Sunday

Thank you, David Diop

Who is or was David Diop?
Mr Diop was a poet. He was born in Bordeaux, France, in 1927. His father was Senegalese, his mother was Cameroonian. He was an African not in Africa, which is usually painful. Most of his work talked against colonialism and oppression. He died in a plane crash in 1960, going from France to Senegal. Apparently the bulk of his work died with him in that plane crash (Good God!). What we know, the 22 poems that we keep reading over and over, was published before his death. Here are two:


AFRICA

David Diop


Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of the distant river
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery
Africa, tell me Africa
Is this your back that is bent
This back that breaks under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying yes to the whip under the midday sun
But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
Springing up patiently, obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
The bitter taste of liberty.
__________



I read and re-read this poem in high school in Lesotho (Peka High School). My friends and I had it memorised (Japan, Mlozi, do you remember?) We had apartheid South-Africa right next door, and words like those of Mr Diop meant a great deal. This poem is marvellous in English, although it was written in French. I don't know if the fact that I knew it first in English has made me think that it is better in English. The whole point of this entry, in any case, is to thank Mr Diop and lament his early death and the loss of his written but unpublished words.

Ntate Diop, mantsoe a hao a re hlabile joalo ka marumo a Makoanyane, mantsoe a hao a re hlomotse joalo ka sello sa mosali t'sotlehong, lefu la hao le re bolaile le ho o feta. Robala ka khotso.

Here is the second gem:


Your Presence

David Diop


In your presence I rediscovered my name;
My name that was hidden under the pain of separation;
I rediscovered the eyes no longer veiled with fever;
And your laughter like a flame piercing the shadows,
Has revealed Africa to me beyond the snow of yesterday;
Ten years my love.

With days of illusions and shattered ideas;
And sleep made restless with alcohol;
The suffering that burdens today with the taste of tomorrow;
And that turns love into a boundless river;

In your presence I have rediscovered the memory of my blood;
And necklaces of laughter hung around our days;
Days sparkling with ever new joys.
__________

Monday

Bofutsana (Poverty)

Poverty
Pronunciation: ['pä-v&r-tE]
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English poverte, from Old French poverté, from Latin paupertat-, paupertas, from pauper poor -- more at POORDate: 12th century
Meaning: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.

That's how Merriam-Webster on-line defines the word poverty. Visit Merriam-Webster here.

Poverty is the next battle we have to fight. I had a privileged childhood in Lesotho. I did not have everything I needed, but I did not want, I did not go hungry (even when my father was in prison for political reasons), and I always had something to wear (though sometimes worn hand-me-downs). In Lesotho today there are people without even those basic things:
1. -- No food,
2. -- No clothes, no shoes
3. -- Leaky roof or sidewalk,
4. -- No education,
5. -- Poor hygiene,
6. -- Not everything they are entitled to, as human beings (decency) and as Basotho (the constitution).

This affects almost 50% of Basotho. Almost 50% of Basotho live below the poverty line. Half of the nation of Lesotho is hungry and unclothed. No matter how you say it, the facts are there for all to see: Basotho ba lapile, Basotho ba hlobotse, Basotho ba hatsetse.

Fair enough, we're a so-called third-world country, we're still developing, we're not the only ones--look at Swaziland. Hogwash! That's what those who want to pull a fast one, hoodwink the nation, continue to roll in the gravy, will often say. We've got our own share of fat cats, and they make up about 10% of the population. It is hardly their fault, though. Some of them (very few in fact) have worked hard to get to where they are. But the fact remains: 10% of the population of Lesotho is living it up while 50% is dying away. I invite you to do one or all of the following:

1. -- Look around you and spot a poor family. Don't just give them scraps from your table. Take one of their kids and send them to school. Primary and High school tuition in Lesotho is peanuts for people like you. You will be helping the child, the child's parents, the country, and yourself.
2. -- Give your clothes to needy families. Collect them over time and donate them in bundles, not as units (to reduce the embarrassment that might go with it).
3. -- Don't look down on the unfortunate. You just happened to be lucky, believe me. You're in no way special.
4. -- Send your maid, gardener, etc. to night school or weekend school or correspondence school or whatever it is they're doing these days in continuing education. Teach them not to depend on you but to stand on their own feet. You won't always be there for them and their families!
5. -- Be a human being, not a bas@$§!%£ard. That means: Recycle, don't throw away (food, clothes, paper, bottles); Vote, and vote well. Don't vote for your cousin or your pal, vote for the candidate who looks like they mean business. We're tired of all these fat-cat lackeys who are hungering for power. Tell your employees to go and vote or they're fired (Don't tell them who to vote for, though); Sympathise, talk to that poor person on the pavement. Look at them and smile, say Lumela Ntate, Lumela 'Mè, Lumela Ngoaneso. There is absolutely no good reason why it should be that person in that situation and not you, unless you consider luck and perhaps rotten politics a good reason. Read the constitution, so that you can better choose who to vote for, and so that you can better know what Basotho are supposed to be getting, so that you can better fight to improve the system. Talk freely about the constitution and about human rights.
6. -- Even better than (1) above, dare the government to match you. Talk to somebody high up there somewhere in the government. If you are not important enough to be accorded an audience, convince an important citizen who is and go with them. Get the government to send one Mosotho to school (fees, books, clothes, food) for every Mosotho child you send. Fight and refuse to take no for an answer. The general effect would be to double the number of children who go to school, insread of running after goats all day long. Hey, perhaps you and the government can convince a sponsor (A big cola selling company, The Bill Gates Foundation, for example) to match your team. Instead of one initial child going to school, four go to school. The snow-ball effect. Be tenacious. Don't give in. This is about the future of your children and mine. God knows Basotho have suffered enough as it is.

Blimey, how hard can it be? We don't have millions and millions of open mouths to feed. We have only two and a half. 2.5 million people. We have resources. 50% of the population living below the poverty line is inacceptable. It is inacceptable. It is inacceptable.

I've known Basotho who were poorer than the above-mentioned dictionary definition of the word. I've known people who weren't only lacking "a usual or socially acceptable amount of money" but lacking any kind of money; not for show, nor for the movies, nor the newspaper, but for papa (bread)! Remember the television images of starving Ethiopians during that country's drought? Do you think the above-mentioned definition fits their case?

Click on the "comments' link below to suggest other ways of fighting poverty and being less of a bas@$§!%£ard. The fight has only begun. Now go and do good.

Friday

African Proverb in the Akan language

Aberewa hwe abofra ma ofifir se nna abofra so hwe aberewa ma nese tutu. (Akan)

Leqheku le thusa ngoana ha meno a hae a hlaha, ngoana o thusa leqheku ha meno a lona a oela. (Sesotho)

The old woman looks after the child to grow its teeth and the young one in turn looks after the old woman when she loses her teeth. (English)


This Ghanaian proverb appeared as proverb of the month on this site. The Sesotho translation is mine. I haven't been able to find an equivalent Sesotho proverb. You can also get quite a thorough "explanation" of the proverb on this page.

Cheers

Monday

Polao ea Basotho (Killing Basotho)

There are certain things that one does not forget. I will never forget that another Mosotho, or Basotho, killed my nephew, 3-year-old Motlatsi Masilo, in his sleep, and my older brother, Khotsofalang Reaboka Masilo, as well as other innocent Basotho. I'll never forget that a group of Basotho came to my home in the middle of the night and sprayed bullets through the windows in a bid to kill my father.

Another Mosotho or Basotho put a pistol to Khotsofalang's forehead and pulled the trigger. Or perhaps this other Mosotho or Basotho cut my brother's wrists with a sharpened knife. Or perhaps they tortured him until his body gave up.

I may never know whether this co-citizen or these co-citizens crushed my brother's testicles, gouged out his eyes, sliced off his ears and let him bleed to death, or just bumped him off "humanely" with a lethal injection like one does a sick animal. I may never get answers. What did this Mosotho or these Basotho do with Khotsofalang's body. Did he, she or they burn it? Bury it? Dance upon it? Embalm it? Leave it to the dogs? Piss on it?

What?

I may never know, and it is indeed the not knowing that haunts us, that makes it a point to remind us every once in a while. You don't know where he is! You don't know where his remains are! Nya nya nya nya nya!

Why did this Mosotho or Basotho kill Khotsofalang? And most important, what is this Mosotho or Basotho thinking today? Do they look at themselves in the mirror every morning and feel like shit -- or are they proud for having done this devastating deed? Or have they already forgotten about it ("It was all in a day's work")? If this Mosotho or Basotho are reading this, what would they like to tell me, I wonder, and my two other brothers and my two sisters and my parents?

Here is what I would like to tell them: YOU KILLED MY BROTHER, AND YOU MAY HAVE KILLED MY NEPHEW AND TRIED TO KILL MY FATHER. YOU MAY HAVE KILLED OTHER BASOTHO SOLELY BECAUSE THEY HAD A DIFFERENT POLITICAL OPINION FROM YOURS. FUCK YOU. YOU HAVE TAKEN THE LIFE OF TWO PEOPLE IN MY FAMILY AND TRIED TO TAKE THE LIFE OF A THIRD ONE. I WILL NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO US AND TO OTHER BASOTHO. I HAVE DOUBTS AS TO YOUR HUMAN-NESS. BUT IF I SAW YOU TODAY I WOULD NOT WANT TO REVENGE. I WOULD SIMPLY ASK YOU TO TELL ME WHERE THE FUCK MY BROTHER'S BONES ARE. THE REST OF THE STORY IS BETWEEN YOU AND GOD. AND ON THAT SCORE I THINK YOU, MY FRIEND, ARE IN DEEP SHIT.

There are other people who know or knew about this, even if they were not directly implicated. They chose to shut up. And they haven't opened their mouths since. They are the accomplices. For the sake of politics, or whatever base reason they had, they kept quiet and they are still quiet about the killing of a 3-year-old, a teenager, and the attempted assassination of a father and husband. YOU ARE ACCOMPLICES.

In actual fact, there are a lot of things that happen in our culture that go unpunished. No matter how disastrous those things are. Rape. Theft (Conveniently called 'ho tsalla'). Ho tsalla is theft, and worse, it's somebody stronger openly using their force to take another person's possession. Ho tsalla is bad theft, it's thuggery, and should be punished as such. It is not a hungry person who steals a piece of bread to eat. It's banditism, thuggery, theft, aggression. I speak of this because such things engender other, bigger crimes, like killings that go unpunished. Letting stuff like ho tsalla go unpunished is like saying "Hey, everyone, go right ahead and loot and break the law and break up families. It's alright"

Except that it's not alright.

I think that the government must come down hard on petty theft and other things that our society does not normally punish. Teach the children what's right and wrong early on and they'll know what's wrong and right later on