"DOWN IN THE HEART OF AFRICA"

READING BY IFEANYI MANKITI, BIAFRAN POET

ON THE OCCASION OF THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL

CONFERENCE ON BIAFRA, IN NEW YORK, DECEMBER -

7, 1968. 

I believe the struggle going on in Biafra has a significance that ranges far beyond Biafra, that has tremendous implications for the African continent. For the first time an indigenous African people have taken their destiny into their own hands and for a whole year have been struggling against Immense odds and are still going. What else do you need of a nation?

With this in mind, I would like to quote a poem by the African nationalist, Patrice Lumumba. It was written two days before he met his death. Certain imperialist powers that didnít hesitate for one moment to divide the Congo are now talking about preserving Nigerian Unity. It is very sad because some of us thought that with the emergence of Russia and its revolution that perhaps a force had come into existence that might counter the imperialists. But what happened? Russia is a supreme disappointment. She invaded Czechoslovakia and tells us she was invited.

"DOWN IN THE HEART OF AFRICA," By Patrice Lumumba

For a thousand years you Africans suffered like a beast:

Your ashes strewn to the wind that roams the desert;

Your tyrants built the lustrous, monstrous temples

To preserve your souls, preserve your sufferings;

Barbaric right of fist and a white right to a whip.

You had the right to die; you also could weep.

In your totem they carved endless hunger, endless bonds.

And even in the cover of the woods a ghastly cruel death

Was watching, snaky, crawling to you like branches

From the holes and heads of trees -- embraced your body and your ailing soul.

 

Then they put the treacherous big viper on your chest;

On your neck they laid the-yoke of firewater;

They took your sweet wife for glitter of sweet pearls,

Your incredible riches that nobody could measure.

 

From your hearts the tom-tom sounded into the dark of night, Carrying cruel lament up mighty lack rivers

About abused girls. Streams of tears and blood about ships that sailed to country where the little man

Wallowed in an ant hill and where a dollar is king;

To that damn land which they call the mother land.

There your child, your wife were ground day and night

By frightful, merciless mill crushing them in dreadful pain.

You are Man like others. They preach you to believe

The good white god will reconcile all men at last.

By fire you grieved and sang the moaning songs

Of the homeless beggar that sinks at strangers doors.

And when a craze possessed you your blood boiled through the night,

You danced, you moaned, obsessed by fatherís passion. Like fury- of a storm to lyrics of a manly tune,

His strength burst out of you for a thousand years of misery, In metallic voice of jazz, in uncovered outcry

That thunders through the continent in gigantic surf. at The whole world surprised woke up in panic to the violent

rhythm of blood, to the violent rhythm of jazz,

The white man turning pallid over this new sound that carries torch of purple through the dark of night.

 

The dawn is here, my brother dawn! Look in our faces;

A new morning breaks in our old Africa.

Ours only will be the land, the water mighty rivers

Poor Africa was surrendering for a thousand years;


And hard touches of the sun will shine for us again,

Theyíll dry the tears in eyes and spittle on your faces,

The moment when you break the chains, the heavy fetters.

The evil cruel times will go, never to come again.

A free and gallant Congo will arise from back soil,

A free and gallant Congo -- a black bosom, the black seed.