“Love the African Way” by Esmeralda Yitamben

L’amour / Love

Today, I will share with you a beautiful poem by author Esmeralda Yitamben, “Love, the African Way.” As you remember, I shared the poem ‘African Hair’ by Esmeralda Yitamben which, in my humble opinion, should be published in school books… and which I dearly love. Here is another one, for the lovers out there, and the historians as well. Every part of this poem is rich in history, history of the African continent, of the race, and combines the ancient and the modern faces of Africa : from the scholarly city of Timbuktu, one of the first universities of the world, to the second longest river of Africa, the Congo River and the great Congo Empire, to the libraries of Alexandria, to the sandy beaches of Senegal, from the dunes of The forgotten kingdom of Nubia to the streets of Douala. Imagine climbing the tallest mountain of Africa for someone you love, going to battle like Shaka Zulu, and winning them all like Menelik II (Battle of Adwa)… Imagine a love founded on the rock of the great Egyptian pyramids, and rising like the sphinx, never faltering. No doubt that this is a celebration of victory, of wealth, of the conquest of all battles, and above all… of love. The original poem can be found on Kalaharireview.com. Enjoy!


Love, the African Way” by Esmeralda Yitamben

I want to love you in Bambara

And take you to the sacred city of Timbuktu.

Nakupenda Malaika

Is what I will tell you, my angel, in Kiswahili.

Wapi Yo” my dear?

I will speak Lingala and navigate the Congo River looking for you from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi.

On my way, I will stop to contemplate the okapi, whose beauty and grace reminds me so much of yours.

I will climb Mt Kilimandjaro and stand fearlessly like a Maasai warrior.

I will rise on the wings of the sphinx at Thebes,

and revive the rolls of papyri from the burnt libraries of Alexandria,

to read you centuries’ old love poems

And walk the dunes of the ancient kingdom of Nubia at Meroë.

I will celebrate my long lost love on the beach of Dakar, and claim how much I miss you in Wolof “Namm naa la”.

Mase fi mi sile my love, don’t go, is what I will say in Yoruba, so that you never leave me.

You belong to me, natondi wa, I love you, and I will dance to the rhythm of makossa in the streets of Douala.

Like Chaka Zulu, I will be the warrior of your heart, I will fight a thousand battles for you.

And like Menelik II, great emperor of Ethiopia, I will win them all for you, precious one!

Together, we will build an empire as great as the Empire of Mali and our love will be talked about throughout the universe.

And when we finally meet again, I will say M’Bifé, I love you.


Wapi Yo = “Where are you?” In Lingala (Congo)

Nakupenda Malaika = “I love you angel” in Kiswahili (Kenya, Tanzania)

Namm naa la = “I miss you,” in Wolof (Senegal, Gambia)

Mase fi mi sile = “don’t leave me” in Yoruba (Nigeria)

Na tondi wa = “I love you” in Douala (Cameroon)

Makossa is a musical style from Cameroon

M’Bifé = “I love you,” in Bambara (Mali)

‘African Hair’ by Esmeralda Yitamben

Zendaya (Source: Telegraph.co.uk)
Zendaya (Source: Telegraph.co.uk)

Last year, one journalist made fun of actress Zendaya’s hair because she wore dreadlocks to the red carpet; this reminded me of when Viola Davis had sported a short ‘afro’ to the Oscars … as if it was wrong for a Black woman to wear her hair in natural hairstyles. Why should an African woman be made to conform to something she is not? What is wrong with wearing our hair the way God made it? Without the relaxers, and perms made to straighten or rather beat the African-ness out? Every style should be celebrated. Our cultures are so unique… and the way we dress our hair is so unique, and should be loved and appreciated for what it is, a definition of who we are.

Viola Davis (Wikipedia)
Viola Davis (Wikipedia)

It is high time, African women accept, appreciate, and embrace their heritage. It is impossible to beat the Afro out of oneself… just embrace it, and wear it as a peacock wears its feathers … with great pride! The poem below “African Hair” by Esmeralda Yitamben just says it all, and as I read it, I am proud to be African, born with this amazing hair. The author writes about the versatility of the African (Afro) hair, its beauty, its abundance, its richness, its kinkiness, and yes, its unruliness as well. True, I do not agree with the author’s mention of relaxers, but hey… every style should be valued. The original poem can be found on Kalaharireview.com. Enjoy! (The BBC also did a piece on Afro hair).


‘African Hair’

Kinky hair,

Picky hair,

Wavy hair,

Frizzy hair,

Hair the colour of ebony,

Sometimes sprinkled with hints of mahogany.

As splendid, lush, and full as the equatorial rainforest of Congo,

Woolen and soft like a sheep’s fur.

Shining with shea butter,

like a gem, under the moon’s smile.

O Sustaining Nature,

Blessed are our heads with beautiful hair:

Hair that can be braided, cornrowed, relaxed, and yes, even locked.

From Jamaican style dreadlocks, like Bob Marley’s hair,

To Jackson 5’s Afro,

To Maasai bald heads,

To Fulani princess corn rows,

To Bantu knots,

To Senegalese zillion braids,

To simple, hard-pressed, relaxed hair,

Precious Mother, Thou have blessed the Black race with a lion‘s mane.

What can I not do with this hair of mine?

Esmeralda Yitamben



Afro Hair: Crown Jewel of African Women and Men

Nok sculpture of a woman
Nok sculpture of a woman
Have you ever looked at sculptures of women from the Nok civilization? Then you have probably noticed that Nok women wore their hair braided similar to the Fulani women of today, in beautiful goddess braids, and amazing styles. Ever looked at images of Queen Nzingha? She wore her hair in Afro, fully out.
Queen Nzingha of Angola
Queen Nzingha of Angola
What about the great Amanishakheto of Nubia, well, hieroglyphs at Meroë, show her sporting a gorgeous ‘Fro. And the fierce amazons of King Behanzin wore either braids, or shaved their heads, or sported afros. Today the tradition persists: the Himba women of Namibia and Angola wear dreadlocks decorated with red ochre, while Maasai women shave their heads and Maasai men sport dreadlocks. For their wedding, the Wodaabe women wear amazing braids decorated with cauris, and jewelry. In our culture, there were intricate hairstyles for different occasions: passage of a girl into womanhood, courting, weddings, funerals, etc.
Himba women (absoluteafrica.com)
Himba women (absoluteafrica.com)
Isn’t it amazing how our crown jewel, our hair, can be worn in so many different ways? Isn’t it amazing that one could change hairstyle every two-three weeks, or even
Fulani woman (Wodaabe)
Fulani woman (Wodaabe)
every month? After all, nature gifted the African race with a lion’s mane, which can be dressed a thousand ways, why not take advantage of it? Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere captured some of these different hairstyles from women in the 1960-70s. Many African women from the 1960s-70s can be seen wearing tresses; and if you ever dig up pictures of your parents, you will see your mothers wearing those as well. His collections and books are amazing. Enjoy!