Day 354 (Ten Years Ago…)

Ten years ago today, I had just returned from West Africa. I enrolled for IB and was pondering on an Extended Essay topic. It was my French teacher Mr. Banzi that informed me that Léopold Sedar Senghor had passed on. I guess he did it because I told him about Sénégal and how that Land of Téranga had been my home intermittently for over a half a decade.

One thing led to another and I ended up writing my Extended Essay on Senghorian poetry exploring the famous concept he coined: “La Négritude”. The next year, I presented my work at a Conference held to celebrate the life and times of L.S.S organised at Alliance Française. To date, I consider that presentation and the warm welcome it recieved to be one of my most defining and memorable moments ever. At the time, I was doing two things which I considered to be of absolute importance, firstly I was paying homage to a great African scholar and public figure and secondly I was in a sense pledging my loyalty to that soil on the westerly most tip of the continent that witnessed my metamorphosis from childhood to adolescence.

Suffices it to say, I still feel a strong connection to Dakar. Quite natural, considering she was my first, in more ways than I can explain.

Sentimentality aside, the commemoration of 10 years since Senghor’s death for me is an opportunity to think back and reflect on the course my life has taken, while trying not to regret things too much.

I know the journey is far from complete so this is just a pause.

One of the dreams that I continue to silently harbour on this long journey is that of the Extended Essay one day sitting side by side with a Ph.D Thesis by yours truly… inch’allah.

Before I sign off, allow me to share one little poem by Senghor. A poem I crammed while in Junior High School just for the sake of passing exams but when I went back and studied it during IB and even now, I came to terms with just how powerful it really is. Senghor was a man who spoke fondly of his native Africa and his home country of Senegal, both when he was at home and more so when he was away in France or elsewhere. He relies quite heavily on personification as a stylistic device throughout his writing and in many passages, one finds him likening Africa and Senegal to a woman, a love, a wife, a mother, all wrapped in one. He speaks of Her ‘blackness’, Her beauty, Her warmth, Her eternal love for all, Her Culture, Her Civilisation, Her decolonisation…

Nuit de Sine

Femme, pose sur mon front tes mains balsamiques, tes mains douces plus que fourrure.
Là-haut les palmes balancées qui bruissent dans la haute brise nocturne
À peine. Pas même la chanson de nourrice.
Qu’il nous berce, le silence rythmé.
Écoutons son chant, écoutons battre notre sang sombre, écoutons
Battre le pouls profond de l’Afrique dans la brume des villages perdus.

Voici que décline la lune lasse vers son lit de mer étale
Voici que s’assoupissent les éclats de rire, que les conteurs eux-mêmes
Dodelinent de la tête comme l’enfant sur le dos de sa mère
Voici que les pieds des danseurs s’alourdissent, que s’alourdit la langue des choeurs alternés.

C’est l’heure des étoiles et de la Nuit qui songe
S’accoude à cette colline de nuages, drapée dans son long pagne de lait.
Les toits des cases luisent tendrement. Que disent-ils, si confidentiels, aux étoiles ?
Dedans, le foyer s’éteint dans l’intimité d’odeurs âcres et douces.

Femme, allume la lampe au beurre clair, que causent autour les Ancêtres comme les parents, les enfants au lit.
Écoutons la voix des Anciens d’Elissa. Comme nous exilés
Ils n’ont pas voulu mourir, que se perdît par les sables leur torrent séminal.
Que j’écoute, dans la case enfumée que visite un reflet d’âmes propices
Ma tête sur ton sein chaud comme un dang au sortir du feu et fumant
Que je respire l’odeur de nos Morts, que je recueille et redise leur voix vivante, que j’apprenne à
Vivre avant de descendre, au-delà du plongeur, dans les hautes profondeurs du sommeil.

– Léopold Sédar Senghor

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