Togo: Thank You for Being a Woman | Jémima Fiadjoe-Prince Agbodjan

Thank you for being a woman
For having been born
To know the pain of childbirth;
For having nursed my mother’s breast
To know the joy and happiness of offering my milk;
For having been carried on her back
To learn how to strengthen my back
For having known the tenderness of this maternal heart
To learn how to have a child’s heart.

Thank you for being a woman
For being at the school of prudence
Of endurance and of patience
In order to be guardian of the hearth
To insure its protection and fulfilment;
For being a nest of clear and creative thoughts
For being the welcoming earth where grow
              The seeds of the future

Thank you for being a woman
For being beauty and softness
For being light and warmth
For being discretion and lobe
And finally, more than anything,
For being born to give,
To give my Peace for the Peace
OF HUMANITY.

Jémima Fiadjoe-Prince Agbodjan studied medicine at the University of Dakar and then in France at the University of Lille. She works as a pediatrician in Lomé, Togo

 

Culled from Scottish Poetry Library

Tanzania: The Well|Euphrase Kezilahabi

In the birthplace of civilisation
the spring of health is open to all.
The croaking frogs draw us closer,
their chorus leading the giant
who approaches with long, loping strides.
A copper dagger pierces his navel.
With a bow and arrow clasped in his hands
he kneels down by the spring,
ready to attack anyone who approaches:
a hero never dies surrounded by thieves,
a hero dies like alone, like a wounded lion.

We cannot draw water from the well any longer
and the ink in our pens has run dry.
He who presses on with the pen
will be called a hero of deceit.
He who is fearful yet stands firm,
even unsupported,
will open the opposite door:
that between wisdom and understanding –
the first generation we behold.

KISIMA

Kisima cha maji ya uzima ki wazi
Na vyura katika bonde la taaluma watuita
Tujongee kwa mahadhi yao
Yaongozayo pandikizi la mtu
Kwa hatua ndefu litembealo
Na sindano ya shaba kitovuni
Upinde na mishale mkononi
Kisha likapiga goti kisimani
Tayari kumfuma akaribiaye
Maana shujaa hafi miongoni mwa wezi
Bali kama simba mawindoni.

Hatuwezi tena kuteka maji
Na kalamu zetu zimekauka wino.
Nani atamsukuma kwa kalamu
Aitwe shujaa wa uwongo!
Aliyeitia kitovuni kwa hofu
Ingawa tegemeo hakulipata
Alifungua mlango uelekeao
Katikati ya ujuzi na urazini mpya
Mwanzo wa kizazi tukionacho.

Euphrase Kezilahabi is a Tanzanian poet, novelist, and scholar, and is the most widely acknowledged contemporary Swahili author. He was one of the first African writers to publish a collection of free verse poetry in Swahili, his first collection, Kichomi (Twinge) was published in 1974 and led the movement for free verse Swahili poetry. Other collections include Karibu ndani (Welcome Inside, 1988) and Dhifa (Feast, 2008).

 

Translated by Katriina Ranne
Culled From: The Poetry Translation Workshop

Swaziland: The true view of my country (excerpt) | Jahings Dada

My country is not white in color

My country is painted white

Swaziland is a dark black country

But so colorful

Colored white

Our voices are not heard in Africa

Our tears are not seen across the world

Our feelings are not noted in Africa

Our funerals are not counted in Africa

Our unjust imprisonments are not considered across the world

 

Are we in a different plant?

Is this Pluto

 

To Africa I sing this song

To the world I throw these words

We need a better Swaziland

We need a better country

A free Swaziland

A living, not leaving Swaziland

As we die of poverty some are dying of obesity

A true picture of my country

My country

 

Sudan: A Body |Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi

The body of a bird in your mouth
breathing songs.
Raw light spills from your eyes,
utterly naked.

You must breach the horizon, once,
in order to wake up.
You must open window after window.
You must support the walls.

I let alphabets cling to me
as I climb the thread of language
between myself and the world.
I muster crowds in my mouth:
suspended between language and the world,
between the world and the alphabets.

I let my head
listen to the myth,
to all sides praising each other.
And I shout at the winds from the top of a mountain.

Why does my tongue tell me to climb this far?
What is the distance between my voice and my longing?
What is there?

A body transcending my body.
A body exiled by desire.
A body sheltered by the wind.

 

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi was born in Sudan in 1969 and grew up in Omdurman-Khartoum. His first two books, Ghina’ al-‘Uzlah (Songs of Solitude), and Matahat al-Sultan(The Sultan’s Labyrinth), were published simultaneously in 1996, immediately establishing him as a poet of great significance. His third collection, Aqasi Shashat al-Isgha’ (The Limits of the Screen of Listening), appeared in 2000 and a volume of his collected poems was published in 2009. Saddiq is alive to the complexities of his position as an African poet writing in Arabic. His desire to articulate those contradictions leads him to write poems that fuse complex imagery with Sudanese history.

Translated by: Atef Alshaer
Culled From: Poetry Translation and Poetry International

South Sudan: Child cry of war | Onam Liduba

I was found along the road side in open ash air
I grew like a child of leach
No mother and no father
I feed on bitter leaves and roots in the desert
I stay in rain and hot sun for fear
Are all children in the same condition?
No, a child elsewhere enjoys the calm blue sky
And the love of his parents
A fox has a den and a bird has nest
But the child of war has nowhere to lay his head
For fear of bombs and bullets in southern Sudan
O God lift up this child of war

 

 

Onam Liduba was born in  Southern Sudan. Displaced by the war, he lived in different refugee camps where he attended and then taught secondary school classes. In 2000, Liduba was granted asylum by the U.S., and in 2001, he was sent to Chicago where earned multiple degrees. In 2007, Liduba founded a non-profit organization called the Pari People Project to build a clinic and to provide school supplies for students in the Lafon area of Sudan.

South Africa: Men in Chains | Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali

The train stopped

at a country station.

Through sleep curtained eyes

I peered through the frosty window,

and saw six men:

men shorn

of all human honour

like sheep after shearing,

bleating at the blistering wind,

‘Go away! Cold wind! Go away!

Can’t you see we are naked?’

They hobbled into the train

on bare feet,

wrists handcuffed,

ankles manacled

with steel rings like cattle at the abattoirs

shying away from the trapdoor.

One man with a head

shaven clean as a potato

whispered to the rising sun,

a red eye wiped by a tattered

handkerchief of clouds,

‘Oh! Dear Sun!

Won’t you warm my heart

with hope?’

The train went on its way to nowhere.

 

Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali was born in KwaZulu-Natal in 1940. Apartheid legislation prevented his enrolment in University after he finished secondary school, but he studied via correspondence, obtaining a diploma with Premier School of Journalism and Authorship, affiliated to London University. He worked as a messenger in Johannesburg, drawing on his observations of the city to write his first collection, Sounds of a Cowhide Drum. Published in 1971, this book went on to become the best-selling poetry book in South African history.

Following the his successful debut, Mtshali studied at the International Writers’ Program at the University of Iowa. This was followed by undergraduate studies at the New School of Social Research, and an MFA from Columbia University. His second collection, Fireflames, was published in 1980. He taught in the USA until his return to South Africa in 2007. His focus now includes the lexicography of Zulu, a translation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ into this language, and the collection and recording of its folk songs.

Somalia: Perfection (excerpt) | Faysal Aw-Cabdi Axmed

Let me tell you some more of what makes her so special.
Hibo is the very best woman that I’ve ever seen.
Her mother’s foresight has protected her good name and honour.
Her father is a principled man who has shown great courage.
And her respected, tight-knit family stands at her side.
God gave her slenderness and a flawless character.
She is modest and she never strays.

Capable of building a home and raising a family,
this woman is complete and cannot be surpassed.
She stands out from other women like the dhamas tree* soars above the
rest.
You’d die with her, you’d die for her and forever you’d be with her.
And before death claims me, I must make her mine.

Faysal Aw-Cabdi Axmed was born in Hargeisa in 1968. He attended secondary school in Somalia  and moved to London for university. He now owns a restaurant and is a TV presenter. He’s written over 200 poems and 350 songs to date.

Culled from Poetry Translation Center. 

Sierra Leone: Farewell To My Dying Native Land (excerpt)| Tom Cauuray

When the sky played the rain-song
And the showers danced with you,
I remember the rhythm and the tune,
The whirring waltz which lulled my eyes to sleep.
These woes of war belabour sleep.

When you washed your dark-brown skin,
I smelled your spray of earth-perfume,
But now the scent of smouldering human flesh.
Your forests are scorched.
Your fauna crushed.
Your cheerful twigs on the bush-road edge,
Whose playful sprinkle washed my head,
Are all dead, now weevil’s bed.

Tom Cauuray was one of Sierra Leone’s foremost writers, intellectuasls, and adventurers. Forced to flee during the war, the poem was written upon his return to the country. Cauuray died in Sierra Leone in 2009.

Seychelles: Your Country | Antoine Abel

Your country

Is studded with mountains,

Seychelles lad.

With tough granite

With crude gravel

And with coral, your country.

Your country

Wears a belt

Of white beaches loosening in the tides.

Antoine Abel was born in 1934, in Anse Boileau on Mahé Island, the principal island of the Seychelles. He went to school there, then attended the Universities of Reading and Bristol in England, eventually taking up a position at the Seychelles Teacher Training College which he held until he retired in 1986. Abel is widely considered to be the father of Seychelles literature, having written novels, short stories, poetry, plays and folklore in French, English and Seychelles Creole, as well as collecting oral pieces for publication. His best known works are three collections of prose poems: Coco sec (1969), Une tortue se rappelle (1977), Contes et poémes des Seychelles (1977). Abel was awarded France’s Prix Mascareignes in 1979. Following his death in 2004, since 2007 the Festival Kreol des Seychelles yearly awards the Prix Antoine Abel in his honour.

Senegal: I will pronounce your name | Léopold Sédar Senghor

I will pronounce your name, Naett, I will declaim you, Naett!
Naett, your name is mild like cinnamon; it is the fragrance, in which the lemon grove sleeps,
Naett, your name is the sugared clarity of blooming coffee trees
And it resembles the savannah that blossoms forth under the masculine ardour of the midday sun.
Name of dew, fresher than the shadows of tamarind,
Fresher even than the short dusk, when the heat of the day is silenced.
Naett that is the dry tornado, the hard clap of lightening
Naett, coin of gold, shinning coal, you my night, my sun!…
I am your hero, and now I have become your sorcerer, in order to pronounce your names.
Princess of Elissa, banished from Futa on the fateful day.

SenghorLéopold Sédar Senghor has been acclaimed as the father of the Negritude movement (formed by black Francophone intellectuals to reject the racist ideologiest of colonialism and promote their shared African heritage) and one of the greatest Francophone African poets. Born in Senegal, he schooled both in Dakar and in Paris.  He was the first West African to teach in a French university. In 1960, he became the President of the Federal Republic of Mali and later in the same year, the President of Senegal.