Imagine africa volume 3, p.1

Imagine Africa, Volume 3, page 1

 

Imagine Africa, Volume 3
 


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Imagine Africa, Volume 3


  COPYRIGHT © 2016, ISLAND POSITION

  FIRST EDITION

  Ebook ISBN 9780914671756

  Island Position is grateful for the generous support of the Eva Tas Foundation.

  “Heart of Darkness” by Chika Unigwe, copyright © Chika Unigwe.

  Originally appeared at Citybooks.

  Used by permission of Wolf Literary Servives, LLC. All rights reserved.

  Excerpt from La Divine Chanson © Abdourahman Waberi, 2015.

  Excerpt from Photo de groupe au bord du fleuve by permission from the author Emmanuel Dongala.

  COVER ART

  Hassan Hajjaj, Ilham, 2000, digital C-print, 94 × 129 cm,

  courtesy the artist and Taymour Grahne Gallery, New York.

  PHOTOGRAPHY AND ART CREDITS

  Hassan Hajjaj, Poetic Pilgrimage, 2010, metallic lambda print on 3mm dibond, 136 × 100.6 cm.

  Hassan Hajjaj, Wamuhu, 2015.

  Hassan Hajjaj, Kesh Angels, 2010, metallic lambda print on 3mm dibond, 101 × 137.7cm.

  Hassan Hajjaj, Hindiii, 2011, metallic lambda print on 3mm disband, 120 × 85 cm.

  All images courtesy the artist and Taymour Grahne Gallery, New York.

  Zanele Muholi, Massa and Minah I, 2008. • Zanele Muholi, Massa and Minah VI, 2010.

  Zanele Muholi, Massa and Maids IV, Hout Bay, 2009. • Zanele Muholi, Massa and Minah II, 2008.

  Zanele Muholi, Massa and Minah III, 2008. • Zanele Muholi, Minah V, 2009.

  All images courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

  Jean-Pierre Bekolo, An African Woman in Space, Musée du Quai Branly Paris, 2007–8.

  Jean-Pierre Bekolo scene from Le président, 2013.

  Jean-Pierre Bekolo, scene from An African Woman in Space, Musée du Quai Branly Paris, 2007–8.

  All images courtesy of Jean-Pierre Bekolo.

  v4.1

  a

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  BHAKTI SHRINGARPURE

  Editor

  HASSAN HAJJAJ

  Portraits Poetic Pilgrimage, Wamuhu, Kesh Angels, Hindiii

  ABDOURAHMANE WABERI

  The Divine Song (La Divine Chanson)

  Translated by DAVID AND NICOLE BALL

  REESOM HAILE

  My Washington Agenda ✣ Bitter and Cold ✣ Adam, You ✣ No Regrets

  Translated by CHARLES CANTALUPO

  CHIKA UNIGWE

  Heart of Darkness

  ISAAC O. DELANO

  The Age of White Rulers (Aiye d’Aiye Oyinbo)

  Translated by AKIN ADESOKAN

  ZANELE MUHOLI

  “Massa” and Minah

  KERRY BYSTROM

  Essay: Queer(y)ing Domestic Service

  UNGULANI BA KA KHOSA

  Ualalapi

  Translated by DAVID BROOKSHAW

  JEAN SÉNAC

  Sketch of a Total Body ✣ The Prince of Aquitaine ✣ The Fig Tree Laurels

  Translated by KAI KRIENKE

  EMMANUEL DONGALA

  Group Photo by the Riverside (Photo de groupe au bord du fleuve)

  Translated by SARA C. HANABURGH

  BREYTEN BREYTENBACH

  “That Ship Has Flown” ✣ Measures ✣ The Dance of the Stones ✣ The To-end ✣ The To-death

  HASSAN GHEDI SANTUR

  Tell Me a Story

  ALFRED SCHAFFER

  Man Animal Thing

  Day(Dream) # 5,106 ✣ Shaka’s Brief Flirtation with Romance ✣ ‘Self-portrait as 007’– Day(Dream) # 1,516 ✣ Shaka Finally Finds The Love Of His Life

  Translated by MICHELE HUTCHISON

  SANMAO

  Desert Dining

  Translated by MIKE FU

  TAREK ELTAYEB

  A Hoopoe ✣ Stars ✣ Birth

  Translated by KAREEM JAMES ABU-ZEID

  DIEKOYE OYEYINKA

  Stillborn

  JEAN-PIERRE BEKOLO and KENNETH HARROW

  Filmmakers at the frontlines: A conversation

  ABDOURAHMAN WABERI

  Translated from the French by DAVID and NICOLE BALL

  Djiboutian novelist, essayist, academic, and poet ABDOURAHMAN WABERI arrived in France in 1985 to study English literature. While in Paris, Waberi was a literary consultant for Editions Le Serpent à plumes and a literary critic for Le Monde Diplomatique. Waberi’s first collection of stories Le Pays Sans Ombre (1994) received the Grand prix de la nouvelle francophone from the Académie Royale de Langue et de Littérature Française de Belgique and the Prix Albert Bernard from the Académie des Sciences d’Outre-mer de Paris. A versatile writer, he is the author of almost a dozen books and has been translated into over ten languages. He currently teaches at George Washington University.

  DAVID and NICOLE BALL have signed, together or separately, well over a dozen book-length translations, including three novels by Abdourahman A. Waberi, and most recently Marseille Noir for Akashic Books. They are currently working on The Divine Song for Seagull Books. David won the French-American Foundation 2014 Translation Prize (non-fiction) for Jean Guéhenno, Diary of the Dark Years: 1940-1944 (Oxford University Press) and MLA’s prize for outstanding literary translation in 1995 for Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology 1927-1984 (University of California Press.) His translation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu the King is included in the Norton Anthology of Drama. Nicole has translated three books from French to English, among them Maryse Condé’s Land of Many Colors (University of Nebraska Press.)

  La Divine Chanson

  un extrait

  The original French edition of La Divine Chanson has a red paper band across the cover with, in English, “The revolution will not be televised” on it. This lyrical novel is a fictionalized life of that internationally known spoken-word song’s author—Gil Scott-Heron, here called Sammy Kamau-Williams. His story is told by Paris, his magical Sufi cat, with special emphasis on Scott-Heron’s roots in the Caribbean and Africa, and his links to Brazil.

  LILY WILLIAMS, la grand-mère de Sammy, avait eu la chance de connaître son arrière-arrière-grand-mère née en Afrique. C’était une très belle femme. Grande de taille, le teint couleur nuit. Elle avait vu le jour dans la cour d’un grand roi. Aux enfants, l’ancêtre rapportait que tous les Noirs achetés par les Blancs ne devenaient pas esclaves. À l’époque, dans cette cour royale, éclairée par six torches baignant dans la résine d’okoumé, le sel était un produit précieux et son grand-père était chargé de l’éclairage. Elle racontait que la vie était agréable avant l’arrivée des mangeurs d’âmes. Mais la joie s’est éteinte peu à peu. Dès la tombée de la nuit, les villages étaient déserts. Les mangeurs d’âmes rôdaient, précédés par les hyènes, les chacals et les vautours. Tous les Noirs ne devenaient pas esclaves, répétait la vieille pour nos oreilles innocentes. Il arrivait souvent que des captifs disparaissent au cours du voyage, échappant définitivement à l’esclavage. Volatilisés. Ils avaient des méthodes particulières et des fétiches qui leur assuraient l’accès à l’inconnu en empruntant des chemins escarpés et dangereux.

  Grandir auprès de mes parents d’Afrique fut une chance inouïe, soufflait-elle, car j’eus tôt l’occasion d’écouter de nombreuses histoires. En ce temps-la, racontait l’ancêtre baptisée Adelina, pour être une bonne personne il fallait se doter, à la prime adolescence, de pouvoirs surnaturels. Les grands-parents avaient la charge de voir grandir leurs petits-enfants avant de leur transmettre les secrets entourant la préparation des breuvages. La confection des fétiches et des reliques se pratiquait, à l’écart du monde visible, au fond de la forêt. Et les Noirs de la côte, alliés des Blancs, étaient très intéressés par les pouvoirs surnaturels. Alléchés. Atti
rés par l’odeur du sang, ils se lançaient a la recherche des fétiches, sillonnant les terres profondes, tuant tout sur leur passage. Mais les hommes de la forêt savaient manier le coutelas. Rien ne pouvait leur résister, pas même l’assaut des troupeaux de buffles. Si d’aventure, ils étaient pris par les courtiers de la côte, ligotés, destinés à être livrés aux Blancs, il suffisait aux hommes de la forêt d’un mot de passe pour que les liens se brisent sans délai. Ils s’enfuyaient. Une fois, deux fois, dix fois. Mais malheureusement pour eux, les hommes de la forêt n’allaient pas tous tres loin parce que les Blancs les tuaient avec leurs longs fusils. D’autres, pris de panique, se disaient : «Il faut rester calme parce que le bâton que tient le Blanc peut tuer un éléphant.» C’est ainsi, disait la grand-mère de ma grand-mère baptisée Adelina en hommage à une religieuse espagnole, qu’on embarquait les hommes de la forêt défaits par les fétiches des Blancs.

  Les fuyards s’enfonçaient dans la forêt, se terrant dans les massifs de Mbelet et de Mamfoumbi, quêtant de nouveaux fétiches. Les résultats ne furent pas toujours à la hauteur. La grand-mère de ma grand-mère Adelina avait entendu dire que les pouvoirs de certains féticheurs ne se réveillaient que les nuits sans lune. Les Blancs entendaient, de loin, les grognements de la panthère qui protégeait la cour d’Ouidah et au même moment, la carcasse d’un esclave s’agitait au fond de la cale. Pris de peur, les Blancs se disaient : «Regarde-le! Ses yeux sortent de l’orbite. Il a les poils de la panthère. Que faire? Il est en transe.» Sans plus attendre, les Blancs le jetaient donc par-dessus bord. Au contact de l’eau, les esprits libéraient l’écrin charnel et s’en allaient. Et l’esclave ou, plus exactement, son enveloppe mourait par noyade au large. Tandis que sa part éthérée, sempiternellement neuve, retournait dans la forêt comme ça, sur un claquement de doigts. Voilà ce que me racontait la grand-mère de ma grand-mère baptisée Adelina en hommage à une religieuse catholique qui venait en aide aux Noirs de la Floride. Et voilà ce que je racontais moi-même à mon petit Sammy baptisé en l’honneur d’un ancêtre au masque pommelé de taches de rousseur comme s’il était sorti d’un brasier. Cet ancêtre nègre rouquin avait connu la religieuse espagnole. Il s’appelait Samuel lui aussi.

  Lily n’était pas une femme ordinaire. Elle avait l’art du conteur chevillé au corps. Et comme le diseur des sept vérités, elle déroulait ses récits ésotériques tout en gardant pour elle leurs codes et leurs énigmes. L’histoire finie, elle reprenait son baluchon, elle se levait d’un bond pour retourner à ses grandes bassines en inox. À ses draps et le reste de son linge à laver car elle nourrit ses enfants et ses petits-enfants à la force de ses poignets couverts de mousse de savon. Il ne restait plus qu’à guetter la prochaine occasion. Les soirs d’été, les fêtes spontanées ne manquaient pas. Le parc et l’arrière-cour de l’église étaient pleins comme un œuf. Mariages, baptêmes, récoltes, arrivées de nouveaux dans le voisinage, toutes les occasions étaient bonnes. Les membres de la famille, les voisins, les métayers des bourgs environnants, les chanteurs ambulants, les ouailles de la paroisse et les pèlerins d’un soir se retrouvaient pour d’interminables victuailles suivies d’interminables danses et célébrations.

  Les récits de l’ancêtre agissaient comme un révélateur. Toute la lignée en gardait la trace, à son insu. Lily fut de ceux qui tiraient la famille vers la lumière, la clarté du jour, les aubes au détriment des crépuscules.

  The Divine Song

  an excerpt

  LILY WILLIAMS, Sammy’s grandmother, was lucky enough to have known his great-great-grandmother, who was born in Africa. She was a very beautiful woman. Tall, with her skin the color of night. She came into the world in the court of a great king. The old woman told the children that all the Blacks bought by the Whites did not become slaves. At the time, in this royal court, lit by six torches dipped in okoumé resin, salt was a precious product; her grandfather was in charge of lighting. She said that life was pleasant before the arrival of the soul-eaters. But little by little, all joy was extinguished. As soon as night fell, the villages were deserted. The soul-eaters would go out on the prowl, preceded by hyenas, jackals and vultures.

  All the Blacks did not become slaves, the old woman repeated for our innocent ears. Often captives would disappear during the voyage, definitively escaping from slavery. Vanished into thin air. They had special ways and fetishes that assured their access to the unknown by taking steep, dangerous paths.

  Growing up with my African parents was an incredible piece of luck, she would whisper, for from an early age, I had the opportunity to listen to many stories. In those days, said the old lady named Adelina, to be a good person you had to acquire supernatural powers in yout early adolescence. It was the duty of the grandparents to see their grandchildren reach adolescence before they could transmit to them the secrets surrounding the preparation of magic potions. Making fetishes and relics was practiced away from the visible world, in the depths of the forest. And the Blacks of the Coast who were the Whites’ allies were extremely interested in supernatural powers. It made their mouth water. Attracted by the smell of blood, they threw themselves into the search for fetishes, walking back and forth over the deepest reaches of the land, killing everything in their path. But the men of the forest were adept at using the cutlass. Nothing could resist them, not even an assault by a herd of water-buffalo. If by chance they were captured by the courtiers of the coast, tied up and ready to be delivered to the Whites, all the men of the forest needed was a password for their bonds to be sundered immediately. They fled. Once, twice, ten times. But unfortunately for them, the men of the forest could not all get very far because the Whites would kill them with their long rifles. Others would panic and say to themselves: “We must stay calm because the stick in the hands of the White man can kill an elephant.” This, said my grandmother’s grandmother, named Adelina in honor of a Spanish nun, is how they carried off the men of the forest, defeated by the fetishes of the Whites.

  The ones who fled would plunge deep into the forest, hiding in the Mbelet and Mamfumbi mountains, searching for new fetishes. The results did not always measure up. My grandmother Adelina’s grandmother had heard that the powers of some fetish-makers would only awake on moonless nights. The Whites would hear the far-off growls of the panther that protected the Ouidah court and at the exact same time, the carcass of a slave would begin to jerk around at the bottom of the hold. Frightened, the Whites said to themselves: “Look at him! His eyes are coming out of their sockets. He has the hair of a panther. What can we do? He’s in a trance.” Without delay, the Whites would throw him overboard. On contact with the water, the spirits would free his fleshly envelope and leave. And the slave, or, more exactly, his mortal coil, would die of drowning out at sea. While his ethereal part, eternally renewed, would return to the forest just like that, at the snap of a finger. That is what was told to me by the grandmother of my grandmother named Adelina in honor of a Spanish nun who came to the assistance of the Blacks of Florida. And that’s what I myself told my little Sammy, baptized Sammy in honor of an ancestor whose face was all spotted with red freckles as if he had come out of an inferno. This black red-headed ancestor had known the Spanish nun. His name was Samuel, too.

  Lilly was not an ordinary woman. She was a born storyteller. And like the teller of the seven truths, she would roll out her esoteric stories while keeping their codes and enigmas to herself. Once the story was over, she would pick up her bundle again, spring to her feet and return to her big stainless steel basins. To her sheets and the rest of the wash, for she fed her children and grandchildren by means of her soapsud-cover wrists. All one could do was wait for the next occasion. On summer evenings, there was no lack of spontaneous festivities. The grounds and backyard of the church were full to bursting. Weddings, baptisms, harvests, the arrival of new people in the neighborhood, any occasion was matter for celebration. Members of the family, neighbors, tenant farmers of surrounding towns, wandering singers, the parishioners and the passing pi
lgrims would all come together for interminable feasts followed by interminable dances and celebrations.

  The old woman’s stories were a revelation. Her whole lineage kept a trace of them without knowing it. Lilly was one of those people who could draw a family toward the light, the light of day, to dawns and never to sunsets.

  REESOM HAILE

  Translated from the Tigrinya by CHARLES CANTALUPO

  REESOM HAILE, 1946–2003, remains Eritrea’s most famous contemporary poet. In exile during Eritrea’s war for independence, he returned there in 1994. His first and only collection in Tigrinya, Waza Ms Qumneger Ntnsae Hager (“Your Knowing Smiles”), won the 1998 Raimok prize, Eritrea’s highest award for literature. He patriotically rallied his nation with a poem that achieved the popularity of a rock ‘n’ roll anthem, “Alewuna, Alewana,” “We Have, We Have.” Celebrating independence from European colonialism, many an African nation would echo and translate William Wordsworth’s famous words: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive / But to be young was very heaven.” As the 1990s unfolded, Eritrea embodied it loud and clear. Living in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital, Haile was constantly high-spirited. His poems consistently exhibited a playful tone or, in his more serious lyrics, a playful edge. They also provided a window to see Eritrea as it had never been seen before and, perhaps, has never been seen since.

  CHARLES CANTALUPO has translated two books of poetry by Reesom Haile, We Have Our Voice and We Invented the Wheel, and he is the co-translator / editor of Who Needs a Story? Contemporary Eritrean Poetry in Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic. He is also a co-author of the historic Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literature and the writer / director of the documentary Against All Odds, on African language literature. His memoir, Joining Africa – From Anthills to Asmara, is a story of poets and poetry in Africa. His new book of poetry, Where War Was – Poems and Translations of Poems from Eritrea includes new translations of poems by Reesom Haile.

 
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