“Eve Congolaise / Congolese Eve” by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard

Congo_Brazzaville_Flag
Flag of the Republic of Congo

Many cultures in Africa are matriarchal, and it absolutely makes sense that the homeland is constantly portrayed as a woman in African poetry. Today we will talk about the poem “Congolese Eve” by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard. Tati-Loutard is a Congolese author from the Republic of Congo or Congo-Brazzaville. As an accomplished writer, he has published several compilation of poetry, and has won several awards. In his writings, he does a deep expose of the art, life, and nature; he often incorporates the feminine element in his work. Similar to other African authors like Léopold Sédar Senghor (former president of Senegal) or Ferdinand L. Oyono (minister in Cameroon), Tati-Loutard is also a politician, who has occupied several posts in the government of his country.

African princess
African princess

Enjoy ‘Ève Congolaise‘ by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, published in Anthologie africaine: poésie, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, Hatier 1988, p. 136. Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.

 

 

 

 

Eve Congolaise

Je l’ai vue quand Dieu l’a créée sur la Montagne :

C’était une pleine nuit, la lune ayant atteint

Le plus haut niveau de ses crues de lumière.

 

Avant que Dieu ne parût comme jadis sur l’Horeb,

L’herbe alentour marchait déjà tête baissée

Sous la brise.

 

Il prit de la terre non battue de quelque pied,

Et la coula – vierge comme au Jour Premier –

Dans un long rayon de lune.

 

En un tour de main, ce fut le tour des seins ;

Et la grâce et l’esprit giclaient d’Eve

En eclaboussements éblouissants de lumière.

Puis vint le signal :

 

Dans l’espace nu, le vent se mit à tourner sur lui-même

Comme s’il avait mal de ne pouvoir se détendre

Dans un arbre. Dieu reprit l’air dans le tourbillon ;

Et dans le silence plein de clarté,

 

L’Eve congolaise descendit vers le fleuve à l’heure

Où le soleil sort en refermant derrière lui

La porte de la nuit.

 

 

Congolese Eve

I saw her when God created her on the Mountain:

It was a full night, the moon having reached

the fullest level of its light floods.

 

Before God appeared as He once did on the Horeb,

The grass around was already walking head down

Under the breeze

 

He took some dirt from some foot,

And the flow – virgin as on the First Day –

In a long moon ray.

 

In no time it was the turn of the breasts ;

And the grace and the spirit spurted from Eve

In dazzling splashes of light.

Then came the signal :

 

In the naked space, the wind started to turn on itself

As if it hurts not to be able to relax

In a tree. God took the air back in the whirlwind;

And in the silence full of clarity,

 

The Congolese eve descended towards the river at the time

When the sun comes out closing behind him

The door of the night.

Les raciness congolaises, op. cit.

Ferdinand L. Oyono: The Old man and the Medal

Ferdinand Leopold Oyono
Ferdinand Leopold Oyono

Yes… I am actually talking about Ferdinand Leopold Oyono, the Cameroonian writer mostly known for his novels ‘Une Vie de Boy‘ (Houseboy), ‘Le Vieux Nègre et la Medaille‘ (The Old Man and the Medal), and Chemin d’Europe (Road to Europe). I must admit that I have only read the first two. I have decided to focus only on Oyono literary achievement, even though his literary career was quite short, and he also served as ambassador and minister under different presidents of Cameroon for over 40 years.

Une Vie de Boy (Houseboy)
Une Vie de Boy (Houseboy)

In his novels, Oyono uses satire to denounce the colonial system, the abuse Africans suffer in the hands of the European. Oyono writesUne vie de boy (Houseboy) as a diary, and casts a critical view on the relations between Africans and Europeans during the colonial era. The main actor is a young boy, who leaves his family where he was mistreated, and ends up with the French missionaries, and later on works as a houseboy for the ‘Commandant’; where he quickly becomes the center of querels between the Commandant and his wife, and is frequently beaten because of what he knows.  In his second novel, Le vieux nègre et la medaille (The Old Man and the medal),  Oyono evoked the deep sense of disillusionment felt by those Africans who were committed to the west, yet rejected by their colonial masters. Meka, the main protagonist, receives a medal for his services to the French colonial administration, for donating land to the French missionary church and above all for sending his two sons to the second world war where they are killed.

The Old Man and the Medal
The Old Man and the Medal

It is interesting that despite his short literary career, Oyono has managed to write two of the most important African novels depicting the relationship between the European colonizer, and the African colonized, a relationship made up of disillusionment, abuse, modernism, education, and cohabitation of two worlds where one is imposed on the other. The British newspaper The Guardian wrote a really good article saluting this great Cameroonian and African writer.