Aime Cesaire: Memories of the Tomorrow of Dreams!

An African proverb says: “When an old person dies, it is like a library burning down”, refering to those who traverse long roads collecting little wisdoms on their life’s journey. But what of those who consciously seek wisdom with delicate determination, combining theory and praxis with skilful intricacy until theory itself became practice? Aime Cesaire was one such luminous human being. He consistently pursued a humanistic enterprise, embracing universality without sacrificing his identity as a black man, balancing conflicting streams of life,adroit as poet, statesman, husband, father, theoretician and activist.

He lived at a time of artistic and anti-colonial ferment. His peers included Wilfredo Lam and Picasso among others. Cafes and street corners throbbed with excitement, eavesdropping upon passionate discussions about the freshly birthed ideas of Fauvism and Dada, of Surrealism and Expressionism, the rise of the Black Power Movement. Liberatory struggles and triumphs in Africa and Asia created ripples unsettling comfortable seats in luxurious salons. He contributed to this maelstrom of struggles and awakenings with fervour and zeal, and with precision of thought and ideas

The Spark on Martiniquen Skies!

A tiny spark struck the Martiniquen skies
Igniting electric storms
That lit the black world
Urged by memories of fire
The stentorian voice of Du Bois:
The problem of the twentieth century
Will be the colour line

Cesaire rose from beach sands of islands
To take the world by storm
Adding to the lyrical voices
Of the Harlem renaissance
Of Claude Mackay and Langston Hughes
To the visceral language of Richard Wright

He drank fluid dance movements
Of Josephine Baker as her delicate feet
Graced Parisian floors
With liberating graces

In the depth of creativity, in the marrow of words
Within the whirlwinds of desire made flesh
He dined and laughed and drank
With Andre Breton the surreal picture of the universe
Where dream and reality
Converse, with sculpturesque tongues of canvas

Aime Cesaire, yes you drank the cocktail of images
In cover books of ethnology, anthropology
Your eyes graced the pages of Michel Leiris and Marcel Griaule
You were the “Other” that embraced otherness
With proud defiance waving the flag of “Tropics”
Planted the voice of words in “Presence Africaine”
Wielding word-bombs of anti-colonialism

Your laughter was catching
Your anger at oppression incisive
Ask Leon Damas, ask Leopold Sedar Senghor
Ask even Frantz Fanon, the pupil of your eye,
Ask the tide of Negritude that interrogated the world
On its cold deafness to issues of colour
Yours was negritude with attitude
Negritude with tigritude!

You kept the spirit of maroons in your blood
Sharpened its teeth in pools of poetic images
Leaping from page to page
To the last syllable of defiance

I look you in the eye of memory
Within sandstorms of images and see the retina
Of your eyes still full of vision
You waved the flag too
“Proletarians of the World Unite”!

You smiled when the Comintern mooted notions
Of the Black Republic
We too here in Mzansi (South of Africa) rejoiced!
Now I beat your flesh a fond farewell
I breathe your shadow into my robust lungs

Yes you were black and universal
Black and proud
Black and defiant and hopeful
Brimful of Black Power, Black Consciousness
Now you live in the blood stream of Madiba
Walk tall in the elegant body
And lucid mind of Barack Obama

The spark that lit the Martiniquen skies
Turned into a lightning bolt
Traverses invisible lands and graces our filaments
Of being
The baton is in our hands
The marathon race has just begun

Khuluma nabo bonke
Speak to all of them
Khuluma no Bantu Biko no Kwame waka Nkrumah
O Ya asantewa no Sarraouinia
Salute all the fluid forces of our lands
Who dreamt of One World, One People
One Spirit, One Dream of Peace and Prosperity!