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
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.
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 French, English, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
Africa just lost a giant… the world just lost a literary genius. Chinua Achebe was made of the cloth of kings. He was the emperor of words and just made reality seems so funny. He wrote in English, but yet made it his own; he made it African. Please hear the maestro in his own words.
“Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.” – Things Fall Apart.
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart,” – Things fall Apart.
Achebe was a man of character, who could not be corrupted by honors. He twice turned down the offer of a title Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic, once in 2004 from Nigeria’s then President Olusegun Obasanjo and again in 2011 from President Goodluck Jonathan. He explained on the BBC: “What’s the good of being a democracy if people are hungry and despondent and the infrastructure is not there,” … “There is no security of life. Parts of the country are alienated. Religious conflicts spring up now and again. The country is not working.” Declining the honor, he wrote that “for some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the presidency … Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment and protest by declining to accept the high honour awarded me in the 2004 honours list.”
He wrote: “You see we, the little people of the world, are ever expendable.”
“It is sometimes good to be brave and courageous, but sometimes it is better to be a coward. We often stand in the compound of the fool and point at the ruins where a brave man used to live. He who has never submitted to anything will one day submit to his burial mat.” – Things fall apart.
“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.” – Anthills of the Savannah.
“To me, being an intellectual doesn’t mean knowing about intellectual issues; it means taking pleasure in them.”
“Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am – and what I need – is something I have to find out myself.”
“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised. ”
“We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.” – The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays.
“‘It’s true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme.” – Things fall Apart.
“Unfortunately, oppression does not automatically produce only meaningful struggle. It has the ability to call into being a wide range of responses between partial acceptance and violent rebellion. In between you can have, for instance, a vague, unfocused dissatisfaction; or, worst of all, savage infighting among the oppressed, a fierce love-hate entanglement with one another like crabs inside the fisherman’s bucket, which ensures that no crab gets away. This is a serious issue for African-American deliberation…. To answer oppression with appropriate resistance requires knowledge of two kinds: in the first place, self-knowledge by the victim, which means awareness that oppression exists, an awareness that the victim has fallen from a great height of glory or promise into the present depths; secondly, the victim must know who the enemy is.He must know his oppressor’s real name, not an alias, a pseudonym, or a nom de plume!” – The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays.
“Women and music should not be dated.” – No Longer at Ease
“A man who pays respect to the great, paves the way for his own greatness.”
“I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections – was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them.”
“Procrastination is a lazy man’s apology.” – Anthills of the Savannah
About his gift of writing, he said: “There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. … Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian.”… “It’s not one man’s job. It’s not one person’s job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail — the bravery, even, of the lions.”
Tributes are pouring out from all corners of the world. Truly to have written a book which has been translated in over 50 languages is a great achievement for an African, and for anybody in this world. To boast over 20 literary works is amazing. As the Igbo proverb says: ” it is simply impossible for an iroko tree to fall and the forest to remain quiet.” A giant left us today, but his fingerprints will remain forever.
If the nobel prize was made to celebrate excellence, Chinua Achebe, should have certainly gotten it. Today his work is celebrated in every corner of the world!
Today, We will look at a poem by the most celebrated Ivorian writer Bernard Binlin Dadié. The poem below is titled “Dry your Tears Afrika” or “Sèche Tes Pleurs“. Published in 1967, this poem is basically about Africa and her sons and daughters returning home. It is about healing the wounds of slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. This poem was actually translated into Mende, a language spoken by ~ 46% of Sierra Leone. It was also set to music by American composer John Williams for the Steven Spielberg movie, Amistad. Below is the original poem in French, written by Dadié. The English version can be found below. Enjoy the text, and the video of the poem sung in Mende with the English translation.
Sèche tes pleurs Afrique! Tes enfants te reviennent dans l’orage et la tempête des voyages infructueux. Sur le ris de l’onde et le babil de la brise, Sur l’or des levants Et la pourpre des couchants des cimes des monts orgueilleux Et des savanes abreuvées de lumière Ils te reviennent dans l’orage et la tempête des voyages infructueux. 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.
Sèche tes pleurs, Afrique! Tes enfants te reviennent Les mains pleines de jouets Et le coeur plein d’amour. Ils reviennent te vêtir De leurs rêves et de leurs espoirs.
Bee ya ma yee ah, bee len geisia bee gammah. Bee ya ma yee ah, bee len geisia tee yamanga. Baa wo, kah ung biah woie yaa. Baa wo, kah ung biah woie yah, yah. Oo be ya ma yee ah, bee len geisia tee yamanga. Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Afrika. Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Afrika.Bee ya ma yee ah, bee len geisia tee yamanga. Mu ya mah mu yeh, bee len geisia bee gammah. Oo bee ya mah yee ah Bee len geisia tee yamanga. Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Afrika. Mu ya mah mu yah, Mu ya mah mu yah, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Afrika.
Be ya mah yee ah, bee len geisia tee yamanga. Be ya mah yee ah, bee len geisia bee gammah. Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Afrika. Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Afrika. Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Mu ya mah mu yeh, Afrika.