Wednesday Poem: Images of Africa at Century’s End

You see, Wekumei, when folks figure you are their slave your past belongs to them.

By Ama Ata Aidoo @ Poetry Foundation:

Who was it said
the reason why
you never see
Black Folks properly
e-v-e-r on film or TV
is ’cause White Folks
“find them threatening”?

Whopei! Abae-o-o-o!

We always thought
our beautiful black skin
the Problem.

Afia and Ola
Eye-leen, Lola, and Tapu
bleached and blotched
their skins ugly
to please our masters and our masters’ servants.

don’t come telling me
flat noses,
thick lips, and
small ears

must also disappear
to put the world at ease?

That must explain
why the Princess Nefertiti
and the youthful King Tut
were dragged to
Michael Jackson’s beauty doctor
long before
Young Michael was born,

and also why
the Sphinx
who looked like
Great Ancestor King Khafre
is being redone!

We should have known
we were in trouble

the day we heard
a Corsican general traveled to Giza
by way of Paris and a crown
to shoot
the Sphinx’s nose off
for not-at-all-looking like

Enfin! Helas!! Mon Dieu!!!

for years
the Sphinx stood
massive eternal

riddled with wisdom and all
very thick-lipped
very flat-nosed.

We never saw him photographed head-on.

But in the year 2020
the New Sphinx will be unveiled
full visage on view
straight nose raised
thin lips tight
and even, maybe, blue-eyed:

a perfect image of the men
who vested so much interest
in his changing face.

You see, Wekumei,
when folks figure
you are their slave
your past belongs to them.

And mind you, the Man will try
                             to grab our future too.

Shall we let him?

—in memoriam Cheikh Anta Diop, and for John Henrik Clarke, Ivan van Sertima, Adotey Bing, Aida Brako, Vincent Odamtten, and by special request, Esi Doughan and Kinna Likimani.

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