I am an African

Caressed by African winds
Trade and anti-trade
Washed by our many rivers
Pure and impure
Endurance tested by rugged edges of
Mt. Kilimanjaro and Ukhahlamba
Tested by the desert sun
Within the maelstrom of sand storms
I carry a clear vision in the retina
Of my eye
A vision of our rebirth
I swear by every grain of sand
In the Sahel and Kgalakadi

I am an African reborn
To reclaim the memories of our forebears
As we chart new journeys,
New beginnings in our land
As we heal the past and renew the future

I kissed the fragrance of dawn
When Western winds
ripped each other apart
When white souls thirsty for life
were drowned in blood
in Belsen and Treblinka
In a maelstrom of hate.
At the moment of my kiss
I was a neighbour
to a field of shrapnels

I kissed another fragrance
Another dawn
in Nyanga and Langa
Richmond and Mtubatuba
In Soweto and Sharpeville
in my mother’s womb
I was a neighbour to a bullet
Now I am reborn
Tasting the fruits of freedom in our land.
I have seen many moons
Many, many suns rise and fall
I have seen dawns steeped in blood
Rise again and again
Still I tasted bitter pills of hope
At the edge of a bleeding dawn

I have known other births as well
I walked with Sundiata in Mali
Along the streets of Timbuktu
Marched barefoot along the rugged Ukhahlamba
With Shaka and Dingane
Uvezi kanoNyanda…………
Umgabadeli owagabadela inkundla ka Bulawayo……..
I traversed the cobbled streets of Songhai and Kanem- Bornu
Meroe and Sofala
I was there in Kush and Makgabeng
In Zimbabwe and Egypt
I drank rivers
The Nile and the Niger
Zambezi and Limpopo
Uthukela and the Kongo
With the memories of struggles
And triumphs flow
Yes I was there licked by the goddesses of the rivers
Yemaya and Oshun
When the sun was beautiful people
I danced
Caressed by the breath of Oya
The orisha of the whirlwinds

I wrestled with predators
In the Alduvai Gorge and in Sterkfontein
I emerged erect
Like stubborn hope
I am a living fossil that bears witness
To the beginning of life
Handle my skull with care

Yes, I am an African reborn from hot chains
Gurgling seas and burning deserts
From the tunnels of no return in Goree
I emerge charged with undying hope
I survived blizzards and tsunamis
I bear witness to the spirits of those
Who died in the middle passage
I am Santeria and Macumba
Vodoun and Candomble
My blood traverses continents silently singing
Litanies of our rebirth
I count the stars in my firmament

Yes I kissed another
Fragrance on the crest of the winds
In Ninginzimu
I melted gold in Mapugubwe
There in Thulamela I
Mqombotied and dined and traded
With Indians, Arabs and Chinese
Long before the blue-eyed plunderers
With extended egos invaded our land

I drunk from strong fountains in Sterkfontein
There too I nestled in the warm womb of Africa
In depths of black gorges in Swartkrans
I tamed fire
And animals and worked the land
I walked on blades of grass without disturbing
The dew
Survived the raging blizzards of exile
As I walked-crawled toward the citadels
Of our rebirth

I surfed tidal waves with Makhanda
The Left Handed
Fought side by side with Ndlambe and Mgobozi
Counselled with Maqoma and Ngomane
I suckled the breasts of the Queen Of Sheba
And MaNtantisi
I drunk from the breast of Modjadji
To quench the thirst of our land
My ears drunk words of wisdom
From the mouth of Labotshibeni wase Swazini
I am Yaa Asantewa and Mekitilili
Rolled in one
I was nourished by the spirit of Nomkhubulwane
And Mkabayi ka Jama
Ka Ndaba
Ka Phunga no Mageba
Ka Zulu
Ka Nkosenkulu
Ka Malandela
Yes I am an African reborn.

I who tamed iron was tamed
Tuned the rhythmns of my heartbeat to the siren
Breathing fumes of hope in the mines
And on factory floors
With diamond nuggets of hope crowning my bald head
My experiences taught me Underground work!

I too am an African I swear by the spirit of
Qamata and Modimo
Mvelinqangi and Oludumare
Chinyere and Mawu-Lisa

I am an African woman reborn
I am Makeda of Sheba of Axum
I am Dahia Al- Kahina who gave Arab
Invaders fierce resistance when they sought to
Snatch our land 1200 years ago
I am Yaa Asantewa
I am the spirit medium Nehanda
I am Amina conqueror of Kano,
Conqueror of Nupe
Conqueror of Katsina
I am Idia Queen mother,
And daughter of Africa
I am the spirit of Bondo
I seek my path and I find it
Yes, I am an African woman.

Pitika Ntuli, 1998