THE AFRICAN ELEPHANT
Listen to the blare of annunciation
Of the African elephant, tetrarch of the jungle!
Behold what slow, majestic progress on the hoof
Of matriarchs, their young and their one bull
As they head for the waterhole.
Observe what tenderness of the mother for its infant,
Standing guard to let it first drink its fill,
Together rolling in protective, glorious mud,
Then signaling the way back
To the daily routine
Of reducing tropical forest to grassland.
Mark the pliable, multi-purpose trunk:
Its digging tool and harvest knife,
Its conduit for water and weapon in battle,
Its organ for smelling and sizing the world.
Then ponder the paradoxical curse
Of its twin tusks:
From time immemorial
The substance of immortal ornaments;
Ever since the dawn of the imperial plunder
Of Africa for export of human souls –
The damnation of the African elephant –
To provide exotic cultures
With piano keys and billiard balls.
This song is for you, Africa –
This song is for both your elephant ears:
Let it not enter by one of them
And exit by the other.
Listen, I admonish you!
Listen to this song of your dwarfed spirit,
You centrepiece of Least Developed Countries
Of un-peopled Latin American jungles
And wild Oriental archipelagoes
You that were once the one and only world
When Phoenicia was yet a dream
And Greece and Rome not yet conceived
You whose manifesto was Egypt
Pyramid and shadoof
The Pharaohs and Ptolemy
And a pioneer vision of the heavens –
Listen to this song of your stunted soul
In this post-Hiroshima dynasty
This trans-planetary dispensation
Of man upon the stars
Or inside atomic microcosm.
Lumasaaba version, Eastern Uganda
kuno kukwowo, Afirika –
Kummwenya kuno kwe kamaru kowo kenzofu kombi:
Kukhengilila mu litwela
Kwarurila mu lindi ta.
Rekyeresa kumwenya kwe khutang’a khwowo kuno,
Iwe usyebelelile akari mu manambo kakafuba
Iwe makooki mukhurama inyuma
Uwe bisaali bitambamwo bandu mu Amerika yemwalo
Ni bisiikhwa bimusiru bye bwamanyanga wa Buyindi
Iwe uwaba sibala
sinyowela ilala nalundi nasyonyene
Nga Fonisiya isiili kamaroro busa
Ni Buyonani ni Lumi nga bisiili konga mwiyokha
mwene Misiri nga sikukuulo syowo
Bibyombakhe Piramidi namaani ni Shadufu zitaha kamezi
Kimibimbi kinekhanekha ni bibyamo
Ba Falawo ni Tolemayo
Umukiboole mu khwimenielesa bye mwikulu
Rekyeresa kumwenya kwe khutang’a khwowo kuno
Mu muboolo kulondelela bibyatikhila i Hiroshima
Mu muboolo kwe bibala bye mungaki
Kwesi umundu anakwilakho khu nieniesi
Namwe ehindilise mu khabulungusi khe kha-atomu.
From Anthem for Africa
To Africa with tears is my song
Of Africa disabused my dream –
Out of the heartland my gendering
From the cradle of the oldest river springing
With tumbling mighty waters running
The rising sun over mountain saluting!
Ah land of primordial maternal mould
From whence infant continents adrift
Land of Zinjanthropus and Olduvai Gorge
Home of Old Man of Antediluvian Vale
Where insects and birds first chorused into song
And a myriad plants first burst into blossom!
Land of the ever-flowing, ever-gurgling Limpopo
Land of the ever-green, ever-blooming Congo
Land of towering rain mountains and roaring waterfalls
Land of sky-whispering Kirinyaga and Kilimanjaro
Land of precious deserts that once were forests
Land of oil-saturated Sahara and Kalahari
Land of sweet rocks and irresistible salt licks!
Ah continent of seductive female charms
Ah continent that enticed and baited goblin hunters
With the throbbing blood in your granite veins –
And they came at you in frenzied scramble
Tearing and dismembering your flesh
And scooping gigantic intestinal pits
For burial of the self and the race –
For you I break into prophetic song
For you this recitation of symptoms and signals
For you this announcement of your startling destiny….
This is a Special Announcement
Broadcast on Trans-Africa Radio
To all continents and islands.
To the sensitive ears of the State has come
A groundless rumour cunningly invented by wizards
Of that overthrown monster Ojozi
And now circulating through our happy republic,
Claiming how Afrolandians from all shades of life
Have unaccountably vanished from this world!
Government hereby wishes to unequivocally state,
After painstaking research into the fabrications,
What utterly baseless and rotten rumour this is
All designed to blemish our Leader’s spotless image.
Because for every person claimed to be nowhere
We have systematically established the truth –
And we hereunder detail many of the cases:
Mr. John Opuko, District Commissioner of Lokodo,
Alleged to have been killed by unknown bandits,
Is sumptuously residing in a hotel in Barbados.
Brigadier Omoro p’Okoro of Skyborne Regiment
Did not vanish, as falsified by enemy Afrozania Radio,
But fled with his whole house to join Ojozi.
Professor Peter Pande, Vice Chancellor of Afroversity,
Neither disappeared nor died, as he was sighted
Boarding a plane at Uhuru Airport last week.
Dr. Amos Kahwa, Superintendent of City hospital,
Maliciously described by the foreign press as dead,
Left yesterday for a study tour of the Far East.
His worship Lazarus Vvakuno, Mayor of Afroville,
Is not missing but leading a Government delegation
To the African Conference of Town Clerks and Mayors.
Mr. Francis Oluk, formerly MP for Afroville East
And Minister of Finance in the bankrupt regime,
Left a year ago for a job in UK instead of hell.
Mr. Justice John Mwatu, Chairman of Jurists,
Was openly abducted from court by guerrillas
But our Combat Squad is determined to retrieve him.
Constable Tom Obonyo of Kedibu Police Station,
Rev. Eli Mwaule of Pakwa Parish,
Mrs. Eva Cherop of Bukwa Mothers Union,
Miss Jane Mugo Afroversity Students Guild,
Cultivator Busiku wa Musungu of Busa village…
All these various persons with question marks
Totalling one hundred seventy-three only
Are hereby pronounced alive and sound
And the public is therefore strongly warned
To stop listening to groundless rumours –
For the Government gospel truth is this:
That no one has mysteriously disappeared!
PORTRAIT OF A DICTATOR
People far off would never conceive
People near him would never perceive
How he could be both magnetic and vitriolic
The darling and scourge of damsels
The patron and poison of scholars
The envy and despair of diplomats.
He carried in his immense bulk
Promise and doom at once
Charming while most erratic
Commanding devotion while he killed.
Driving himself in an open jeep
Through streets of Afroville the capital city
Without convoy or body-guard
He extracted adoration shouts
Of “Our man! Our man!”
From overwhelmed street-walkers –
And amazed the police on duty
By snailing in the traffic queue
At security road-blocks.
Damning the women’s mini-skirts
And banning their outlandish hair styles,
He was immediately immortalized
In new improvised fashions
Lovingly baptised “Masaya Nvako!” –
“Get off my back, Masaya dear!”
On a chosen surprise day
He turned up in the throng
Clad in one of his colourful masks:
Spotless warrior’s green
Mohammedan white kanzu and turban
Or close to naked in a swimming trunk
At a popular holiday resort
To the ecstasy of photographers.
His third-hand command of the White man’s tongue
Imbued his speech with added glamour.
“Is it true, Mister President,”
Asked a foreign journalist,
“That you often blow your own trumpet?”
“You street beggar,” flared the Warrior,
“You pink boy! You are not know
That ayam no Mistah but MY Excellency?
I play trumpet very good yes
But also I play accordion very very good!”
“You workers of money granary,”
He told the staff of the Central Bank,
“Last year I have made country
Very happy with plenty of Maliyote
By my send for good White man’s parasites.
You there government of treasure,
You say no money in granary
But these sacks of notes also coins
They are money or rubbish? Tell me.
And how you go say to newspaper
That Mistah Foran Eggschange is not there
To make things come in shops!
If that Mistah Eggschange be in holiday,
This I must tell you completely,
Call him for duty quick on radio!”
In the Whiteman’s ambiguous country
He saw and dined with the monarch,
A much higher guest than Pussy Cat.
“Mrs. Queen,” he belched his thanks,
Ayam fed up with so good food.
When you visit at my country
Also I shall revenge like this.
But this was very short call,
Next year I come long call.”
Like Napoleon Bonaparte,
He enchanted his warriors,
At first ill-clad and ill-fed,
With uplifting visions
Of conquering virgin lands
And transforming each warrior
Into a Field Marshal
And single proprietor
Of an idyllic golden valley.
Would they fall behind him?
With him conquer on and on,
With him in heroic adventure
Rise to peaks of fame?
Like Prince Bismarck,
Political pilot of Prussia,
He construed his enemy to seem the attacker
And himself the wronged self-defender;
At conferences always posed
As front-line champion
Of continental brotherhood –
As when at a Black Summit once
He made an amorphous speech
Then stepped from the rostrum
To the dosing king of Afrozania
(Who had sworn never with Masaya to connect)
And disarmed him with a rousing handshake
To the staggered applause of all.
He excelled Richard II
Hunchback king of Whiteland
In the demonic genius
Of thriving on mutual counter-plots
Between rival factions
That sought his destruction:
And none of his liquidation squads
Was ever secure by day or night
From being suddenly struck down
By a yet bloodier squad.