28 January 2020

Body, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

This is the body from which it began many years ago,
one sibling after another; flesh—from flesh
that has found its bed now at last, in
a marbled room rendered silent
by the white company of stone,
the powdered face of past visions,
and arms and hands whose powerful sinew,
whose true slap, is gone, now, from it, like regret
slain, the delicate face of my mother a dream
that comes to me when I sleep, her voice in my liberty,
her fingers curled into fresh meaning and sense, as if
to say: find at this time the will for your own remedy.
I close my life and seek, if only for my children,
her voice that blesses and redeems the pulse of bleating hearts.
I’d present her deeds like a résumé to the guardian
of a gate that we do not know about, scribbled
on black slate, my eyes the reference letter to God,
plus the names of six referees who have known her
from before their flesh had slipped from her flesh,
and she held them against her bosom
or carried them on her back as she worked;
but her job here is done, just retirement is due.
Life started once, and she carried it to your company,
I will tell my children. Bury in you this memory:
after today, when this rain stops and the sun reappears,
nothing forever will be able to dissipate your dark.

'Me' 'Makananelo Masilo

After the rains, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

I want to tell you why, when alone in a dugout, feeling
the war close in and clamour for your demise,
it is not right to accept another scoop to the food on your plate,
the cow, the piece of wrinkled broccoli on white-bread toast.
Seventy years of life have served you this
and seventy more won’t wipe the grin off war’s lips.

Take the aluminium foil off the faces of mirrors in your house.
The season that is coming says to tell you
rainbow colours are equal all, red to orange,
yellow to green to blue to indigo to violet, far
from what is thought of just black and white.
They’re bricks and it’s due to them—one on another—
side by side—that gay, straight, rainbow curves are built.

27 January 2020

There it is, a poem by Jayne Cortez

And if we don't fight
if we don't resist
if we don't organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizarre look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is.

Dear John, an email conversation from 2008

from john barbados: barbados @ geemail . org (name and address have been changed)
to retjoun @ geemail . net
date: 24 November 2008 18:35
subject: why africa is poor
mailed-by geemail.org
hide details 24 Nov (3 days ago)


  • Africa is poor because of black people.
  • Our race is a self destructive one, selfish and one that lacks in innovation.
  • Those that do have a little bit of talent(not talent but those that manage to imitate the white man) are not allowed to take positions of authority.
  • Africans are just animals my friend, look at jacob zuma... are you south africans mad? you want that uneducated guerilla to take the presidency of africas most powerful economy? such foolishness is why africans are poor. Zuma will destroy SA jsut as ANC has already started destroying.
  • African leaders think of themselves as rulers rather than civil servant or stewards. They are idiots. Jacob zuma knows nothing about economics and he is not teh best ambassador either!
  • Look at how useless you africans are. You can't tell Mugabe in the face that he must go, and you think you will be able to overcame greater hurdles.
  • Black people still have no irrigation system in their rural areas. they wait for god to send the rain and waste thousands visiting useless sangomas. no irrigation system. the egyptians(who are not black) solved those problems thousand of years ago and used to irrigate using water from the nile. you africans don't even have basic drinking water purification facilities. you drink it straight from the river!
  • we are a hopeless race. the best thing to do is to ask for recolonisation but this time with human rights.
I received the above e-mail three days ago, from someone whose opinion I do not want to disrespect, because everyone's must be respected. I received the email in response to one of my blog posts. However, John (not real name) decided to write to me directly and privately, which is why I'm not using his real name. A lot of what he said hit hard: "We are a hopeless race." We because John, too, is African. Except I don't believe any people is hopeless, so I decided to reply. John and I have been exchanging e-mails and I hope we will continue to do so.

But, if this is so private, why blog it? Because I know that there are lots of folks out there who think like John, and I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. Is it important that we don't have irrigation systems in Africa? Wait a sec, don't we? Whether we do or not, what does that mean? The following is my response to John.

from R. Masilo: retjoun @ geemail . net
to john barbados: barbados @ geemail . org
date: 25 November 2008 01:04
subject: Re: why africa is poor
mailed-by geemail.com
hide details 25 Nov (3 days ago)



Africa is poor because of the black man. And the west is rich because of what? The white man? Think again.

Our race is a self destructive one, selfish and one that lacks in innovation. That's what occidental television says. That's what most conservatives were saying about Obama, and that's why they were and are so much against him. The truth is that a race cannot be as you say, given that 99.99 percent of mankind are similar. The 0.01% that differs is what you actually see: darker/lighter skin, slanted/almond shaped eyes, kinky/straight hair, etc. Traits that have been changed over the centuries in relation with climate and other superficial stimuli. In other words, you and I and George Bush and Hu Jintao are the same race! We are homo sapiens sapiens, all of us. Even Neanderthals were of our race, but a different species. As a result, there's no way superficial characteristics like skin colour and hair texture can dictate behaviour like self-destructiveness in a group of people.

Two world wars were fought on the European continent. Yugoslavia happened, and lots of people were slaughtered in places like Srebrenica. Do you know about the Lašva Valley ethnic cleansing in Europe? Do you know of Hitler? Stalin? Mussolini? Tito? Franco? Ceausescu? And don't forget to check out these self-destructive Africans.

Those that do have a little bit of talent(not talent but those that manage to imitate the white man) are not allowed to take positions of authority. Give me a name of an African imitating a white man, and I'll give you several of white people imitating Africans. We all kind of imitate each other on the planet, as we adopt and adapt ideas. Do you yourself imitate white people a lot? Wait a minute, Picasso imitated Africans a lot, and got away with it. Elvis imitated black people's music, and so did Eminem. But let me get a grip on myself: we all pick up what we fancy across the colour line, or any other line. Black people don't imitate white people and white people don't imitate black people: we're all in this together and we share knowledge and skills.

I'd like to go deeper into this, and answer the rest of your e-mail. But I must go and write some poetry, now. Come and read me sometime. I'll also give you names and examples of other African and African American writers (who have copied and been copied themselves) whom you might be interested in discovering.
Take care for now,

2008/11/26 R. Masilo (retjoun @ geemail . net)

Africans are just animals my friend, look at jacob zuma... are you south africans mad? The easy one first. South Africans aren't mad. And what makes you think they're madder than other nations on the face of the earth? Madder than Cambodians with Pol Pot's killing fields ? Madder than Idi Amin? Than George W. Bush with his Iraqi killing fields. No, South Africans are not mad. You say they are mad, perhaps, because they didn't go all out to revenge for centuries of slavery in their own land? Something you'd expect them to do? Zuma... who the hell is Zuma? What's wrong with mentioning Tutu and Mandela, Biko, Sobukwe, Bram Fischer, Hani, Luthuli? Why do you single out the only crazy one and say that's who we are?

Africans are animals? Define "animal" and see if what you're saying is true. Consider this: how many serial killers are black? How many corporate criminals are black? How many blacks are willing to form a club like the KKK and hate others for the colour of their skin? How many blacks have hanged a white person? If you're weak-kneed and weak-hearted, don't visit Without Sanctuary. White people have tortured and killed black people for the very same reasons that you advance as the reason and symbol of our supposed inferiority, namely, blackness, kinky hair, and the rest. How many blacks have colonised and pillaged other lands? How many blacks have been involved in "Columbine-like tragedies"?

I say these things knowing full well that they were carried out by white people not because they were/are white, but because of circumstances other than hair texture or skin colour, etc. It is exactly what I'm trying to say to you, that if the continent of Africa is poor, it is not because the sun has aroused our melanin-forming cells and inscribed their level of activity into our genome (less than one percent of the genome); it is because of circumstances beyond that, social circumstances, historical ones, you name it.

Did you visit South Africa during the years of Apartheid? Who was the animal? Was it because of their skin colour?

African leaders think of themselves as rulers rather than civil servant or stewards. They are idiots. Generalising is always a bad thing however you look at it, but especially when you speak of collective behaviour. I agree with you that some African leaders "think of themselves as rulers rather than civil servants." Some of them are even stupid, as you suggest. But many are devoted Africans who love their people and want to contribute. Just like many in Europe, Asia and the Americas love their people and want to work for and with them. Amin was an idiot. Bokassa, too. Mugabe is a bad man. I don't know how much of him is idiotic, though. I wrote this poem because of what he is doing to Zimbabwean brothers and sisters. Mobutu was awful. Gadhafi should have left the seat to someone else a long time ago. Bongo, too. There may be a few others. Africa has at least fifty two nations. Is that enough to generalise in the manner you do?

I ask you again if George W. Bush is your ideal leader, and if he thinks of himself as a civil servant or a ruler. W has said:

1. "You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier." Describing what it's like to be governor of Texas. (Governing Magazine 7/98) -- From Paul Begala's "Is Our Children Learning?"
2. "I told all four that there are going to be some times where we don't agree with each other, but that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator," Bush joked. -- CNN.com, December 18, 2000
3. "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it, " [Bush] said. -- Business Week, July 30, 2001

And since you're so willing to separate humans according to artificial traits (colour, slanted eyes, kinky hair, etc), was Botha your favourite kind of leader, a civil servant and not a ruler? Was he? What about Mandela in his one-term presidency? Was he a ruler or a civil servant? Is he black or white? Does skin colour have anything to do with aptitude?

What about that guy in North Korea... what's his name... Kim Jong-Il . His eyes are slanted. Is he a civil servant or a ruler? He's neither black nor African. So what do you think? Does colour (and other artificial traits) influence the behaviour of a person? Do polar bears act in a certain way (different from grizzly bears) just on account of their white colour?

How about Augusto José Ramón Pinochet, was he a civil servant or a ruler and a dictator? He was not black, he was of European descent: ie white. And he was not from the continent of Africa but from South America. Chile, to be precise. Pinochet is reported to have said: "In this country, a leaf doesn't move without me knowing about it " He knew about and probably ordered the deaths of thousands of Chileans. The Guardian speaks of 35 000 victims. That's a lot of people dead for at the hands of a civil servant who isn't self-destructive. I think Pinochet was an idiot. I think he was self destructive. And I think he wasn't a civil servant at all, but a dictator who even boasted of knowing about the movement of leaves.

Unfortunately work calls, so I have to leave you. But I will consider the rest of your statements later today or tomorrow. I hope you don't mind.

Black people still have no irrigation system in their rural areas. they wait for god to send the rain and waste thousands visiting useless sangomas. no irrigation system. the egyptians(who are not black) solved those problems thousand of years ago and used to irrigate using water from the nile. you africans don't even have basic drinking water purification facilities. you drink it straight from the river!

So Egyptians aren't black? Maybe they aren't. I think Egyptians can call themselves whatever they want to call themselves: black, white, grey, olive, semitic, sex-gods, pyramidal people, whatever. That doesn't change the fact that they are on this continent on which they traded and interacted with black Africans for centuries. The principle of give and take, scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Trade, if you know what I mean.

But, just out of curiosity, who told you that Ancient Egyptians weren't black? Here's a mural found in the tomb of Ramses III . What does it teach us? This account concerning Nefertiti is interesting, too.

Someone else says that "Afrocentrism seriously distorts Egyptian history. Egyptians were not "black" (Negroid) on the whole, though a few dynasties of rulers were. But Egyptians were also not racists, it seems, and people of different colors intermarried. We could do well to follow their lead in this!
There is no evidence that Nefertiti or Cleopatra were 'black', for example. Nefertiti was not "white" (i.e. European) either (Cleopatra was either 3/4 Greek or, perhaps, entirely so, not Egyptian at all). (

It doesn't really matter to me whether Egyptians were/are black or not, and it shouldn't to you, either. The problem comes when people, and many in the west do this, insist that Egyptians weren't black . And this is advanced because the general idea is that Egyptians were successful and therefore they couldn't have been black. That's what the problem is here. All of that has dangerous undertones for relations among different groups of people today, different only superficially (skin colour, hair texture, shape of eyes, etc).

And hey, Zimbabweans were/are black and were/are African; so what about their civilisation? At least nobody will be able to say they weren't/aren't black. Or can they? Hmm. Check the following out, too, about Africans in science. It's a talk by Dr Ivan Van Sertima . Turn the volume up a bit because the quality isn't optimal (the video clip is almost 51 minutes long).

Someone else says that: "When African nationalists were demanding independence in the 1960s, the Smith regime actually sanctioned historians to write a fake history on the origins of Great Zimbabwe, denying its African origins.

This was not different from the accounts of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century antiquarians, which linked Great Zimbabwe with Phoenicia, with Saban Arabs, with the Egyptians and the rest of the near East. We would call that, in the scholarly world, 'antiquarian revisionism' - trying to use old values to support a wrong cause altogether."
- by Dr. Innocent Pikirayi, lecturer in history and archaeology, University of Zimbabwe . There's an audio clip here. (Real Audio)

People will go to great lengths to try and "prove" that black Africans were and are incompetent, "prove" that black Africans couldn't or can't do anything productive, and that therefore the white person is superior. My advice? Just listen, but take it with a grain of salt. And always ask yourself why such people are so determined to "prove" such a thing.

Irrigation: "Alphonse Ouedraogo is no stranger to drought and famine, a perennial scourge which afflicts the impoverished West African nation of Burkina Faso always.

This year, Ouedraogo has some good news. Burkina Faso has produced 100,000 metric tonnes of corn and other cereals, thanks to small-scale irrigation method that villagers use during the dry season. (source)"

Africa is dry, hence the necessity for irrigation in order to survive. For the sake of argument, let's say Egyptians weren't black, and therefore that their irrigation achievements don't concern us here. Tell me, how do you account for the fact that Africans, on a dry continent, have survived through the ages without irrigation? There's an African proverb (sorry, I didn't find a white proverb that was appropriate) that says, "Until the lion has a historian of its own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."

Here's a list of African empires as shown on Wikipedia. Each empire is linked to its individual page so that one can get more information. I don't think they could have survived the harsh and often desertic conditions of Africa without well-established irrigation systems.

Egyptian Empire (1570 BC – 1070 BC)
Kushite Empire (760 BC – 665 BC)
Carthaginian Empire (575 BC - 146 BC)
Aksumite Empire (50 AD - 937 AD)
Kanem Empire (700 AD - 1376 AD)
Ghana Empire (750 AD - 1076 AD)
Fatimid Caliphate (910 AD - 1171 AD)
Almoravid Caliphate (1061 AD - 1147 AD)
Almohad Caliphate (1121 AD - 1269 AD)
Ayyubid Sultanate (1171-1254)
Marinid Empire (1195 AD - 1465 AD)
Mali Empire (1235 AD - 1645 AD)
Mamluk Sultanate (1250 AD - 1517 AD)
Ethiopian Empire (1270 AD - 1974 AD)
Songhai Empire (1340 AD - 1591 AD)
Jolof Empire (1360 AD - 1889 AD)
Kingdom of Kongo (c. 1395 - 1857)
Bornu Empire (1396 AD - 1893 AD)
Oyo Empire (1400 AD - 1895 AD)
Adal Sultanate (1415 AD - 1555 AD)
Benin Empire (1440 AD - 1897 AD)
Sennar Sultanate (1502 AD - 1821 AD)
Kaabu Empire (1537 AD - 1867 AD)
Kingdom of Luba (1585 AD - 1885 AD)
Lunda Empire (1660 AD - 1887 AD)
Aro Confederacy (1690 AD - 1902 AD)
Asante Union (1701 AD - 1894 AD)
Kong Empire (1710 AD - 1894 AD)
Bamana Empire (1712 AD - 1896 AD)
Sokoto Caliphate (1804 AD - 1903 AD)
Liberian Republic (1847 AD - 1980 AD)

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