‘A ma Mère / To my Mother’ by Camara Laye

isis-horus1
Isis and Horus, an African mother

I am sure every African child has read either the entire book or excerpts of ‘L’Enfant Noir‘, ‘African Child‘ by the Guinean author Camara Laye . It is a school classic. When we were in school, the teacher will often give us dictations from this book. The book focuses mostly about Camara Laye ‘s childhood and was written in the 1950s at a time when most African writers were talking about independence, negritude, panafricanism, etc. This earned Laye’s some tough remarks from Cameroonian author Mongo Beti and others about his lack of interest in panafricanism and African independences. Today, I present to you this poem, ‘A ma mère / To my mother‘ of Camara Laye to his mother (published in Coup de Pillon), which is in reality an ode to all African women, and all mothers around the globe. Good to note his mentioning of blacksmiths in this poem, especially given that Camara Laye’s family was Malinke and he was born into a caste that traditionally worked as blacksmiths and goldsmiths. The English translation is by Deborah Weagel. Enjoy!

A ma Mère

Femme noire, femme africaine,
Ô toi ma mère, je pense à toi…
Ô Daman, ô ma Mère,
Toi qui me portas sur le dos,
Toi qui m’allaitas, toi qui gouvernas mes premiers pas,
Toi qui la première m’ouvris les yeux aux prodiges de la terre,
Je pense à toi…

Femme des champs, femme des rivières
femme du grand fleuve, ô toi, ma mère je
pense à toi…

Ô toi Daman, Ô ma mère,
Toi qui essuyas mes larmes,
Toi qui me réjouissais le cœur,
Toi qui, patiemment, supportais mes caprices,
Comme j’aimerais encore être près de toi,
Etre enfant près de toi !

Femme simple, femme de la résignation,
Ô toi ma mère, je pense à toi.
Ô Daman, Daman de la grande famille des forgerons,
Ma pensée toujours se tourne vers toi,
La tienne à chaque pas m’accompagne,
Ô Daman, ma mère,
Comme j’aimerais encore être dans ta chaleur,
Etre enfant près de toi…

Femme noire, femme africaine,
Ô toi ma mère,
Merci, merci pour tout ce que tu fis pour moi,
Ton fils si loin, si près de toi.

To my Mother

Black woman, African woman, O mother, I think of you …
O Dâman, O mother,
who carried me on your back, who nursed me,
who governed by first steps,
who opened my eyes to the beauties of the world, I think of you …

Woman of the fields, woman of the rivers, woman of the great river, O
mother, I think of you …

O Dâman, O mother, who wiped my tears,
who cheered up my heart,
who patiently dealt with my caprices,
how I would love to still be near you.

Simple woman, woman of resignation, O mother, I think of you.
O Dâman, Dâman of the great family of blacksmiths, my thoughts are
always of you, they accompany me with every step,
O Dâman, my mother, how I would love to still feel your warmth,
to be your child that is close to you …
Black woman, African woman, O mother, thank you; thank you for all
that you have done for me, your son, so far away yet so close to you!

 

‘Women of Africa’ by Sekou Touré

Sekou Toure
Sekou Toure
African Woman
African Woman

So many of our revolutionary leaders have written books, poems, and essays.  The great Thomas Sankara, our African Che and president of Burkina Faso, wrote about empowering women, people, getting away from debt, and the Burkinabé revolution.  Amilcar Cabral not only wrote poems, but also revolutionary essaysAgostinho Neto, the first president of Angola, also wrote poetry, just as Senegal’s first president Leopold Sedar Senghor.  So it seems quite natural to find out that Sekou Touré, the grandson of Samori Touré, the only African president to say ‘NO‘ to France and de Gaulle, also wrote poetry.  So here, I leave you with a poem by Sekou Touré, on Women of Africa, and their rightful place in the revolution.

Women of Africa,

Women of the Revolution!

You will rise up to apex

You will journey endlessly

At a walking pace of the social Revolution,

To the rhythm of cultural progress,

In the train of economic boom

To the great and beautiful city

Of the exacting ends

And were in leading

Your brothers, your husbands and

your children…

Women of Africa,

Women of the Revolution!

Equality is not offered,

It must be conquered.

To emancipate the women

Is to rid the society

Of its blemishes, its deformities

The conquest of science,

The mastery of Techniques

Will open to the Women the way

That of intra-social combat

Rendering her “subject and no longer object”.

-Ahmed Sekou Toure