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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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David Mandessi Diop - Prominent figure in Négritude literature

David Mandessi Diop was born on July 9, 1927, in Bordeaux, France, to a Cameroonean mother and a Sengalese father. Although he grew up in France and lived most of his life there, Diop spent significant time living and teaching in Africa, which helped reinforce his opposition to European society. Consequently, many of his poems discuss his empathy with Africa and the movement for independence from French Colonialists. Influenced by Aimé Césaire, his verse first appeared in the journal Présence Africaine and in Léopold Senghor's Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie négre et malgache. Diop's poems in Coups de pilon (1956; "Pounding"), his only surviving collection, are angry protestations and depictions of the evils of slavery and colonialism. In 1960, Diop was killed in an airplane crash traveling home to France from Dakar, Senegal. Diop had only published one volume of poems and a number of reviews and essays, but at the age of thirty-three, he had already established himself as an important writer in the Negritude movement and one of the most highly regarded men of letters in West Africa.


Afrique mon Afrique

Afrique des fiers guerriers dans les savanes ancestrales

Afrique que me chantait ma grand-mère

Au bord de son fleuve lointain

Je ne t’ai jamais connue

Mais mon regard est plein de ton sang

Ton beau sang noir à travers les champs répandu

Le sang de ta sueur

La sueur de ton travail

Le travail de l’esclavage

L’esclavage de tes enfants

Afrique dis-moi Afrique

Est-ce donc toi ce dos qui se courbe

Et se couche sous le poids de l’humilité

Ce dos tremblant à zébrures rouges

Qui dit oui au fouet sur les routes de midi

Alors gravement une voix me répondit

Fils impétueux cet arbre robuste et jeune

Cet arbre là -bas

Splendidement seul au milieu de fleurs blanches et fanées

C’est l’Afrique ton Afrique qui repousse

Qui repousse patiemment obstinément

Et dont les fruits ont peu à peu

L’amère saveur de la liberté.



Africa my Africa

Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs

Africa of whom my grandmother sings

On the banks of the distant river

I have never known you

But your blood flows in my veins

Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields

The blood of your sweat

The sweat of your work

The work of your slavery

Africa, tell me Africa

Is this your back that is unbent

This back that never breaks under the weight of humilation

This back trembling with red scars

And saying no to the whip under the midday sun

But a grave voice answers me

Impetuous child that tree, young and strong

That tree over there

Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers

That is your Africa springing up anew

springing up patiently, obstinately

Whose fruit bit by bit acquires

The bitter taste of liberty.

I love this poem because it calls to memory events in Africa’s historical past, but also embodies the hope for a different and better future. The poet eulogizes the tenacity of the continent and its inhabitants. The rendition of this poem is always an emotional experience for me because it captures the experiences that constitute part of Africa’s identity today, as well as the belief that a ‘rebirth’ is achievable.“

Edidiong Charles Ibanga, Student European Interdisciplinary Master African Studies (EIMAS)

Webmaster: Dr. Doris Löhr

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