When Silence is Strength

Silence

An eminent nobleman found one morning that his house had been broken into and all his belongings stolen.

Instead of sounding alarms, he gathered his wives and children in the courtyard, and without saying anything, took place in their midst, calmly smoking his pipe.

Towards the middle of the morning, two young men arrived. They found the family gathered in silence, and thinking that they were mourning the theft that they had perpetrated the night before, they spread in compassion:

  • We were out of the village for several days, said one to the nobleman. Back this morning, we were informed of what has happened to you, and we could not leave without coming to commiserate with you.

For all answer, he had them arrested and tied, before telling them what he had been victim of. The young men confessed.

It is since this story that there is an adage which says that we catch the animal by the paw and the man by the word.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 39 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y.Afrolegends.com

Dry Your Tears African! – Words from Bernard Dadié

Dry your tears African

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.

 

The poem below is titled “Dry your Tears Afrika” or “Sèche Tes Pleurs,” published in 1967, by Bernard Binlin Dadié (So long to an African Literary Genius: Bernard Dadié).

 

“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.

‘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

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

“Dances of Yesterday” (Danses d’Hier) by Antoine Abel

Seychelles_Antoine Abel_Livre
Antoine Abel, Seychelles’ most prominent author

One of Seychelles’ most acclaimed and prolific author is the writer Antoine Abel, who had been an ambassador of the indigenous culture of the island nation. He is considered by many as the father of Seychelles’ literature, and had an extensive career writing novels, short stories, poetry and plays in FrenchEnglish, and Creole. Most of his work dealt with the folklore of the Seychelles, and the natural environment of the islands, in which he wove in colorful personalities and histories inspired from the local culture. Descending from a family of slaves, he is the first Seychellois writer to expose to wide world to the literary gems of the country.

Below is one of his poems, ‘Dances d’hier‘ translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com. Enjoy the poem below, and also check out The Seychelles Ministry for Youth Sports and Culture which ‘remembers Antoine Abel.’

 

 

Danses d’hier

J’entends encore les staccatos
Le prolongement des sons des tam-tams
Des tam-tams du temps jadis

Alors les collines s’enflamment
Dans la nuit sèche
Les pieds des danseurs
Se baignent dans la fine poussière
De latérite
Et leurs pas scandent sauvagement
Un rythme endiablé

J’entends encore les notes rapides
La voix étouffée du « commandeur »
Se modulant dans l’air tiède du soir.

Alors les échines s’arc-boutent
Les unes aux autres
Et les hanches roulent comme des houles
Les ventres des danseuses voluptueuses
Ondulent lascivement…
Et des voix confuses s’interpellent
Impudemment.

Je perçois toujours les staccatos
Les grondements des “grosses caisses”
Par delà les années de mon enfance …
Je les porte en moi
Comme des stigmates.

Dances of Yesterday

I still hear the staccatos
The extension of the sounds of the drums
The drums from the old days

Then the hills ignite (flare)
In the dry night
The dancers’ feet
bathe in the fine dust
of laterite
And their steps wildly chant
A frenzied rhythm

I still hear the quick notes
The muffled voice of the « commander »
Modulating in the warm evening air.

Then the backs bridge
One with the other
And the hips roll like swells
The bellies of the voluptuous dancers
Wave sensually…
And confused voices call out
Impudently.

I still perceive the staccatos
The rumblings of the “big drums”
Beyond the years of my childhood…
I carry them in me
Like stigmas.

African Author wins Prestigious Literary Prize

Jennifer Makumbi
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

A Ugandan author based in Great Britain whose debut novel was initially rejected by British publishers for being ‘too African‘, has won one of the world’s richest literary prizes.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, the winner of the 2014 Commonwealth short fiction prize from Uganda but now living in the UK, has won one of the Windham Campbell Prizes from Yale University in the US.

Jennifer Makumbi_Kintu1
‘Kintu’ by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

She will receive $165,000 (£119,000). The prize money is more than double the amount that the Booker Prize winner gets, and organizers say it’s the richest award dedicated to literature after the Nobel Prize. Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu was first published in Kenya four years ago after British publishers rejected it for being “too African”. It was finally released in the UK this January. In Ugandan culture, Kintu is a mythological figure who appears in a legend of the Baganda of Uganda as a creation myth. According to this legend, Kintu was the first person on earth, the father of all people. Although her book is not about this Kintu, it follows a family who believes that there is a curse on them which has followed them over several generations, spanning more than 250 years.

I loved Makumbi’s Commonwealth short story, and lived through the pain of her main character. Now I cannot wait to read her first book and regal in Ugandan history and culture.

“Vos yeux prophétisent une douleur” de Tchicaya U Tam’si / “Your Eyes Prophesy a Pain” by Tchicaya U Tam’si

Tchicaya UTamsi
Tchicaya U Tam’si (Revuenoire.com)

I share with you a poem by the late Congolese writer Tchicaya U Tam’si, “Vos yeux prophétisent une douleur”/”Your Eyes Prophesy a Pain.” Gérald-Félix Tchicaya is mostly known by his pseudonym Tchicaya U Tam’si, where U Tam’si means ‘the one who speaks for his country‘. Born in Mpili in the former French Congo (Republic of Congo), he was a poet, journalist, and an activist. He is considered by many as one of the greatest poets of his generation.

Patrice Emery Lumumba
Patrice Emery Lumumba

U Tam’si’s poetry uses symbolism, dark humor, and surrealist, corporeal imagery to explore cultural identity in a politically unstable society. A member of the Congolese independence movement, a friend of Patrice Lumumba, U Tam’si creates work on the nature of African identity that is sometimes connected to Aimé Césaire’s Negritude movement, which advocated for the protection of a distinct African culture in the face of French colonialism and European exploitation.

To me, the pain U Tam’si talks about in this poem is that of slavery, of colonialism, of neo-colonialism, of tribalism. He talks as if he was in the 1600s, during slavery times, and predicting more pain. What do you think? What pain is U Tam’si talking about? The original poem was published in Anthologie Africaine: Poésie Vol2, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, 1988; the English translation is brought to you by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com.

Vos yeux prophétisent une douleur…

Comme trois terrils, trois collines de cendres!

Mais dites-moi de qui sont ces cendres?

La mer obéissait déjà aux seuls négriers

Des négres s’y laissaient prendre

Malgré les sortilèges de leurs sourires

On sonnait le tocsin

A coups de pied au ventre

De passantes enceintes:

Il y a un couvre-feu pour faisander leur agonie

Les feux de brousse surtout donnent de mauvais rêves

Quant à moi

Quel crime commettrais-je ?

Si je violais la lune

Les ressusciterais-je ?

Quelle douleur prophétisent vos yeux ?

 

Your eyes prophesy a pain …

As three heaps, three hills of ashes!

But tell me, from whom are those ashes?

The sea already obeyed only the slave ships

Niggers were being captured

Despite the spells of their smiles

The tocsin was sounded

Through kicks in the belly

Of pregnant passers-by:

There is a curfew to intensify their agony

Bushfires especially give nightmares

As for me

What crime would I commit?

If I raped the moon

Will I resuscitate them?

What pain do your eyes prophesy?

‘A ma Mère / To my Mother’ by Camara Laye

isis-horus1
Isis and Horus, an African mother

I am sure every African child has read either the entire book or excerpts of ‘L’Enfant Noir‘, ‘African Child‘ by the Guinean author Camara Laye . It is a school classic. When we were in school, the teacher will often give us dictations from this book. The book focuses mostly about Camara Laye ‘s childhood and was written in the 1950s at a time when most African writers were talking about independence, negritude, panafricanism, etc. This earned Laye’s some tough remarks from Cameroonian author Mongo Beti and others about his lack of interest in panafricanism and African independences. Today, I present to you this poem, ‘A ma mère / To my mother‘ of Camara Laye to his mother (published in Coup de Pillon), which is in reality an ode to all African women, and all mothers around the globe. Good to note his mentioning of blacksmiths in this poem, especially given that Camara Laye’s family was Malinke and he was born into a caste that traditionally worked as blacksmiths and goldsmiths. The English translation is by Deborah Weagel. Enjoy!

A ma Mère

Femme noire, femme africaine,
Ô toi ma mère, je pense à toi…
Ô Daman, ô ma Mère,
Toi qui me portas sur le dos,
Toi qui m’allaitas, toi qui gouvernas mes premiers pas,
Toi qui la première m’ouvris les yeux aux prodiges de la terre,
Je pense à toi…

Femme des champs, femme des rivières
femme du grand fleuve, ô toi, ma mère je
pense à toi…

Ô toi Daman, Ô ma mère,
Toi qui essuyas mes larmes,
Toi qui me réjouissais le cœur,
Toi qui, patiemment, supportais mes caprices,
Comme j’aimerais encore être près de toi,
Etre enfant près de toi !

Femme simple, femme de la résignation,
Ô toi ma mère, je pense à toi.
Ô Daman, Daman de la grande famille des forgerons,
Ma pensée toujours se tourne vers toi,
La tienne à chaque pas m’accompagne,
Ô Daman, ma mère,
Comme j’aimerais encore être dans ta chaleur,
Etre enfant près de toi…

Femme noire, femme africaine,
Ô toi ma mère,
Merci, merci pour tout ce que tu fis pour moi,
Ton fils si loin, si près de toi.

To my Mother

Black woman, African woman, O mother, I think of you …
O Dâman, O mother,
who carried me on your back, who nursed me,
who governed by first steps,
who opened my eyes to the beauties of the world, I think of you …

Woman of the fields, woman of the rivers, woman of the great river, O
mother, I think of you …

O Dâman, O mother, who wiped my tears,
who cheered up my heart,
who patiently dealt with my caprices,
how I would love to still be near you.

Simple woman, woman of resignation, O mother, I think of you.
O Dâman, Dâman of the great family of blacksmiths, my thoughts are
always of you, they accompany me with every step,
O Dâman, my mother, how I would love to still feel your warmth,
to be your child that is close to you …
Black woman, African woman, O mother, thank you; thank you for all
that you have done for me, your son, so far away yet so close to you!

 

‘My Africa’ by Michael Dei Anang

Africa
Africa

Today I stumbled upon a poem by Ghanaian author Michael Dei Anang which made me think a lot about Cheikh Anta Diop‘s work of re-educating the world about the place of Africa in history as the cradle of humanity. Michael Dei-Anang was a member of President Kwame Nkrumah‘s (Ghana’s first president) main secretariat and was concerned with the liberation of the rest of Africa still under colonial rule, at the time. Enjoy!

 

 

My Africa

by

Michael Dei-Anang

When vision was short

and knowledge scant,

Men called me Dark Africa

Dark Africa?

I, who raised the regal pyramids

and held the fortunes of Conquering Caesars

In my tempting grasp.

Dark Africa?

Who nursed the doubtful child

Of civilization

On the wand’ring banks of the life-giving Nile,

And gave to the teeming nations

Of the West a Grecian gift.