Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Abantu

Chris Abani muses on humanity | Video on TED.com


ABANTU

Eh Mwana, sitting on the red soil,
Rise to your feet,
Why are you crying?

My hair is tough
And dry like sisal
I cannot pull it straight.

Pull it straight, whatever for? Forgive your mama, I failed to disclose,
You have abantu in you.
You can love it, hate it,
Hide it or shave it,
You cannot rid yourself of it,
You can grow it, explain it, relax it or burn it,
You can braid a new shape into it,
You can proclaim it or deny it but understand
You have abantu in you.

Eh Mwana, on the city street
The sun has slept,
Why are you dancing?

This city is a slum,
But I hear the drums,
And my will and feet keep moving,

Ha! That’s no surprise, Listen to your mama, I’ll tell you
You have abantu in you.
You can fight it, minimize it,
Syncretize it and analyze it,
But you can’t rid yourself of it.
You can demonize it, criticize it,
Christianize it or colonize it, but recognize
You have abantu in you.

Eh Babu, under the tree,
Can I sit at your feet?
Why are you smiling?

Come my daughter, don’t you see it? It’s coiled right in this dry hair,
I have abantu in me.
I heard they came and renamed it,
They call it dark, they call it Africa,
I heard they took some of it with them
I heard it’s scattered and starving,
I heard it’s still brave and proud and rising,
Rest your head Nafoyo,
Just like me,
You have abantu in you.


~ Awiti: for my son

2 comments:

  1. Sitting in my kitchen reading your poem, and listening to the Chris Abani talk you linked. Tears running down my cheeks. Thank you.

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  2. thanks for the response Steve and for reading/listening. when i encounter such openness and willingness to engage, i am humbled and reminded that we really are in this journey together. thank you for being a great spiritual leader and friend.

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