Praise Song for the Gravediggers

51pvxa8xael._sx331_bo1204203200_Victory Threads

she had proclaimed

in a combined fit

of whistfulness and swaggering insolence

she had had combs in Abidjan

with names

– Akissi, Ahou, Abla, Ama, Adjoua-

who understood the temperament

of each day’s hair story

who could dress your head

while wearing choruses of victory threads in your brain

preparing you to meet the day

haughty and wholly armoured ”

Poet, Teacher, Mother”. This is how Octavia McBride-Ahebee describes herself and, by doing that, she portrays herself as a craftswoman of words. From the cities of Côte d’Ivoire to the African-American spirituality, her poems travel around the world.

In this collection of poems, women move incessantly about the world, they criss-cross landscapes and cultures and create new ones. Aminata, the Malian woman crossing the Sahara Desert and ending up in an American city, represents one of the iconic images of this collection and gives an aura of dignity and creativity that defies any obstacle. In the hair she braids are also woven the stories of all the women who, like her, have passed on their heritage thus creating a world of words.

Courage, passion, dignity and freedom of the spirit: these are the leading values of the women figures who populate the space of Octavia McBride-Ahebee’s poems. They populate a world in which cultures are ever so permeable without losing their authenticity. What is more, they become ever more tolerant and complex as the voices who pass them on, having inherited the ancient cultural values, transform them into new stories.

Learn more about Octavia McBride-Ahebee’s work:

Praise Song for the Gravediggers by Octavia McBride-Ahebee

978-1792945212 / Independently published (December 31, 2018)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

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