From the Archives: Decade of Bullets by Mbizo Chirasha

Ouagadougou, Ouagadougou, Ouagadougou
See a procession of young mothers chattering their way
From water fountains in grenade torn sandals
And blood laced bras

Somalia, Somalia, Somalia
See the moon disappearing in a mass of gunsmoke
Guns splitting the stars from the skin of night

Rwanda, Rwanda, Rwanda
This is a wound from which the pus of grief flows freely
Meandering through rockmasses into the valley that lost its freedom

Timbuktu, Timbuktu, Timbuktu
I hear a rush of footsteps of sorrow
Rugged peasants carrying their compounds to far away valleys of flowers.

Old poems at OGOV don't die, but live on in our archives! Every once in a while we will dust one off for our newer readers to enjoy. "Decade of Bullets" was orginally published on OGOV on July 14th, 2007.


Nana Agyemang Ofosu said...

Good imagery telling us what we suffer here on this continent. Well done.

Dela Bobobee said...

This poem evokes an imagery of stark irony in terms of bitter-sweet primordial African nostalgia and lost heritage. It is a sober reflection on the chaotic contemporary African reality juxtaposed with the ideals the pristine African pride.

It gives a mixed feeling of misplaced values in the indigenous African society. What comes to my mind foremost whenever the name Timbuktu is mentioned is the relative state of peace and tranquillity prior to Mansa Musa returning from pilgrimage to Mecca for embark on his annexation, centre of Islamic learning, with its Sankore University and about 180 Quranic schools. Timbuktu then became an intellectual and spiritual capital and centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The ancient city was part of the Mali Empire, which also brings to mind Ghana Empire, Songhai Empire on the historical annals of pre-colonial Africa.

The name Timbuktu also evokes images of several Trans-Saharan trade routes , trade in salt from Mediterranean Africa with West-African gold and ivory, and large numbers of slaves. It also brings to mind goldmines near Bure resulting in an eastward shift of the trade routes. Yes, we all know that this trend made Timbuktu a prosperous city where goods from camels were loaded on boats on the Niger.

It is rather also heart-warming to note that Timbuktu's long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization is scholarship. Timbuktu is assumed to have had one of the first universities in the world. Local scholars and collectors still boast an impressive collection of ancient Greek texts from that era. It is no longer news that by the 14th century, important books were written and copied in Timbuktu, establishing the city as the centre of a significant written tradition in Africa.

But what remains of that brilliant legacy today? It is a far cry from what obtained now as a wraith of its former splendor languishing on the ruins of its mediocrity. What really went wrong?

Ok, let me give it a shot. Before Islam, the population worshiped Ouagadou-Bida, a mythical water-serpent of the Niger River. The people then had their indigenous beliefs and forms of worship and lived in relative peace and harmony. Abruptly foreign plants were introduced to the native soil that needed artificial fertilizers which in turn adversely affected the preexisting ecology of the environment even up till today.

Ok, now look at the other countries featured in this sad poem, Ouagadougou, (originally part of the ancient Timbuktu- now Burkina-Faso after gaining independence) Somalia, Rwanda. What of Darfur (Sudan) etc? Does not it strike you strange that almost all the Islamic African countries are today in turmoil? What is the cause? The obnoxious, heartless and greedy politicians used religion to turn hitherto peaceful coexisting neighbours to dire enemies overnight. Just imagine the magnitude of the resultant tribal feuds, genocide, devastation, and mistrust. I also regret to point out that Christianity cannot also be completely absolved from culpability in like terms. It is high time we realized that what unites us is much more sublime than what divides us. There can be relative peace and unity in our perceived disparity.

How many times did the poet, Mbizo Chirasha, mention their names? Three times each, not only for literary emphasis but also for allegorically saying that – “A word to the wise is enough”. There is an African adage which says that “When the dry leaves fall on the tree, it is a sign for the green leaves to beware.” This is a warning note to all other African countries enjoying relative peace now.

Well-done, Mbizo Chirasha. The truth must sometimes be said, no matter how bitter. And just like I always say, poetry is the only ideal literary weapon that can capture our human emotions in such subtle ways that no other genre can. We as poets are have the responsibility as the reviewers of societal mores embedded in misplaced priorities and false sense of values.

Dela Bobobee said...

The harsh realities of this poem can be seen in the vividly depicted wartime imageries. The irony is in the fact that during such crisis it is the defenceless and vulnerable innocent children and young women that take the brunt of such violent conflicts. What of the heart-rending reported cases brutal rape, torture, child soldiers, sudden death, displacement, refugee camps, disease, hunger, and mental traumas.

“See a procession of young mothers chattering their way
From water fountains in grenade torn sandals
And blood laced bras”

“See the moon disappearing in a mass of gun smoke
Guns splitting the stars from the skin of night”

“Rugged peasants carrying their compounds to far away valleys of flowers”

Yes, Poet Mbizo Chirasha, we “see” it all through your poignant little poem.

You have made your point in a very touching way. I hope it touches the stone-hearted perpetrators of such crisis-ridden political manipulators, who use religious and tribal sentiments to play on the intelligence of these people for their own selfish gains.

Kwadwo Oteng Owusu said...

I'm touched, deeply, i must say.

Mbizo, we are with you in this struggle, to emancipate our beloved continent.!!! cheers

Darko Antwi said...

By virtue of his heavyweight subjects, I have revered the Zimbabwe talent, Mbizo Chirasha, as the Alpha Blondy of poetry.

Good job Mbizo!

LS said...

Thanks Mbizo for your poem,

this year 17 African countries celebrate 50 years of independence; some still under stress, including The Democratic Republic of Congo, La Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Somalia.

The list goes on.

your poem serves as a reminder.