It is much harder now to encounter the works of Francophone and Lusophone African writers. Beyond the big names that tend to attract a lot of attention, that is. I don’t know if I’m not trying hard enough or what. The real issue is that it should not be this hard.
This notion of mine implies that it was easier at some point to find and read such literature. I’m thinking of course, that in the 1960s, 1970s, the field of African literature was more united, more diverse with more languages? Certainly, I didn’t make a distinction between Francophone and Anglophone African writers when I started reading them in my teenage years. That is, I was not aware there was a distinction. I was just as likely to read books by Ousmane Sembene, Aminatta Sow Fall and Mariama Ba as I would books by Flora Nwapa, Ngugi and Bessie Head.
Of course, there were fewer African writers then. And the continent seems bigger now.
However, I cannot ignore the appearance of a divide between African literature written in English and those written in French or Portuguese. Back in the day, editors could not compile a collection of short stories written only in English and include the word “African” in the title. These days, books and artistic works can be called African and be completely all English and non-inclusive.
Anglophone Africans are increasingly comfortable with an Africa that includes only those who speak English.
I’m highly critical these days and my tolerance dial is close to zero so dear reader, please holler if you think I’m being extreme.
But I think I’m on to something. And whatever it is, we must cease and desist immediately.
It’s wrong on so many levels. Utterly suicidal for the African project.
Rightly or wrongly, I go looking for contemporary poetry on the Interwebs a lot. There aren’t numerous sources for translated contemporary Francophone African poetry on the web. So please do share a good source if you have one.
A poet from Central Africa for today’s Another 21 Days/21 Poems.
Source: Concordia Language Villages
Nimrod (Nimrod Bena Djangrang) is from Chad. He is also an award-winning novelist and an essayist. His books include Passage à l’infini and Babel, Babylone.
The Cry of the Bird
for Daniel Bourdanné
I wanted to be overcome with silence
I abandoned the woman I love
I closed myself to the bird of hope
That invited me to climb the branches
Of the tree, my double
I created havoc in the space of my garden
I opened up my lands
I found the air that circulates between the panes
Pleasant. I was happy
To be my life’s witch doctor
When the evening rolled out its ghosts
The bird in me awoke again
Its cry spread anguish
In the heart of my kingdom
– by Nimrod
Poem from The Parley Tree and translated by Patrick Williamson with Yann Lovelock
Thanks to Michelle for writing about The Parley Tree which I’ve promptly added to my wishlist!