‘L’Oiseau en Liberté’ / ‘The Free Bird’ de Claude-Joseph M’Bafou-Zetebeg

Souimanga bronze / Bronzy sunbird

Wouldn’t it be nice to be a bird? To take off and fly away, carefree? What comes to mind when observing a bird: a great sense of freedom; freedom to come and go, freedom to sing, no worries for tomorrow, and freedom to just be. Beauty also comes to mind, but liberty always prevail as one of the main descriptors. I recently stumbled upon this poem by Cameroonian author Claude-Joseph M’Bafou-Zetebeg, ‘The Free Bird’ which describes so well that sense of freedom which most of us aspire to. The author focuses on a bird, and describes the freedom the bird enjoys, the lightness, which is greater than all fortunes. I present here ‘L’Oiseau en Liberté‘ by Claude-Joseph M’Bafou-Zetebeg, published in Anthologie Africaine: Poésie Vol2, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, 1988, and translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com . Enjoy!

L’Oiseau en liberté’ / ‘The Free Bird‘ de Claude-Joseph M’Bafou Zetebeg

L’oiseau qui passe là-bas,

L’oiseau léger

Qui bat des ailes

Et fend l’air là-bas à l’horizon,

N’a rien à lui au monde,

Mais comme il est joli

En liberté !

Et c’est en chantant

Qu’il vit sur la branche,

Le bel oiseau voyageur

Qui rythme les saisons.

Car rien ne vaut la liberté :

C’est la plus digne

De toutes les fortunes,

La liberté dont jouit l’oiseau

Qui vit sur la branche !

La liberté au feu sacré,

La liberté naturelle,

O la sainte liberté

Dont devrait jouir

Tout être

Dans sa facture naïve !

The bird that passes by,

The light bird,

Who flaps its wings

And splits the air over there in the horizon,

Has nothing of its own in the world,

But how pretty it is

In liberty!

And it is by singing

That it lives on the branch,

The beautiful traveling bird

Who punctuates seasons.

‘Cause nothing beats freedom:

It is the most worthy

Of all fortunes

The freedom enjoyed by the bird,

That lives on the branch !

Freedom in the sacred fire,

Natural freedom,

O the holy freedom

That every being should enjoy

In its naive craftsmanship !

‘On Top of Africa’ by B. Tejani

Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Have you ever dreamed of climbing Africa’s tallest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro? Of watching its snow-capped peaks under the tropics, near the equator? Mount Kilimanjaro rises to an elevation of 5,895 m above sea level and about 4,900 m above its plateau base in Tanzania; it is the largest and tallest free-standing mountain rise in the world, meaning that it is not part of a mountain range. The majestic Mount Kilimanjaro is an inactive snow-capped stratovolcano that extends for about 80 km from east-west and is made up of three principal volcanic cones namely Mawenzi, Kibo, and Shira. The highest summit of Kilimanjaro is located on the crater rim of Kibo volcano and has been named the Uhuru Peak, where ‘Uhuru’ means ‘freedom’ in the native Swahili language. Scientists estimate the glaciers may be completely gone in 50 years. Mount Kilimanjaro is often referred to as the “Roof of Africa”. Thus one can imagine what poet B. Tejani, and anyone who reaches the 4th tallest peak in the world, must have felt after ascending the mountain… on top of Africa, which is the title of Tejani’s poem about the joy of ascending Mt Kilimanjaro. Bahadur Tejani is a Kenyan author and poet, born of Gujarati parents in Kenya. He studied at the Makerere University in Uganda, Cambridge University, and the University of Nairobi. He later taught at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, as well as the University of Sokoto in Nigeria. As you read the poem, you are really transported to the slopes of the majestic mountain. As you watch the snow, ‘an ageless majesty‘ fills you. As you reach the summit, there is definitely at that moment ‘no great triumph in the soul‘, after the ‘agonied 20,000 steps upwards and onwards‘. Truly, only when the ordeal is finished ‘I shall remember the dogged voice of conscience self-pity warring with will‘. This poem is part of Poems from East Africa, ed. by D. Cook and D. Rubadiri (1971), p. 176. Enjoy!,

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Mt Kilimanjaro in 1911

On Top of Africa‘ by B. Tejani

Nothing but the stillness

of the snow

and an ageless majesty

matched

by those enduring horizons that bridge the heights of you and me.

The phosphorescent sun gliding from the dark cloud under us

shone a brief once while we lay

retching in the rarefied air.

No great triumph in the soul of those

twenty thousand agonied steps upwards, always onward.

Only anguish of an ending -the vacuumed intestines shivering at

another onslaught of mountain sickness.

An ice-axe prod in the back and with it the terrible thought of the

awful retreat down the cold slopes of possible deaths; dumb eyes and

feet

lit by a single tireless search for slumber

which is as far away from us as we from the plains.

Only when the nightmare is over I shall remember the dogged voice of

conscience

self-pity warring with will

of the brown body

to keep up

with the black flesh

forging ahead

on the way

to Kilimanjaro.

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

‘Love Poem for my Country’ by Sandile Dikeni

IMG_1652
Mt Bamboutos in Cameroon

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

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

African Heritage

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

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

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

View original post 110 more words

“If You Want to Know Me” by Noémia de Sousa

Noemia de Sousa
Noemia de Sousa (Source: Estudos Lusofonos)

Today I give you a poem by the world-renowned Mozambican author Noémia de Sousa. This poem gives vivid pictures: from the empty eye sockets which have lost hope, the mouth torn open in an anguished wound, a body tattooed with wounds unseen and seen… etc. Just reading it, one can feel the pain, see it, and touch it; it is so profound! Yet, she claims that this body is magnificent, that through the pain, it is beautiful. So what body is she talking about? Why, Africa, of course! She wrote this at a time when African countries were still under colonialism, and through this she introduces us to a beautiful Africa, which has gone through so much pain, but yet is still beautiful, and still rises. In general, I will take it a step further, and say that no matter what pain we go through today, we are still beautiful, and we will still rise! (* Maconde — uma das etnias de Moçambique.) Enjoy!

 

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Se Me Quiseres Conhecer
By Noémia de Sousa

Se me quiseres conhecer,
estuda com olhos de bem ver
esse pedaço de pau preto
que um desconhecido irmão maconde*
de mãos inspiradas
talhou e trabalhou
em terras distantes lá do Norte.

Ah, essa sou eu:
órbitas vazias no desespero de possuir a vida.
boca rasgada em feridas de angústia,
mãos enormes espalmadas,
erguendo-se em jeito de quem implora e ameaça,
corpo tatuado de feridas visíveis e invisíveis
pelos chicotes da escravatura…
Torturada e magnífica.
Altiva e mística.
Africa da cabeça aos pés
— Ah, essa sou eu!

Se quiseres compreender-me
vem debruçar-te sobre minha alma de Africa,
nos gemidos dos negros no cais
nos batuques frenéticos dos muchopes
na rebeldia dos machanganas
na estranha melancolia se evolando…
duma canção nativa, noite dentro…

E nada mais me perguntes,
se é que me queres conhecer…
Que eu não sou mais que um búzio de carne
onde a revolta de África congelou
seu grito inchado de esperança.

If You Want to Know Me
By Noémia de Sousa

If you want to know who I am,
Examine with careful eyes
That piece of black wood
Which an unknown Maconde brother
With inspired hands
Carved and worked
In distant lands to the North.

Ah, she is who I am:
Empty eye sockets despairing of possessing life.
A mouth slashed with wounds of anguish, huge flattened hands,
Raised as though to implore and threaten,
Body tattooed with visible and invisible scars
By the hard whips of slavery…
Tortured and magnificent.
Proud and mystical.
Africa from head to toe
-ah, she is who I am!

If you want to understand me
Come and bend over my African soul,
In the groans of the Negroes on the docks
In the frenzied dances of the Chopes
In the rebelliousness of the Shaganas
In the strange melancholy evaporating…
From a native song, into the night …

And ask me nothing more,
If you really wish to know me…
For I am no more than a shell of flesh
In which the revolt of Africa congealed
Its cry swollen with hope.

“Nuit de Sine” Léopold Sédar Senghor / “Night in Sine” by Leopold Sedar Senghor

Léopold Sédar Senghor
Léopold Sédar Senghor

Today, I will publish another poem,” Nuit de Sine / Night in Sine,” by Léopold Sédar Senghor. The poem was published in Oeuvre Poetique, Paris, Seuil, 1990 P. 14-15.  The English translation was done by Melvin Dixon, in The Collected Poems, 1998, Univ. of Virginia Press.

Nuit de Sine

Femme, pose sur mon front tes mains balsamiques,
tes mains douces plus que fourrure.
Là-haut les palmes balancées qui bruissent dans la haute brise nocturne
À peine. Pas même la chanson de nourrice.
Qu’il nous berce, le silence rythmé.
Écoutons son chant, écoutons battre notre sang sombre, écoutons
Battre le pouls profond de l’Afrique dans la brume des villages perdus.

Voici que décline la lune lasse vers son lit de mer étale
Voici que s’assoupissent les éclats de rire, que les conteurs eux-mêmes
Dodelinent de la tête comme l’enfant sur le dos de sa mère
Voici que les pieds des danseurs s’alourdissent,
que s’alourdit la langue des chœurs alternés.

C’est l’heure des étoiles et de la Nuit qui songe
S’accoude à cette colline de nuages, drapée dans son long pagne de lait.
Les toits des cases luisent tendrement.
Que disent-ils, si confidentiels, aux étoiles ?
Dedans, le foyer s’éteint dans l’intimité d’odeurs âcres et douces.

Femme, allume la lampe au beurre clair, que causent autour les Ancêtres
comme les parents, les enfants au lit.
Écoutons la voix des Anciens d’Elissa. Comme nous exilés
Ils n’ont pas voulu mourir, que se perdît par les sables leur torrent séminal.
Que j’écoute, dans la case enfumée que visite un reflet d’âmes propices
Ma tête sur ton sein chaud comme un dang au sortir du feu et fumant
Que je respire l’odeur de nos Morts, que je recueille et redise leur voix vivante,
que j’apprenne à
Vivre avant de descendre, au-delà du plongeur,
dans les hautes profondeurs du sommeil.

 

Night in Sine

Woman, place your soothing hands upon my brow,
Your hands softer than fur.
Above us balance the palm trees, barely rustling
In the night breeze. Not even a lullaby.
Let the rhythmic silence cradle us.
Listen to its song. Hear the beat of our dark blood,
Hear the deep pulse of Africa in the mist of lost villages.

Now sets the weary moon upon its slack seabed
Now the bursts of laughter quiet down, and even the storyteller
Nods his head like a child on his mother’s back
The dancers’ feet grow heavy, and heavy, too,
Come the alternating voices of singers.

Now the stars appear and the Night dreams
Leaning on that hill of clouds, dressed in its long, milky pagne.
The roofs of the huts shine tenderly. What are they saying
So secretly to the stars? Inside, the fire dies out
In the closeness of sour and sweet smells.

Woman, light the clear-oil lamp. Let the Ancestors
Speak around us as parents do when the children are in bed.
Let us listen to the voices of the Elissa Elders. Exiled like us
They did not want to die, or lose the flow of their semen in the sands.
Let me hear, a gleam of friendly souls visits the smoke-filled hut,
My head upon your breast as warm as tasty dang streaming from the fire,
Let me breathe the odor of our Dead, let me gather
And speak with their living voices, let me learn to live
Before plunging deeper than the diver
Into the great depths of sleep.

 

 

Chaînes de Bernard Dadié /Chains by Bernard Dadie

Dadie_1
Bernard Dadie (Abidjan.net)

Today, I thought that this poem by Bernard Dadié will be very appropriate. We wear a lot of chains, and the oppressed people of this world may want all the gags removed. Enjoy!

Chaînes

 Quelles sont lourdes, lourdes, les chaînes,

Que le Nègre met au cou du Nègre.

Pour complaire aux maîtres de l’heure.

 

De grâce n’arrêtez pas l’élan d’un peuple !

Brisons les chaînes, les carcans, les barrières, les digues.

 

Pour inonder l’univers en eaux puissantes qui balaient les iniquités.

 

Quelles sont lourdes, lourdes les chaînes

Que le Nègre met aux pieds de Nègre

Pour complaire aux maîtres du jour !

 

Lourdes, les chaînes,

lourdes, lourdes,

les chaînes que je porte aux mains.

 

Que tombent tous les baîllons du monde !!

 

Chains

 They are so heavy, heavy, the chains,

That the negro puts on the neck of the negro.

To please the masters of the hour.

 

Please do not stop the momentum of a people!

Let us break the chains, the shackles, the barriers, the dams.

 

To flood the universe with powerful waters that will sweep away iniquities.

 

They are so heavy, heavy, the chains

That the negro puts on the feet of the negro

To please the masters of the day!

 

Heavy, the chains,

Heavy, heavy,

The chains that I wear on my hands.

 

May all the gags of this world fall!

 

‘Ils m’ont dit’ de Francois Sengat-Kuo / ‘They told me’ by Francois Sengat-Kuo

I would like to share another poem ‘Ils m’ont dit‘ by  François Sengat-Kuo published in Fleurs de Latérite, Heures Rouges Éditions Clé, 1971. This poem ‘They told me’ is all about reclaiming African-ness. I know it doesn’t quite sound like it, but here is someone who left all to please others, in this case the European masters, and in the end decides to reclaim what is his, his culture, and above all himself. The poem deals with colonization times, the service of African soldiers in World war I and II, and then independence or rather the quest to find oneself. And yes, once he decides to put himself first, they tell him that he is a traitor. I bring you here “Ils m’ont dit” (They Told Me) translated to English by Dr. Y. on Afrolegends.com

 

Sengat_Kuo2

‘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.

“Scalp” de Aimé Césaire

Aime Cesaire
Aime Cesaire

I am posting here, a poem by the great poet founder of the negritude movement, the Francophone poet Aimé Césaire from Martinique.  The breadth of Césaire’s work is amazing.  He has published over 100 poems.  The poem “Scalp” is one of them.  Enjoy!

SCALP

Il est minuit

les sorciers ne sont pas encore venus

les montagnes n’ont pas fondu

ai-je assez dit à la terre

de ne pas s’installer par crainte de l’insolation?

Me serrerai-je la gorge avec une corde faite du lierre de mes murmures?

poissons cueilleuses de l’eau et son réceptacle

c’est par-dessus vos têtes que je parle

comme les étoiles dans la bave du miel de ses mauvais rêves et la terre elle a enfanté sous nous

C’est vrai que j’ai laissé mes ongles

en pleine chair de cyclone

parmi le fracas des hannetons gros et jusqu’à faire jaillir le jaune neuf d’un sperme me jetant sous son ventre pour mesurer mon rut

Maintenant

par le sang dur du viol

entre deux criminels

je sais l’heure celui

qui meurt

celui qui s’en va

Mais un mais moi

enserré dans la touffe qui m’endort

et par la grâce des chiens

sous le vent innocent et déplisseur des lianes

héros de chasse casqué d’un oiseau d’or

 

SCALP

It is midnight

the sorcerers have not yet come

the mountains have not melted

have I sufficiently told the earth

not to set itself up in fear of sunstroke?

Shall I tighten my throat with a cord made from the ivy of my mutterings?

fish gatherers of water and its receptacle

it is above your heads that I speak

like the stars in the honey drool from my bad dreams and the earth it has birthed beneath us

It is true that I left my fingernails

full in the flesh of the cyclone

amongst the brawl of huge cockchafers even to making spurt a new yellow semen throwing myself under its belly to measure my rutting

Now

by the hard blood of rape

between two criminals

I know the hour

he who dies

he who leaves

But one but I

enclosed in the tuft that benumbs me

and by the grace of dogs

beneath the innocent and liana-unpleating wind

a hero of the hunt helmeted with a golden bird