“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 .

====

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.

Afrique de David M. Diop / Africa by David M. Diop

African tree at dusk
African tree at dusk

This poem by David Mandessi Diop was my favorite. By the time I was 9 years old, I knew it by heart…  I loved it so much! It symbolizes so much about Africa, and the love we, all African children, should have for her. Oh how I wish David Diop had lived longer to see the effect of his ‘ode to Africa‘ on other generations. Enjoy!!!

 

Afrique mon Afrique
Afrique des fiers guerriers dans les savanes ancestrales
Afrique que me chantait ma grand-mère
Au bord de son fleuve lointain
Je ne t’ai jamais connue
Mais mon regard est plein de ton sang
Ton beau sang noir à travers les champs répandu
Le sang de ta sueur
La sueur de ton travail
Le travail de l’esclavage
L’esclavage de tes enfants
Afrique dis-moi Afrique
Est-ce donc toi ce dos qui se courbe
Et se couche sous le poids de l’humilité
Ce dos tremblant à zébrures rouges
Qui dit oui au fouet sur les routes de midi
Alors gravement une voix me répondit
Fils impétueux cet arbre robuste et jeune
Cet arbre là -bas
Splendidement seul au milieu de fleurs blanches et fanées
C’est l’Afrique ton Afrique qui repousse
Qui repousse patiemment obstinément
Et dont les fruits ont peu à peu
L’amère saveur de la liberté. 
Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of the distant river
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery
Africa, tell me Africa
Is this your back that is unbent
This back that never breaks under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying no to the whip under the midday sun
But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
Springing up patiently, obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
The bitter taste of liberty.