Wangari Maathai, “Dear Fresh Spirit”

The Kenyan environmentalist, political activist and Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai passed away on September 25th, 2011.  I’ve been struggling with how to articulate my thoughts on her passing.  I wonder whether we are aware of what and who we’ve lost.  I’m not surprised at this; Yvonne Vera has been on my mind a lot these past months.  And Ama Ata Aidoo’s poem, To Bessie Head, which she wrote when her fellow writer died, pops up every time I think of  Wangari Maathai. Here, then is an excerpt (by kind permission of the author) of the poem:

For the moment,

we fear and
dare not accept that
given how things

poetry almost becomes
dirges and
not much more.

we hold on to knowing
ourselves as daughters of
darklight women
who are so used to Life
– giving it
feeding it –

was always
quite unwelcome;
– taking them by surprise –
an evil peevish brat
to be flattered,
over-dressed and perfumed…

We fear to remember:
fatigued as we are by so much
death and dying and
the need to bury and
to mourn.

Bessie Head:
such a fresh ancestress!

If you chance
on a rainy night
to visit,

if you chance
on a sunny day
to pass by,

look in to see
– how well we do
– how hard we fight
– how loud we scream

against the plots
– to kill our souls our bodies too
– to take our land, and
– feed us shit.

Dear Fresh Spirit,

that rejoining
The Others,
you can tell them
now more than ever,

do we need
the support
the energy

to create
recreate and

nothing more
nothing less.

Wangari Maathai, we thank you and may you rest in perfect peace.

As if to soothe our grief a bit, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was given to Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee and Yemen’s Tawakkul Karman.

Please read Gukira’s post on Wangari Maathai’s legacy.



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