Taekwondo. She had won Bronze also in Rio 2016. Ghana also took home bronze in the Men’s Feather (52-57kg) boxing with Samuel Takyi.

Lastly, Team Botswana (Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe, Zibane Ngozi, Bayapo Ndori) surprised everyone by giving a beautiful performance and winning the bronze amidst some of the world’s bests in the Men’s 4x400m relay.

Overall, it was a good game… As we turn the page of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which took place in 2021, we do hope that the Paris 2024 Olympics will be better for Africa, and that the world will be in a better place.

“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!

=====

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

   

African Representation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia winning the Gold during the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo 2020 (Source: ca.sports.yahoo.com)

Africa is well-represented at the Tokyo olympics this year. Even though it has only been 5 days, Africans have already won quite a few medals, starting with a gold metal from the Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui in 400m freestyle swimming, and silver medals for South Africans Tatjana Schoenmaker and Bianca Buitendag in 100m breastrokes and surfing, and Mohamed Jendoubi of Tunisia in Taekwondo; while Ruth Gbagbi of Ivory Coast, Hedaya Wahba and Seif Eissa both of Egypt all took bronze in Taekwondo.

This year, five new events have been added: surfing (not sure how many countries play this sport to be at the Olympics?), sport climbing (what sort of climbing is this? I have climbed so many trees I should be an olympian), baseball/softball (how many countries actually have teams for these, except those influenced by the US?), skateboarding (Olympics sport?) and Karate (It’s about time – always wondered why this global discipline was not part of the Olympics anyways).

There are quite a lot African athletes participating at the 2021 Tokyo 2020 olympics. Below are a few to keep an eye out on :

Algeria: Taoufik Makhloufi (gold in London2012 and 2 silvers Rio2016)

Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo (Olympics.com)

Botswana:  London 2012 silver medalist Nijel Amos is highly anticipated

Burkina Faso Triple jumper Hugues Fabrice Zango,

Burundi: Francine Niyonsaba (Rio2016 silver 800m)

Cote d’Ivoire: Ruth Gbagbi (bronze at Rio 2016), Cheick Cisse (gold at the last Olympics – Ivory Coast’s first gold medal ever) in Taekwondo, and the amazing runner Marie-Josee Ta Lou.

Egypt: Azmy Mehelba in shooting, Giana Farouk in Karate, Seif Eissa (won bronze yesterday) in Taekwondo

Eritrea: Merhawi Kudus in cycling (Eritrea’s first participation in cycling)

Ethiopia’s star runners Letesenbet Gidey and Selemon Barega

Gambia: Gina Bass in running

Kenya: we are highly expecting the amazing Brigid Kosgei  and Eliud Kipchoge (marathon world-record holder, gold medal in Rio 2016), and Rio 2016 silver Javelin winner Julius Yego.

Morocco: Khadija Mardi in boxing, Ramzi Boukhiam in surfing

Mozambique: Deisy Nhaquile in sailing

Niger: Abdoulrazak Issoufou Alfaga (Rio 2016 Silver – Taekwondo)

Nigeria: the anticipated long jumper and runner Blessing Okagbare, and Ese Brume

Seychelles: Rodney Govinden in sailing (second participation for the Seychelles)

South Africa: the super star swimmer Chad Le Clos (2012 gold, 2 silvers in 2016), Akani Simbane in running, Caitlin Rooskrantz in gymnastics (first participation of South Africa), Tatjana Schoenmaker (swimming) and Bianca Buitendag (surfing), Erin Sterkenburg (surfing), Boipelo Awuah (skateboarding – she is the youngest African athlete at the Olympics this year)

Tunisia: Ons Jabeaur in Tennis, Ines Boubakri (2016 Rio bronze medal) in fencing, this year’s gold winner in 100m freestyle Ahmed Hafnaoui, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics gold medalist Oussama Mellouli (long-distance swimmer), Mohamed Jendoubi

Uganda: Runners Jacob Kiplimo and Joshua Cheptegei

Zimbabwe golfer Scott Vincent

John Chilembwe on Why Africans should not be Fighting Europeans’ Wars

John Chilembwe on a 2000 Malawian Kwacha bill

As we have seen previously, during colonization, in Africa, African cities were segregated (European-Only Neighborhoods in African Cities before Independence); Europeans did not see Africans as equals and very often Africans were thrown into forced labor or subject to harsh treatments at the hand of the colonizers. Yet, when World wars I or II came in, suddenly Africans were sought to go fight in Europeans’ wars. As we saw again, upon their return, these men found that the conditions back home with the Europeans had not changed (Thiaroye: A French Massacre in Senegal‘Thiaroye Massacre’ by Ousmane Sembene); whereas during the war they were needed and on the battlefield they were seen as equal or rather as worthy of dying alongside Europeans or as cannon fodder, at home they were not even granted simple rights. One man, the great Pastor John Chilembwe of Nyasaland (modern-day Malawi), an early figure to the resistance against colonialism and a Malawian martyr stated at the end of 1914,

“…In times of peace, everything for Europeans only…But in time of war [we] are needed to share hardships and shed blood in equality…”

We understand that we have been invited to shed our innocent blood in this world’s war….[But] will there be any good prospects for the natives after…the war?” …. “We are imposed upon more than any other nationality under the sun.”

As you know, these wars did not only take place in Europe, but even in Africa where British were fighting Germans, etc, and once again Africans were recruited. Pastor Chilembwe opposed the recruitment of the Nyasan people to fight what he considered to be a war totally unconnected to them in neighboring Tanganyika (modern-day Tanzania) and beyond. In November 1914, following reports of large loss of life during fighting at Karonga, Chilembwe wrote a letter to The Nyasaland Times in Blantyre, explicitly appealing to the colonial authorities not to recruit black troops:

As I hear that, war has broken out between you and other nations, only whitemen, I request, therefore, not to recruit more of my countrymen, my brothers who do not know the cause of your fight, who indeed, have nothing to do with it … It is better to recruit white planters, traders, missionaries and other white settlers in the country, who are, indeed, of much value and who also know the cause of this war and have something to do with it … “