“Eve Congolaise / Congolese Eve” by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard

Congo_Brazzaville_Flag
Flag of the Republic of Congo

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.

African princess
African princess

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.

 

 

 

 

Eve Congolaise

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.

 

 

Congolese Eve

I saw 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

When the sun comes out closing behind him

The door of the night.

Les raciness congolaises, op. cit.

Beatrice of Congo : A Physical Portrait in 1710

Beatriz Kimpa Vita
Beatriz Kimpa Vita

Today we will talk about Beatrice of Congo, also known as Kimpa Vita, who was an African priestess and prophet who held a lot of power. Born into a noble clan, the Mwana Kongo clan, she was baptized in her youth, and later created her own religious movement which used Christian symbols but revitalized traditional Kongo cultural roots. She is seen as a strong antislavery figure; think about this for a moment, the catholic priests preaching christianity, yet silently participating in the slavery of the Kongolese. Didn’t it make total sense for her to turn away from catholicism and create a true Kongo religion? Her movement which is among some of the best documented in Kongo’s history is seen a precursor to modern African democracy movements. Below is the physical portrait of Beatrice of Congo by a contemporary Father Bernardo da Gallo in 1710 (Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com).

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Kongo Kingdom map
Kongo Kingdom map

This young woman was about twenty two years old. She was fairly tall and with fine features. On the exterior, she seemed very devout. She spoke with gravity, seeming to weigh all her words.  She predicted “the future and announced among other things that the judgment was near.”

She walked on tiptoes (toes), almost without touching the ground with the rest of her feet; she moved her flanks and whole body, like a snake, even though her body was tense, as if deprived of spirit, and with bulging eyes; spoke frantically with delirium.

Rapport du Père Bernardo da Gallo, Rome, 17 Decembre 1710, publié par Louis Jadin

Les Africains Vol.9, Editions J.A, C.-A. Julien, P. 58, (1977)

Belgian King Expresses ‘Deepest Regrets’ for Colonial Past in Congo

Belgian Congo_Genocide_Leopold II
King Leopold II

It took over 100 years for a Belgian King to finally ‘express his deepest regrets‘ for Belgium’s colonial past in Congo. As we recall, King Leopold II of Belgium perpetrated a genocide in CongoLeopold II took Congo, a country at least 10 times the size of Belgium, as his private property and killed millions of Congolese. It is said that he must have executed and maimed over 15 million people!

 

So now, Belgian King Philippe wrote a letter to the president of Congo Felix Tshisekedi, on 30 June 2020, the anniversary of the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo, stating: “During the time of the Congo Free State [1885-1908], acts of violence and brutality were committed that weigh still on our collective memory. The colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliations. I would like to express my deepest regrets for the wounds of the past, the pain of today, which is rekindled by the discrimination all too present in our society.” His remarks fell short of an apology! Should we applaud for this?

 

Belgian Congo_Genocide2
Picture of men holding cut-off hands (image by Alice S. Harris in Baringa 1904)

I say NO! To the Belgian King, I say you can eat your “deepest regrets”! Many are calling this progress, but I call this arrogance to wake up one day, and finally say, “I regret the past. Yes…, my grandfather committed acts of violence and brutality, killed your fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, … maimed your forefathers, decapitated so many of you … instilled fear into your psyche… destroyed your livelihood, your culture, and the entire foundation of your society.”

 

And so what? That’s it? Should we clap for you? where is the apology? Didn’t you think we knew that already? Where is the reparation? Don’t you know that Belgium is nothing without Congo? Coincidentally, King Philippe forgot to include the period following that time, from 1908 to the independence of Congo, and then to nowadays with the treacherous role played by Belgium in the assassination of the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and countless others, and the unrest in the region to this day.

Patrice_Lumumba_official_portrait
Official portrait of Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of Congo

And to stand up there, and say I express my deepest regrets for the wounds of the past”… it’s like Hitler waking up today, and telling Holocaust survivors and their descendants, “I killed you, jailed your parents, forced you into exile, brought fear into your souls, and decimated every part of you… I regret it. What can you about it? ” It is simply arrogant! … It is just too easy. Until there is a clear “I am sorry”, until there is a clear “here is what we will do to right the wrongs,” until there is a clear “correction and inclusion in the history textbooks, opening of all classified documents”…. until there is a clear “respect for those killed, and for those living today” until then, there will be no respect for arrogant kings who claim to have been awaken by George Floyd’s killing in the USA and not the atrocities they themselves committed in Congo!

We, the people of Congo, cannot forget… we cannot forget that the unrest in Congo today is a direct result of the atrocities committed by Belgium in the region. We cannot forget the souls of our ancestors who still cry to us for justice today.

 

Pierre Nkurunziza: Some of His Achievements for Burundi

Burundi_Pierre Nkurunziza_8
Pierre Nkurunziza during a community event (Source: PressHerald.com)

Given all the negative rhetoric played by the foreign media, I thought it will be good to remind all of Pierre Nkurunziza‘s achievements. I will focus mostly on his work within his country of Burundi. As we saw earlier, internationally he helped broker peace in Somalia.

A popular president

A president in office doing manual work, taking part in soccer games, had never been seen before. This president, Pierre Nkurunziza, was not a “traditional” president in his white marble castle, but was seen rather as a simple man, a man of the people, a man like the people he served. He was seen cycling, and taking part in community work. He was also an avid soccer player and lover; he owned a soccer team and trained them.

Children_2
Some children

Free education and health

During his investiture, some of his first adopted measures were free primary school education (i.e. from Kindergarten through 6th grade), free childbirth, and free health for all children under 5. This might not be seen as much, but in a poor country such as Burundi, free primary school education definitely increases the literacy of the people and offers parents very needed help. Similarly, free health services for women during childbirth, and for children under 5 is a tremendous help. This is an achievement not seen in many places in the world, not even in Western countries.

A religious president

Nkurunziza was not afraid to show his faith. He was deeply religious. For each public event, or manual work, prayers were said at the beginning and at the end of these events. This led him to put God first in the constitution of the country, as well as establishing a day of national solidarity.

Burundi_Flag
Flag of Burundi

A Patriot

He deeply loved his country Burundi and his people. He pushed for ancient local cultures and values long forgotten to be re-instated and taught in schools. He established the national day of the commune which is celebrated in the old fashion.

 

 

The works

Road_2During his tenure, from 2007 to 2014, 5200 schools were built, compared to 1900 schools from 1962 to 2007. Several roads were asphalted and created RN12, RN13, RN15, RN18, RN19, … Hospitals and community universities, classrooms, stadiums, modern markets, including the new Ntare Rushatsi presidential palace were erected.

Most importantly, he is the first president of Burundi to have ruled the country without a civil war.

So long Pierre Nkurunziza: we, the people, salute your patriotism, love of your country, and people. You will be remembered for your great achievements.

Pierre Nkurunziza: So Long to the President who said ‘NO’ to the ICC, UN, WHO, BBC, and VOA

Burundi_Pierre Nkurunziza
Pierre Nkurunziza (Source: Al Jazeera)

This past Monday, the relatively young (55 years-old) president of Burundi,  Pierre Nkurunziza, died of a heart attack. It deeply saddened me. Why? Because of what he stood for, and his will to give decency to his own people or rather to govern his country without foreign involvement in their affairs. Pierre Nkurunziza was the first president of Burundi to have ruled without civil war.

With this global ‘pandemic,’ It have finally understood that whatever the West calls democracy is not really democracy, but rather the government of the entire population by a few. In the past, people have said that Pierre Nkurunziza was not a democrat and was holding onto power. Yet… he had been in power 15 years due to step down in August, and I did not hear the West complain about his neighbor Kagame in power for over 20 years. It is as if democracy is a word or rather a card pulled out of a bucket by Western powers to threaten those who prefer to do the bidding of the people rather than their bidding.

Burundi_Flag
Flag of Burundi

Given that he had asked the UN to get out of his country last year, and then last month the WHO, and was one of the few countries to get out of the WHO because of their compromising and virulent tendencies in his country… is it a surprise that he died so suddenly?

Nobody talks about his achievements. What were Pierre Nkurunziza’s achievements?

Upon assuming office in 2005, Nkurunziza faced the significant challenges of maintaining peace and stability in the country, as well as rebuilding its war-battered economy. Burundi was emerging from over 10 years of civil war and unrest when he took over.

He united the country and brought in peace, during his first 10 years.

He rebuilt the infrastructures of his country, and oversaw the disarmament of several armed groups in Burundi.

He helped foster peace in the region: in 2007, he sent troops to Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission to prevent al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked armed group, from overrunning the Horn of Africa country’s government.

Burundi_Pierre Nkurunziza_1
Pierre Nkurunziza was an avid footballer (Source: Al-Jazeera)

The East African Community, a regional bloc, said in a statement: “Nkurunziza’s contribution to the re-establishment of constitutional order, peace, ethnic tranquility, rights and equality for all since his ascendancy to power in 2005 in Burundi cannot be overemphasised.

His commitment to security and rights for all irrespective of social, ethnic, religious or political background remains a beacon on which Burundians can build on to further their development objectives,” it added.

In 2015, Nkurunziza made the controversial decision to seek a third term in office. A coup was launched in May 2015 while Nkurunziza was abroad, but it was swiftly foiled. Despite several delays, an opposition boycott, and ‘international’ pressure (we know what that means), polls were held and Nkurunziza won a third term. After the 2015 elections, the situation took a turn for the worse, when donors cut off funding and placed sanctions on Burundi (similar to Côte d’Ivoire when France was bombing it in 2010, or Libya with the NATO coalition in 2011, or Zimbabwe). History repeats itself, we now know that when a country is placed under ‘international’ sanctions, it is usually because the leader might be serving his people.

In 2017, Nkurunziza formally withdrew Burundi from the International Criminal Court (ICC) – the first country to do so – amid accusations the court was focusing too much on the continent. Every African country should withdraw from that sham called ICC which only prosecutes African (Black) leaders. Later the UN left (remember ONUCI taking sides in Côte d’Ivoire?), and BBC and VOA were kicked out of the country for inciting violence, and spreading false news.

Burundi basket
Burundi basket

In the streets of Bujumbura, “some residents said they would remember the former leader [avid football player], a born-again Christian known for his preaching, for the good things he did for their country.”

I will remember him for the advice he gave us. He always told us to love our country. He always put God first and someone who does that will not face hardships in life,” Achel Niyongere told Al Jazeera.

Patrick Harakandi added:  He is the first president to govern Burundi until he finished his term. He made history. He ruled Burundi for 15 years without a civil war.” (Al Jazeera)

Mory Kante : So long to an Electrifying Griot

Mory Kante_2
Mory Kante with his kora (Source: RadioKing.com)

I remember dancing to the tunes of “Yé ké yé ké” as a child… I also have fond memories of seeing Mory Kante play his kora, and being amazed by his dexterity, finesse, and charisma. Every note transported me to different horizons. It did not matter that I did not understand his language, I could feel the emotions he conveyed with his voice and kora… it was like magic: one could travel all the way to Guinea and back within the confines of one’s room.

On May 22, 2020, an honorable member of the Griot (Djeli) family, Mory Kante, moved to the land of his ancestors. In reality, he just changed dimensions, and left us with the electricity of his music. Born in 1950 in a small town near Kissidougou in Guinea, Mory Kante came from a long family tradition of griots (Djeli). Both of his parents were griots, his father was from Guinea and his mother from Mali  Mory absorbed the singing of his parents and as a child learned to play the balafon. As a child, his family sent him to Mali to study the kora and other griot traditions. 

Mory Kante_3
Mory Kante with some of the instruments he played including the balafon, kora, and djembe (Source: Express.co.uk)

Mory Kante is often known as the “electronic griot” because he modernized local traditional instruments such as his kora which he electrified, and fused African music with styles and instruments from Western pop. Kante’s 1987 single “Ye Ke Ye Ke” was a hit, first in Africa and then across Europe. It became the first African single to sell more than a million copies and has been licensed frequently for commercials and film soundtracks. It has even been reworked by other musicians into German techno, Bollywood film music and Chinese Cantopop.

If you ever come across a kora, or listen to Ye Ke Ye Ke remember this great man who modernized the ancient ways to share with us his love of the music of his forefathers. His music has inspired countless singers from the new generation. The New York Times , BBC, and Guardian have written articles about this great man.

Francis Bebey introducing us to the Communication System of Pygmy People

Francis Bebey_1
Francis Bebey

As we saw on Monday, Francis Bebey’s poem ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail’ / ‘I Came to Look for Work’ is the story of many immigrants, living their homes, families, friends and countries, to journey to far-away lands in search of a better living.

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!

 

‘Je suis venu chercher du travail’ / ‘I Came to Look for Work’ by Francis Bebey

Francis Bebey_1
Francis Bebey

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_Agatha Moudio Son
‘Agatha Moudio’s Son’ by Francis Bebey (Amazon)

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.

Je suis venu chercher du travail

Je suis venu chercher du travail

J’espère qu’il y en aura

Je suis venu de mon lointain pays

Pour travailler chez vous

J’ai tout laissé, ma femme, mes amis

Au pays tout là-bas

J’espère les retrouver tous en vie

Le jour de mon retour

Ma pauvre mère était bien désolée

En me voyant partir

Je lui ai dit qu’un jour je reviendrai

Mettre fin à sa misère

J’ai parcouru de longs jours de voyage

Pour venir jusqu’ici

Ne m’a-t-on pas assuré d’un accueil

Qui vaudrait bien cette peine

Regardez-moi, je suis fatigué

D’aller par les chemins

Voici des jours que je n’ai rien mangé

Auriez-vous un peu de pain?

Mon pantalon est tout déchiré

Mais je n’en ai pas d’autre

Ne criez pas, ce n’est pas un scandale

Je suis seulement pauvre

Je suis venu chercher du travail

J’espère qu’il y en aura

Je suis venu de mon lointain pays

Pour travailler chez vous

I came to look for work

I came to look for work

I hope that there will be

I came from my far away country

To work for you

I left everything, my wife, my kids

In my country over there

I hope to find them all alive

On the day of my return

My poor mother was very sorry

To see me go

I told her that I will come back one day

To put an end to her misery

I had long days of travel

To get here

Was I not assured of a welcome

Which will be worth all this trouble

Look at me, I am tired

To go by the ways

It has been days since I ate anything

Do you have some bread?

My trouser is all ripped

But I don’t have another

Do not scream, it is not a scandal

I am just poor

I came to look for work

I hope there will be

I came from my far away country

To work for you

Inédit

The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu

Mali_Timbuktu from a terrace by Heinrich Barth 1858
View of Timbuktu in 1858 by explorer Heinrich Barth 

As you all know Timbuktu was a great center of knowledge in search for  for many centuries starting at least in the 12th century. It was visited by people from around the world, in search of knowledge.

Timbuktu was one of the world’s first and oldest thriving universities! Students came from all over the world to study at Timbuktu. Imagine that, students from the middle east, and Europe coming to study in Africa! There are over 700,000 manuscripts at the great Sankore University in Timbuktu, and many more at other libraries including the  Ahmed Baba Institute, Al-Wangari Library, and others.

Enjoy this documentary about the lost libraries of Timbuktu commented by the Scottish/Sierra Leonean writer Aminatta Forna. Enjoy, and discover with me the treasures of Africa.

John Amanam: Making Super Realistic Prostheses in Africa for Africans

Meet John Amanam, the Nigerian artist/engineer building super-realistic prostheses for Africans in Africa. I really liked his work: this is a self-thought man who used to work in the Nollywood industry, with no real training in prostheses, but a love of sculpture and most importantly of his fellow human being. After noticing family members who had lost limbs, he set out to make realistic-looking and affordable limbs with ebony, or mahogany shades, the shades of his fellow brothers and sisters. In essence, he is giving back confidence to those who have lost limbs. Enjoy!