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BEHOLD the beauty of colour striding across the podium with a gait that leaves mouths agape, as the limelight illuminates her lascivious and voluptuous figure. So sure footed is the ravishing Queen as she saunters on to her destiny, shattering night falls in the wake of promising dawns.

The drooling world is left oggling, as she signals to her bridegroom in the delegates from the east, much to the exuberant glee of his friends from the north and south and chagrin of the bullish bunch from where the sun sets.

Africa! Oh beautiful Africa! Whose womb spews treasures untold, exercises her freedom to shape her destiny, through expression of choice, yet her heart’s desire suffers the insidious glare of the unfortunate suitors who feel chided by her independence of will. One among the alien gang from the West, with the encouragement of his progenies staggers in drunken stupor to the podium, and with a single swish of the hand draws the fragile belle by the neck and floors her.

Before anyone could shout, “Foul”, he ravishes and deflowers her in full view of the groom and his friends.

Now the limelight follows her as she lies nude and prostrate on the tarmac, with the alien troop salivating on end and powerless groom drowning in pained hope.

Now the groom’s feelings towards the abomination before him do not at all kill his resolve to love his deflowered Queen forever more, and to fight for her to the gory end. “Africa! My Africa! I will die for you”, he declares to a rapturous applause from his corner.

It is this declaration that is articulately captured in the poetry anthology “Ghana Reveals Her Secrets” (2002) by the Libyan poet, Omar Salem, published by Unity Media Ventures (Accra) and translated from Arabic to English by Gibrill M. Al-Munir.

The poems were penned during the time the poet was on a diplomatic mission to Ghana.

In the introduction to the collection, the secretary-general of the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), Atukwei Okai, writes: “Ghana Reveals Her Secrets, Omar Salem’s translation of the Dead Sea Scroll of the African Soul, seeks to discover and reveal the key that will break the code of the oracle of our destiny.”

As a proud people, Africans should fathom that the key to unlocking the abundance of their inheritance is enmeshed in the rich history that informs their being, which the colonial West seeks to relegate to the annals.

They should be conscious of the whole “gamut of truths that had been suppressed about the rich heritage and powerful spiritual sovereignty of the African soul as well as the indescribable magnificence of the African’s future” (Atukwei Okai).

There is so much hope that the aspirations of the devastated lover, whose bride bled on the night of their wedding at the callous hands of the imperialists who are imbued with sadism and anarchy and continues to suffer at the hands of the same through their hegemonic machinations, will sprout to fruition, if he remains true to his identity as an African.

Africa should not always be the punchbag and astonishing beauty that remains in the limelight as a tool for sexual gratification.

Notwithstanding the vast mineral resources in its womb, which heightens her beauty, Africa remains poor and underdeveloped, and it is this that Salem lambasts through the soothing music of his poetry.

The rich imagery exploited as well as the metaphors that play on the devastation and despondency of two love birds in a world that preys on their vulnerability and fragile expectations, paves way for easier interpretation of the African’s feelings of displacement, exploitation and alienation.

The natural images of the night, moon, sun and dawn convey the allure of the beauty that comes with patience and hope. Though the night may depict darkness and hopelessness, the image of the moon complements and counters that of the sun which has the same capacity to destroy and construct, thus portraying the paradoxical nature of life.

The extended metaphor of the night merges with the symbol of dawn which denotes a new day and connotes a new era of hope, expectation and fruition.

All the 20 poems in the collection are divided into different parts to allow for the release of the different episodes of the African experience through time and space, which are allowed to interact and merge, to capture the metaphysical, physical and emotional. The story of the despondent lover, who is the hero in the poems, ceases to be his story alone, as it transcends boundaries of race, tribe and ethnicity to capture the resilience of the African struggle of hope, decolonisation and self reliance.

The opening poem, “Africa: The Sun of Tomorrow the Day of the Future”, reveals the beauty of Africa and the inevitability of her existence in the world matrix.

Written through a combination of prose and verse, the poem examines how the West can ignore the continent’s rise from the slumber of colonial hegemony at its own peril. The poet sings: “Africa is the sun of tomorrow and the future days to come: the bright moon of civilisation that can never be eclipsed by Western technology nor her splendour dimmed by AIDS epidemic nor the scourge of malaria.”

He bemoans civilisation that is premised on “racial discrimination … and the enslavement of one man by another”. He is all too aware that Africa remains the beacon of the world’s thrust into the future, without which all hope dies. Salem admonishes: “Consider my friends how your lives are going to be without Africa … how miserable you will be without the savanna forests in your world … without its mines of gold … without the uranium deep … And without all other things that words cannot count … Oh, how wretched you are without the beautiful face of Africa!”

The title poem “Ghana Reveals Her Secrets” combines lyricism with wit to proffer hope to the agonising lover the true African who bleeds inside as he witnesses the brutal rape of his beloved the motherland. Ghana, the poet’s enchanting sweetheart, whose beauty mesmerises the world, metaphorically stands for Africa, the paragon of virtue. As she professes her undying love to her progenies, Africa implores them to remain true to themselves and refuse to be subdued, and only give glory to God and not to mere mortals.

The rationale above also obtains in the poems “The Disappointed Lover”, “When the Soul Bleeds”, “Hymns to the Face of Africa” and “Presages of a Fortune Teller”. In spite of all the setbacks, betrayal and pain endured in the past, which seem to permeate the present, the African’s spiritual connectedness to God makes it possible for him to espy the light that glows in his future.

Salem conscientises his people that spirituality has power over humanity as he intimates that even “in the graveyard of my soul… You shall never take God from my heart… For I am engraved upon the face of lightningAnd storms breastfed me with their milkAnd in my heart I carryWhat still remains of prophetic embodiment,” (“When the Soul Bleeds”).

As the voice of the voiceless and truth’s defence, Salem offers himself as the sacrificial lamb for Africa’s cause. He is conscious of the need for self abashment and sacrifice for the African dream to be realised. He draws the continent to the history of the struggle for political independence championed by the likes of Kwame Nkrumah whose ideologies were shaped by his belief that: “Only the best is good enough for the African”.

It is through our own designs that we can free ourselves from the colonial York of subjugation. It is the duty of every African to redefine and reshape the Motherland’s dream through a truly African sensibility and not to be swayed by suitors who come dressed like Santa Claus to hide their nefarious intentions.

The poet implores in the poem “For Your Eyes Only All Poesy”, “In your palmThe African moon is bornAnd all tyrantsbow in homage toits dazzling light”.

Indeed, the African is as human as any other being and should be given a chance to run hisher affairs, but only if heshe is willing to give an arm and a leg for the realisation of such an outcome.

Source : The Herald

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