Today, I will publish another poem,” Nuit de Sine / Night in Sine,” by Léopold Sédar Senghor. The poem was published in Oeuvre Poetique, Paris, Seuil, 1990 P. 14-15. The English translation was done by Melvin Dixon, in The Collected Poems, 1998, Univ. of Virginia Press.
Nuit de Sine
Femme, pose sur mon front tes mains balsamiques, tes mains douces plus que fourrure. Là-haut les palmes balancées qui bruissent dans la haute brise nocturne À peine. Pas même la chanson de nourrice. Qu’il nous berce, le silence rythmé. Écoutons son chant, écoutons battre notre sang sombre, écoutons Battre le pouls profond de l’Afrique dans la brume des villages perdus.
Voici que décline la lune lasse vers son lit de mer étale Voici que s’assoupissent les éclats de rire, que les conteurs eux-mêmes Dodelinent de la tête comme l’enfant sur le dos de sa mère Voici que les pieds des danseurs s’alourdissent, que s’alourdit la langue des chœurs alternés.
C’est l’heure des étoiles et de la Nuit qui songe S’accoude à cette colline de nuages, drapée dans son long pagne de lait. Les toits des cases luisent tendrement. Que disent-ils, si confidentiels, aux étoiles ? Dedans, le foyer s’éteint dans l’intimité d’odeurs âcres et douces.
Femme, allume la lampe au beurre clair, que causent autour les Ancêtres comme les parents, les enfants au lit. Écoutons la voix des Anciens d’Elissa. Comme nous exilés Ils n’ont pas voulu mourir, que se perdît par les sables leur torrent séminal. Que j’écoute, dans la case enfumée que visite un reflet d’âmes propices Ma tête sur ton sein chaud comme un dang au sortir du feu et fumant Que je respire l’odeur de nos Morts, que je recueille et redise leur voix vivante, que j’apprenne à Vivre avant de descendre, au-delà du plongeur, dans les hautes profondeurs du sommeil.
Night in Sine
Woman, place your soothing hands upon my brow, Your hands softer than fur. Above us balance the palm trees, barely rustling In the night breeze. Not even a lullaby. Let the rhythmic silence cradle us. Listen to its song. Hear the beat of our dark blood, Hear the deep pulse of Africa in the mist of lost villages.
Now sets the weary moon upon its slack seabed Now the bursts of laughter quiet down, and even the storyteller Nods his head like a child on his mother’s back The dancers’ feet grow heavy, and heavy, too, Come the alternating voices of singers.
Now the stars appear and the Night dreams Leaning on that hill of clouds, dressed in its long, milky pagne. The roofs of the huts shine tenderly. What are they saying So secretly to the stars? Inside, the fire dies out In the closeness of sour and sweet smells.
Woman, light the clear-oil lamp. Let the Ancestors Speak around us as parents do when the children are in bed. Let us listen to the voices of the Elissa Elders. Exiled like us They did not want to die, or lose the flow of their semen in the sands. Let me hear, a gleam of friendly souls visits the smoke-filled hut, My head upon your breast as warm as tasty dang streaming from the fire, Let me breathe the odor of our Dead, let me gather And speak with their living voices, let me learn to live Before plunging deeper than the diver Into the great depths of sleep.
Today, I would like to talk about the “Y’en a Marre” (“Fed Up“), a Senegalese group which influenced change in the presidential election of 2012 in Senegal, by forcing President Abdoulaye Wade (and his son, Karim Wade) out of office. Y’en a Marre decided to stop complaining and to start acting, to make the changes they wanted implemented. It is a group of Senegalese rappers and journalists, created in January 2011, to protest ineffective government and register youth to vote. They are credited with helping to mobilize Senegal’s youth vote and oust incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade, though the group claims no affiliation with Macky Sall, Senegal’s current president, or with any political party.
The group was founded by rappers Fou Malade (“Crazy Sick Guy“, real name: Malal Talla), Thiat (“Junior“, real name: Cheikh Oumar Cyrille Touré), Kilifeu (both from celebrated rap crew “Keur Gui of Kaolack“) and journalists Sheikh Fadel Barro, Aliou Sane and Denise Sow. The movement was originally started in reaction to Dakar‘s frequent power cuts, but the group quickly concluded that they were “fed up” with an array of problems in Senegalese society. “One day, there was 20 hours of cuts,” said Fadel Barro, whose dimly lit apartment served as the place where the movement took shape. “I said: ‘Guys, everyone knows you. But you’re not doing anything to change the country.’ ”[from NYT interview – see link below]. Those words energized the musicians.
Their goal was to incite Senegalese to vote, to renew the political personnel, to fight against corruption and to promote a sense of civic responsibility. Their most famous quote is: « L’heure n’est plus aux lamentations de salon et aux complaintes fatalistes face aux coupures d’électricité. Nous refusons le rationnement systématique imposé à nos foyers dans l’alimentation en électricité. La coupe est pleine. » [The hour is no longer to ballroom lamentations and fatalistic complaints in the face of power cuts. We refuse the systematic rationing imposed on our homes in the power supply. Our cup is full to the rim.]
Through recordings, rallies and a network of regional affiliates, called “the spirit of Y’en a Marre“, the group advocates for youth to embrace a new type of thinking and living termed “The New Type of Senegalese” or NTS. In late 2011, the collective released a compilation titled “Y’en A Marre“, from which the single “Faux! Pas Forcé” (“Don’t force it”) emerged as a rallying cry for youth frustrated with President Wade and his son and presumed successor. They followed with a single, “Doggali” (“Let’s finish”), which advocated for cleansing the country of Wade and son.
From April to August 2011, the group and their members campaigned door to door to register young Senegalese to vote at the Presidential election of 2012, and they claimed more than 300,000voters registered. During 2011, they organized manifestations, called “foires aux problèmes” (“problem fairs”), and sit-ins in Dakar’s Obelisk Square. On 15 February 2012, these manifestations were prohibited by Wade’s government, leading to 3 members of Y’en a Marre’s arrest on the 16th. This did not stop the group which continued manifesting until the election of Macky Sall as President. Today, even though Macky Sall has been elected president, Y’en a Marre remains active, hosting meetings, and shows, urging the new government to implement all the promised reforms.
So we can all choose to be the change we want to see, stop complaining, and start acting like Y’en a Marre. If there is anything wrong bothering you in your community, it is possible to work at it, to act upon it, and change it the way you want it to be. Our countries all need it, our continent needs it. Read the article the New York Times did on Y’en a Marre, as well as the UNRIC, and the article on NPR. So let’s us be “fed up” like the Y’en a Marre, and let us act and be the change we want to see.
I would like to share with you this poem of the late president of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor. This poem is an ode to the Black woman, but above all, to Senegal his country. Yes… after reading it several times, one realizes that Senghor was writing an ode to the Black woman, his mother, his sister, his daughter, but above all to Senegal which could be loved just like a woman, and whose “beauty stroke him to the heart like the flash of an eagle”, and whose “Savannah stretch[ed] to clear horizons, savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind’s eager caresses.” This poem was published in ‘Chants d’Ombre’ (1945), English translation by Melvin Dixon (in The Collected Poetry (CARAF books …)). As you read Senghor’s poem, do you see other meanings? who do you think was the intended audience? Do you feel, like me, that he is praising Senegal, the land of his ancestors? or is he talking about the woman of his dreams? Enjoy!
Femme nue, femme noire Vétue de ta couleur qui est vie, de ta forme qui est beauté J’ai grandi à ton ombre; la douceur de tes mains bandait mes yeux Et voilà qu’au cœur de l’Eté et de Midi, Je te découvre, Terre promise, du haut d’un haut col calciné Et ta beauté me foudroie en plein cœur, comme l’éclair d’un aigle
Femme nue, femme obscure Fruit mûr à la chair ferme, sombres extases du vin noir, bouche qui fais lyrique ma bouche Savane aux horizons purs, savane qui frémis aux caresses ferventes du Vent d’Est Tamtam sculpté, tamtam tendu qui gronde sous les doigts du vainqueur Ta voix grave de contralto est le chant spirituel de l’Aimée
Femme noire, femme obscure Huile que ne ride nul souffle, huile calme aux flancs de l’athlète, aux flancs des princes du Mali Gazelle aux attaches célestes, les perles sont étoiles sur la nuit de ta peau.
Délices des jeux de l’Esprit, les reflets de l’or ronge ta peau qui se moire
A l’ombre de ta chevelure, s’éclaire mon angoisse aux soleils prochains de tes yeux.
Femme nue, femme noire Je chante ta beauté qui passe, forme que je fixe dans l’Eternel Avant que le destin jaloux ne te réduise en cendres pour nourrir les racines de la vie.
Naked woman, black woman Clothed with your colour which is life, with your form which is beauty
In your shadow I have grown up; the gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes. And now, high up on the sun-baked pass, at the heart of summer, at the heart of noon, I come upon you, my Promised Land, And your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle.
Naked woman, dark woman Firm-fleshed ripe fruit, sombre raptures of black wine, mouth making lyrical my mouth Savannah stretching to clear horizons, savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind’s eager caresses Carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom, muttering under the Conqueror’s fingers Your solemn contralto voice is the spiritual song of the Beloved.
Naked woman, dark woman Oil that no breath ruffles, calm oil on the athlete’s flanks, on the flanks of the Princes of Mali Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the night of your skin
Delights of the mind, the glinting of red gold against your watered skin
Under the shadow of your hair, my care is lightened by the neighbouring suns of your eyes.
Naked woman, black woman, I sing your beauty that passes, the form that I fix in the Eternal, Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to feed the roots of life.
First of all, I would like to praise the victory of Macky Sallin Senegal againstAbdoulaye Wade… Apparently, and the foreign press does not want to give the real results,Wade received a real K.O.… He was apparently knocked out withless than 30% of voicesin thesecond round of the presidential elections in Senegal. Congratulations to Macky Sall and the people of Senegal who defeated the octogenarian Abdoulaye Wade. I am particularly joyous becauseAbdoulaye Wade has viciously destabilized some of the most stable countries in Africa in the past few years: Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, and recently Mali.This man totally served the western interests of stopping the formation of a United States of Africa, or rather the FMA (Fonds monetaire Africain), and the formation of a common currency. He betrayedKadhafi, and many others. I have no pity for somebody who was ready to transform his country into a monarchy… like Togo and Gabon… he just made the mistake of thinking that Senegal was Togo or Gabon. He should pay for his crimes and should also be prosecuted for crimes against humanity in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya. So long Gorgui… You will not be missed!
As I said,this is a people’s win… however, history (on the continent) has shown that simple alternance of power does not mean a true system change.Macky Sall may be good willing, full of good intentions, but how can he act if he does not even control his country’s currency? how can he act when the true power resides elsewhere, in the hexagon?Well we wish Macky Sall the best, and all children of Africa rejoice for his victory and that of the Senegalese people.We also hope that there could be light at the end of the tunnel, and give Macky Sall our entire support in leading his country.