“Chant Funèbre Bangou / Bangou Requiem” by Etienne Noumé

Dry your tears African

There has been so much loss this year that I thought to introduce you to the “Bangou Requiem,” a poem written by the Cameroonian poet and author Etienne Noumé. Bangou (pronounce Ban-gu in English) is a town in the Western province of Cameroon, and is part of the Bamiléké grassfields. Noumé’s description of his loss is so profound, and uses typical Bamileke imagery, “My body is numb… the palms have dried under the moonlight“, “My sun went down“, my joy, my everything, “ blown away by the wind.” It is hard to lose someone dear, especially one’s child. In Bamileke culture, the parent is supposed to bury his child and not the contrary, so you can imagine the heart wrenching pain… that numbs you. “The palms have dried under the moonlight“… think about it for a minute: … can a palm dry under the moonlight?… this is Bamileke imagery for you. “My reddened pot burst” my hope blown away in an instant, without any notice, the impossible has happened. This here is a Bangou Requiem, “Chant Funebre Bangou” by Etienne Noumé, first published in Angoisse quotidienne, Le Flambeau, Yaoundé, re-published in Anthologie Africaine: Poésie Vol2, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, 1988, and translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com . Enjoy!

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Chant funèbre Bangou

 

Mon corps est engourdi

et je me meurs de froid;

mon enfant est allé

couper du bois, hélas

et n’est pas revenu

Les palmes

ont séché

à la lueur

de la lune

Sur le foyer ardent

mon pot rougi éclate :

à l’aube au marigot

mon enfant est allé

et n’est pas revenu.

Les palmes

ont séché,

à la lueur

de la lune

Mon soleil s’est couché :

mon enfant est allé

derrière la colline

emporté par le vent

et n’en reviendra jamais plus

Les palmes

ont séché,

à la lueur

de la lune

Bangou Requiem

 

My body is numb

and I am dying of cold;

my child went

to cut wood, alas

and did not come back

the palms

have dried

under the

moonlight

On the fiery hearth

my reddened pot burst :

at dawn in the backwater

my child went

and did not come back.

The palms

have dried

under the

moonlight

My sun went down :

my child went

behind the hill

blown away by the wind

and will never come back

the palms

have dried

under the

moonlight

   

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

The Taro and Its Neighbors

Dotted taro leaf

From its large leaves, the taro collected water and without gathering any for itself, or absorbing enough, watered its neighbors who bloomed and produced abundantly. For the benefit of others, generous taro forgot itself.

When the dry season came, it was the first to suffer from the lack of water. Turning to its neighbors who had great reserves, it begged them to share enough to survive until the rainy season. Everyone closed their door to its face and fell back on their complacency.

It is while dying that he understood that forgetting oneself for the benefit of others is a failure and that one must always be satisfied before adding to others.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 59 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y.Afrolegends.com

“Jébalè / Jebale” by Elolongue Epanya Yondo

Douala_Wouri River_2_Djebale
Wouri river and the Djebale island seen on the other side

I share here a poem by the Cameroonian poet Elolongue Epanya Yondo about his beautiful native island of Jebale, Cameroon. Note that Elolongue Epanya is the uncle of another great Senegalese-Cameroonian poet David M. Diop known for his amazing poem “Afrique / Africa“. Jebale (Jébalè or Djebale) is an island on the Wouri River, in Douala, Cameroon. It is also one of the places whose kings signed on 15 July 1884, a treaty of protectorate with German merchants from the firm Jantzen & Thormählen, thereby agreeing to the infamous Germano – Duala Treaty signed 3 days earlier on 12 July 1884 by King Bell and others. In 1884, Jebale was then known as Jibarret.

Douala_Wouri River
View of Jebale and the Wouri river, Douala, Cameroon

As you read Yondo’s words, you can imagine the beauty of his homeland, this island, Jebale, on the Wouri river. Jebale is known as the “emerald island, flamboyant jewel” on the Wouri estuary, on the coast of Cameroon. The author cites well-known coastal rivers of Cameroon, the Bimbia creek, the Sanaga River, the  Dibamba river, the Kwa-Kwa river, and also notes other islands of the Littoral, Malimba and Suellaba. In this poem, the author anchors his words in the rich tradition of the coastal Sawa people as he cites the Miengu and the Mbeatoe, those big shrimps known as Camarões which led to the name of the country Cameroun via the Wouri RiverRio dos Camarões. For those who have visited Jebale, it is indeed an emerald island, mostly known as a small fishing village; however in the eye of Elolongue Epanya Yondo, it is his love, the one he cannot wait to come back to, from exile. Enjoy!

This poem was published in Paris on February 25th 1972, in revue Présence Africaine, numéro 84 (4e trimestre 1972), re-published in Anthologie Africaine: Poésie Vol2, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, 1988, and translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com .

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Jebale by Elolongue Epanya Yondo

Jébalè’

A mon neveu David Morsamba Diop.

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Joyau flamboyant au confluent

De la gorge altière du Wouri

Je me souviens

De tes nattes verdoyantes

Fouettant en cascade

L’haleine salée du littoral

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Terre dont le souffle

Des Miengu et des Mamy-Wata

Féconde le cycle des Mbéatoè

Enigmatiques hommes d’eau

Qui sèment l’abondance

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Je cherche dans les fissures du temps

Dans la gueule écumante

de la baie du Biafra

tous les replis d’eau

qui mangèrent goutte à goutte

un chapelet d’îles

jaillies des entrailles de l’océan

comme des gerbes de nénuphars

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Je cherche dans l’écume poreuse

Les cônes bleu-gris

Dont la beauté effervescente

Arrachait des soupirs

          De lame de fond a l’océan

          Tombé en pâmoison

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Je cherche le chemin du retour

Du maquis de mon long exil

A travers l’île des buffles

Que fixait hier

La pointe multicolore de Suellaba

Je cherche sur tes flancs

Le point de repère de l’estuaire subjugué

Lançant à l’assaut de l’esprit gardien

De la crique du Bimbia

A l’île Malimba

Du Wouri coiffé de palétuviers

A la Dibamba des grandes profondeurs

De la Sanaga hydre immense

A la bouche silencieuse de la Kwa-Kwa…

Des gueules d’eau déchaînées

Et des bras de mers insaisissables

Pour pénétrer ton mystère

Consacrant ta légende des légendes

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Terre première de mon enfance

Dont le sel fermente ma mémoire

Je grave ton image impérissable

Sur la grève qui se moire

Au miroir d’un ballet lumineux

Du flux et du reflux

Qui propagent ton nom

Par la voix claire des clapotis.

Jebale’ 

To my nephew David Morsamba Diop.

Jebale my emerald island

Flamboyant jewel at the confluence

Of the haughty Wouri gorge

I remember

Your green braids

Whipping in cascade

The salted breath of the coast

Jebale my emerald island

Land whose breath

Of the Miengu and the Mamy-Wata

Fertilizes the cycle of the Mbeatoe

Enigmatic men of water

Who sow abundance

Jebale my emerald island

I search through the cracks of time

In the foaming mouth

Of the Biafra bay

All the folds of water

Which ate drop by drop

A rosary of islands

Sprung from the bowels of the ocean

Like sheaves of water lilies

Jebale my emerald island

I search in the porous foam

The gray-blue cones

Whose effervescent beauty

Drew out sighs

          Of groundswell from the ocean

          Fallen into a swoon

Jebale my emerald island

I am looking for the way back

From the maquis of my long exile

Through the buffalo island

That set yesterday

The multicolored tip of Suellaba point

I am looking on your sides

For the landmark of the subjugated estuary

Launching the assault of the guardian spirit

From the Bimbia creek

To the Malimba island

Of the Wouri dressed with mangroves

To the great depths of the Dibamba

To the Sanaga immense hydra

To the silent mouth of the Kwa-Kwa…

Ramps of water

And the elusive arms of the sea

To penetrate your mystery

Consecrating your legend of legends

Jebale my emerald island

First land of my childhood

Whose salt ferments my memory

I engrave your imperishable image

On the shore which shines

In the mirror of a luminous ballet

Of ebb and flow

Which spread your name

By the clear voice of the ripples.

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

‘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?

 

‘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

‘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.

 

‘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!