The Safou and Hazel Trees

The storm was doing her frequent incursions in the forest and, like a raptor that rushes on from the sky and only leaves each time with a chick, she uprooted a tree. Each victim was left to his fate. For the survivors, the attack was only the business of the one who had succumbed.  Each closed his door on his blissful quietude.

The safou tree

One morning, the insatiable grim reaper [the storm] stopped in front of the safou tree and started ruffling his hair. Then she [the grim reaper] shook him in all directions to make him understand that his time had come.

The safou tree tried to organize his defense. The storm rushed, retreated to regain strength, came back with more violence, snatched off and dispersed under her breath the hair of the assaulted. Not being able to take it anymore, the safou tree sent out a distress call in the direction of the hazel tree, his neighbor.

  • Here is, he said, the brigand who for many years, depopulates our country. Come help me get out of his claws. I am out of strength.
  • I never get involved in anything that doesn’t concern me, said the hazel tree. I do not deal with either the storm or the wind. Give back to the brigands what you owe them.

This said, the hazel tree closed his door to find the softness and calm of his home.

Turkish hazel tree (Source: Chicago Botanic Garden)

Under the storm’s assaults, the safou tree collapsed. In his last breath, he grumbled that what was happening to him will not miss the hazel tree.

And two days later , it was the turn of the hazel tree to pay the storm the ransom of weakness and individualism of the people of the forest.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 9 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

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

‘Angoisse Quotidienne / Daily Anxiety’ by Etienne Noumé

20150624_FleurIn these uncertain times, I thought about sharing with you this poem by the Cameroonian author Etienne Noumé, ‘Angoisse quotidienne‘ or ‘Daily Anxiety.’ His poem was published in Anthologie de la poésie camerounaise, edited by Patrice Kayo, Le Flambeau. As you read Noumé’s poem, you will find the daily anxiety of the author mounting, as he wonders where he will flee to as hurricanes come and take away his roof, where he will flee to as the torrents sweep away his fields, when will the happy future come? His questions remain of actuality: the hurricanes coming is like wondering ‘where will you sleep, or live?’; the torrents sweeping his fields is like asking ‘where will your income, your food come from?’ the question about the future is like asking ‘when will the spring come? when will this anxiety go away? when will happiness come?’

The poem Angoisse quotidienneby Etienne Noumé, published in Anthologie de la poésie camerounaise, P. Kayo, Le Flambeau. The translation to English is from Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com. I chose the flower above because of all the uncertainty surrounding it, and also because in the end, the light still shines on that flower!

Enjoy the poem below, and let me know what this poem brings to mind.

Angoisse quotidienne

 

Quand viendra la rigueur

des saisons orageuses

ébranchant les dômes

des futaies sauvages,

 

où fuirais-je

la chute meurtrière

des poutres sur les crânes

Quand, froissant, étirant

les cheveux de jungle

l’ouragan dans ses bras

tordra toute la terre,

où dormirai-je,

la paille de mon toit

volant à tous les vents,

où fuirais-je,

la fureur des torrents

balayant tous mes champs,

roulant des allluvions

pour fumer le vallon

germera l’Avenir

en heureuses ombelles?

Daily Anxiety

 

When will come the rigor

of stormy seasons

pruning the domes

of wild forests,

 

where would I flee

the deadly fall

of beams on skulls

When, crumpling, stretching

the jungle hairs

the hurricane in his arms

will twist the whole earth,

where would I sleep,

the straw from my roof

flying off in all winds,

where would I flee,

the fury of torrents

sweeping all my fields

rolling alluvium

to smoke the valley

Where

will sprout the future

in happy umbels?

 

‘A la Princesse’ de Patrice Kayo / ‘To the Princess’ by Patrice Kayo

A true African beauty: Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba
A true African beauty: Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba

Queen Nzingha of Angola
Queen Nzingha of Angola

I read this love poem written by the Cameroonian writer Patrice Kayo. I thought it so deep, beautiful, and worth sharing with all. Enjoy this poem ‘A la princesse / To the princess’! The original was published in Paroles intimes 1972, P.-J. Oswald. The French version of the poem was taken from ‘Anthologie Africaine: Poesie, Jacques Chevrier, Hatier 1988, P.129.Translated to English by Dr. Y., afrolegends.com .

A la Princesse

Tu es l’innocence des fleurs et le sourire de l’aurore

tu es le doux éclat du soir

et la virginité de l’inconnu

tu es la gaiété du ciel etoilé

la candeur des clairs de lune.

 

Tu es la douceur des nuages des belles saisons

tu es la corolle qui s’ouvre

sur l’humble hauteur de ma colline

mais le chemin est long

qui mène jusqu’à toi

tu es l’aube lourde de promesses

et ton sourire, le murmure joyeux

du vent sur la savane

tu es le havre de mon Coeur déchiré

lorsqu’y volète le papillon

du doute et de l’angoisse.

 

Tu es la fertilité de la terre

et la limpidité du matin

tu es le beau pays de mes rêves

le champignon

que je voudrais cueillir

au lever de l’aube de l’amour

tu es l’eau pour ma soif tenace

et dans le gouffre de mon silence

je ne murmure que pour toi.

 

Tu es la hutte élevée par le destin

sur mon chemin sans abri.

 

Tu es l’oiseau posé

sur l’arbre de ma solitude

et quand tu t’envoleras

tu emporteras mon espoir.

 

Tu es le kolatier

planté dans l’étroit champ de mon destin

laisse tomber pour moi

le salutaire fruit de l’accord

pour que par le même chemin

nous titubions ensemble

vers la grande mer

la mer de l’éternité

 

Ecoute je t’aime comme on meurt

innocemment, totalement

et je t’attendrai comme le bonheur :

tous les jours.

 

To the Princess

You are the innocence of flowers and the smile of the dawn

you are the soft evening glow

and the virginity of the unknown

you are the gaiety of the starry sky

the candor of moonlights.

 

You are the clouds’ gentleness on beautiful seasons

you are the corolla which opens

on the humble height of my hill

but the path is long

that leads up to you

you are the dawn heavy with promises

and your smile, the joyous murmur

of the wind on the savannah

you are the haven of my broken heart

as flutters the butterfly

of doubt and anguish.

 

You are earth’s fertility

and the morning’s clarity

you are the beautiful country of my dreams

the mushroom

that I would like to pick

at the dawn of my love

you are the water for my tenacious thirst

and in the pit of my silence

I murmur only for you.

 

you are the hut elevated by fate

on my way without shelter.

 

You are the bird resting

on the tree of my solitude

and when you will fly away

you will take away my hope.

 

You are the kola tree

planted in the narrow field of my destiny

drop for me

the salutary fruit of agreement

so that by the same path

we stagger together

towards the great sea

the sea of eternity

 

Listen, I love you as one dies

innocently, totally

and I will wait for you like happiness:

every day.