Proud to be Black: A Quote by Bernard Dadié

Mwekassa1
Zack Mwekassa, Former World Champion of Boxing and Kick Boxing (Source: Glory KickBoxing)

Je vous remercie mon Dieu, de m’avoir créé Noir, … Je suis content de la forme de ma tête faite pour porter le Monde, Satisfait de la forme de mon nez Qui doit humer tout le vent du Monde, Heureux de la forme de mes jambes Prêtes à courir toutes les étapes du Monde.

I thank you God, for making me black, I am happy with the shape of my head shaped to carry the world, Satisfied with the shape of my nose which has to smell all the scents of the world, Happy with the shape of my legs ready to run all the steps of the world.

Bernard Binlin Dadié.  The poem above is titled “I Thank you God” or “I thank you my God,”

“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.

Anton-Wilhelm Amo by Elikia M’Bokolo

Amo_1
First page of Anton-Wilhelm Amo’s dissertation (Source: http://www.jehsmith.com)

The renowned historian and journalist Elikia M’Bokolo did a short piece on Anton-Wilhelm Amo, the outstanding African philosopher who taught at a university in Germany in the 1700s. This reminded me of the piece I wrote a while back, Anton-Wilhelm Amo, African Professor in Germany in … 1700s.

Amo Anton Wilhelm earned his doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Halle in Germany. He was a respected Ghanaian German philosopher who taught at the Universities of Halle and Jena in Germany in the 1730s… That’s right… you read it well, 1730! His thesis was the rights of Africans in Europe! He is said to have been the first African person born in Africa to be awarded a doctorate degree from a European university, and to later teach there. Enjoy the Elikia M’Bokolo’s piece, on RFI, on Anton-Wilhelm Amo, also known as Amo Guinea Afer!

“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!

 

‘Women of Africa’ by Sekou Touré

Sekou Toure
Sekou Toure
African Woman
African Woman

So many of our revolutionary leaders have written books, poems, and essays.  The great Thomas Sankara, our African Che and president of Burkina Faso, wrote about empowering women, people, getting away from debt, and the Burkinabé revolution.  Amilcar Cabral not only wrote poems, but also revolutionary essaysAgostinho Neto, the first president of Angola, also wrote poetry, just as Senegal’s first president Leopold Sedar Senghor.  So it seems quite natural to find out that Sekou Touré, the grandson of Samori Touré, the only African president to say ‘NO‘ to France and de Gaulle, also wrote poetry.  So here, I leave you with a poem by Sekou Touré, on Women of Africa, and their rightful place in the revolution.

Women of Africa,

Women of the Revolution!

You will rise up to apex

You will journey endlessly

At a walking pace of the social Revolution,

To the rhythm of cultural progress,

In the train of economic boom

To the great and beautiful city

Of the exacting ends

And were in leading

Your brothers, your husbands and

your children…

Women of Africa,

Women of the Revolution!

Equality is not offered,

It must be conquered.

To emancipate the women

Is to rid the society

Of its blemishes, its deformities

The conquest of science,

The mastery of Techniques

Will open to the Women the way

That of intra-social combat

Rendering her “subject and no longer object”.

-Ahmed Sekou Toure

‘Poetry’ by Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral on a stamp with the flag of Guinea Bissau
Amilcar Cabral on a stamp with the flag of Guinea Bissau

January 20th, is the day of Amilcar Cabral, the father of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau independence was murdered.  I would like to celebrate this day of remembrance with a poem written by Amilcar Cabral himself.  He used to sign his poem by the name Larbac, which is an anagram of his last name Cabral.  The current poem is attributed to him… I was unable to find the Portuguese version.  Enjoy this poem by one of Africa’s greatest sons.

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… No, Poetry …
Do not hide within the inscrutability of my soul
Do not run away from life itself.
Break the invisible bars of my prison,
Open wide the doors of my being
– Come out…
Come out to struggle (life is a struggle)
The men outside call for you,
And you, Poetry, you are also a Man.
Love everyone’s poetry,
– Love Men
Let your poems flow to every race, to all things.
Merge with me …
Oh Poetry,
Take my arms to embrace the World,
Give me your arms to embrace Life
I am my own Poetry.
Amilcar Cabral Poem, 1946

‘Sous-Developpement’ de Charles Ngande / ‘Under-development’ by Charles Ngande

Corruption_2Thinking about all the wasted years of corruption, mismanagement, neo-colonialism, nepotism, and all the -isms going on in many African countries after independence, I thought of sharing with you this poem by the Cameroonian author Charles Ngande.  The poem can be found in Anthologie Négro Africaine by Lilyan Kesteloot, Edicef 1992, P. 329.  The English translation is offered to you by Dr. Y., http://www.afrolegends.com

Sous-développement

J’ai croqué tous mes rêves

Dans les fragiles écuelles de nos indépendances,

Assis

Dans les fauteuils

Des banques étrangères!

Under-development

I chewed all my dreams

In the fragile bowls of our independences,

Seated

In the armchairs

Of foreign banks!

“Femme Noire” de Léopold Sédar Senghor / “Black Woman” by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Léopold Sédar Senghor
Léopold Sédar Senghor

I would like to share with you this poem of the late president of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor.  This poem is an ode to the Black woman, but above all, to Senegal his country.  Yes… after reading it several times, one realizes that Senghor was writing an ode to the Black woman, his mother, his sister, his daughter, but above all to Senegal which could be loved just like a woman, and whose “beauty stroke him to the heart like the flash of an eagle”, and whose “Savannah stretch[ed] to clear horizons, savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind’s eager caresses.” This poem was published in ‘Chants d’Ombre’ (1945), English translation by Melvin Dixon (in The Collected Poetry (CARAF books …)).  As you read Senghor’s poem, do you see other meanings? who do you think was the intended audience? Do you feel, like me, that he is praising Senegal, the land of his ancestors? or is he talking about the woman of his dreams? Enjoy!

Femme noire

Femme nue, femme noire
Vétue de ta couleur qui est vie, de ta forme qui est beauté
J’ai grandi à ton ombre; la douceur de tes mains bandait mes yeux
Et voilà qu’au cœur de l’Eté et de Midi,
Je te découvre, Terre promise, du haut d’un haut col calciné
Et ta beauté me foudroie en plein cœur, comme l’éclair d’un aigle

Femme nue, femme obscure
Fruit mûr à la chair ferme, sombres extases du vin noir, bouche qui fais lyrique ma bouche
Savane aux horizons purs, savane qui frémis aux caresses ferventes du Vent d’Est
Tamtam sculpté, tamtam tendu qui gronde sous les doigts du vainqueur
Ta voix grave de contralto est le chant spirituel de l’Aimée

Femme noire, femme obscure
Huile que ne ride nul souffle, huile calme aux flancs de l’athlète, aux   flancs des princes du Mali
Gazelle aux attaches célestes, les perles sont étoiles sur la nuit de ta   peau.

Délices des jeux de l’Esprit, les reflets de l’or ronge ta peau qui se moire

A l’ombre de ta chevelure, s’éclaire mon angoisse aux soleils prochains de   tes yeux.

Femme nue, femme noire
Je chante ta beauté qui passe, forme que je fixe dans l’Eternel
Avant que le destin jaloux ne te réduise en cendres pour nourrir les racines   de la vie.

Black Woman

Naked woman, black woman                              Clothed with your colour which is life, with your form which is beauty
In your shadow I have grown up; the gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes.                                                                   And now, high up on the sun-baked pass, at the heart of summer, at the heart of noon,
I come upon you, my Promised Land,
And your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle.

Naked woman, dark woman                        Firm-fleshed ripe fruit, sombre raptures of black wine, mouth making lyrical my mouth
Savannah stretching to clear horizons,
savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind’s eager caresses                                                                 Carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom, muttering
under the Conqueror’s fingers                            Your solemn contralto voice is the
spiritual song of the Beloved.

Naked woman, dark woman                                  Oil that no breath ruffles, calm oil on the
athlete’s flanks, on the flanks of the Princes of Mali
Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the night of your skin

Delights of the mind, the glinting of red gold against your watered skin

Under the shadow of your hair, my care
is lightened by the neighbouring suns of your eyes.

Naked woman, black woman,
I sing your beauty that passes, the form
that I fix in the Eternal,                                        Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to
feed the roots of life.

“Je vous Remercie Mon Dieu” de Bernard B. Dadie / “I Thank You God” from Bernard Binlin Dadie

Today, We will look at a poem by the most celebrated Ivorian writer Bernard Binlin Dadié.  The poem below is titled “I Thank you God” or “I thank you my God,” and it is an ode to us Africans, raising the self-esteem.  Dadié writes here about his pride of being born Black, around independence, when the colonizer had almost beaten out of us our pride of being Black, our pride of being ‘us’.  Enjoy! a great poem from Bernard B. Dadié.

Je vous remercie mon Dieu,             de m’avoir créé Noir,
d’avoir fait de moi
la somme de toutes les douleurs,
mis sur ma tête,
le Monde.
J’ai la livrée du Centaure
Et je porte le Monde depuis le premier matin.

Le blanc est une couleur de circonstance
Le noir, la couleur de tous les jours
Et je porte le Monde depuis le premier soir.

Je suis content
de la forme de ma tête
faite pour porter le Monde,
Satisfait
de la forme de mon nez
Qui doit humer tout le vent du Monde,
Heureux
de la forme de mes jambes
Prêtes à courir toutes les étapes du Monde.

Je vous remercie mon Dieu, de m’avoir créé Noir,
d’avoir fait de moi,
la somme de toutes les douleurs.
Trente-six épées ont transpercé mon coeur.
Trente-six brasiers ont brûlé mon corps.
Et mon sang sur tous les calvaires a rougi la neige,
Et mon sang à tous les levants a rougi la nature.

Je suis quand même
Content de porter le Monde,
Content de mes bras courts
de mes bras longs
de l’épaisseur de mes lèvres.

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 making me black,
for making me
the sum of all pains,
putting on my head
the world.
I took the world to the Centaur
And I have carried the world since the first morning.

White is a color of                               circumstance
Black is the color of every day
And I have carried the world since the first evening.

I am happy
with the shape of my head
shaped to carry the world,
Satisfied
with the shape of my nose
which has to smell all the scents of the world,
Happy
with the shape of my legs
ready to run all the steps of the           world.

I thank you God, for having created me black
for having made me
the sum of all pains.
Thirty-six swords have pierced my heart.
Thirty-six brasiers have burned my body.
And my blood for all the suffering reddened the snow,
And my blood made the                      east red.

I am still
Happy to carry the world,
happy with my short arms
                of my long arms
                        of my thick lips.

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.