newritings

March 14, 2008

More poems of resistance from Mozambique

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:21 pm

Comments on “Catch the fire” and more poems of resistance against colonial oppression and exploitation by Jorge Rebelo

Samora MachelI thought it easy to use by way of introduction the selection of poems of Jorge Rebelo, a movie from our country. The movie Marta and I have just seen again on TV in New York is by South African writer Shawn Slovo: Catch the Fire (released in Spain on 19 January 2007 and in South Africa a bit later).

I was of the opinion that it would be easy to do a page long introduction to again give context to the next poems about the anti colonial struggles and wanted some basic information of the movie that involved protagonists from both Mozambique and South Africa. But it was not to be. On doing a basic search, on Internet, I found this unfortunate plot outline, which included the dreaded word of TERRORISM: “A drama about terrorism in Apartheid-era South Africa, revolving around a policeman (Robbins) and a young man (Luke) who carries out solo attacks against the regime.”

Only when prompted for more did I find that it was “a political thriller: the real-life story of a South African hero’s journey to freedom. In the country’s turbulent and divided times in the 1980s, Patrick Chamusso is an oil refinery foreman and soccer coach who is apolitical – until he and his wife Precious are jailed. Patrick is stunned into action against the country’s oppressive reigning system, even as police Colonel Nic Vos further insinuates himself into the Chamussos’ lives,” written by Focus Features.

Without intending for this introduction to have veered into the field of the celluloid arts, it however does raise the complexity/simplicity of words and their meanings, in different contexts of time and space.

From US Republican presidential candidate John McCain to Fidel Castro, it is universally agreed that nations and countries have the right to national defense and self-determination. Over numerous decades (and as long as there was oppression?) these struggles for national self-determination engulfed various of the world’s peoples from all continents and some of recent times include countries such as Algeria, Mozambique, Mexico, India, Vietnam and many others on their rostrum.

Despite the use of military hardware, etc. it is true to say that these wars were essentially political (including social and cultural organisation and mobilisation) in the process of conscientisation of the oppressed and exploited. This awareness was seen as both a means towards an end and an end in itself, and ingredient without which democracy cannot truly function. The world of ideas – broadly cultural work – has a pride of place in that process.

The systems of oppression and exploitation are often kept in power not solely by means of force or repression, and this was the case in Mozambique as well. All other systems, institutions, agencies, and organisations of state or aligned to it, were used to oppress the majority of indigenous Mozambicans. Simply put, the army, the police, the media (radio and TV, newspapers – it was pre Internet epoch), and the church (read Catholic Church) were in the main opposed to the People.

In this edition of poems, we get to know a bit more of Jorge Rebelo, African liberation fighter who was and is integrally involved in this contestation over ideas and the quest for national liberation. [1]

Our aim is to make accessible these works and seek their joy and significance when reading with the eye of today. What Rebelo writes in 1965, we believe is evergreen:

LETTER FROM A FREEDOM FIGHTER

Mother, it is beautiful to fight for freedom!
In every bullet I shoot there is a message of justice,
and old dreams wake like birds.

In the hours of combat, in the battle front
your image comes close to me.
It is for you too that I fight, Mother.
That you should not have tears
in your eyes.

Today Rebelo remains a principled and humble man fighting for social justice and a rightful place for Mozambique and Africa in the world. Today Rebelo still writes about life and its challenges. The weapons remain ideas and politics but the form of a gun is no longer.His 1975 poem tells us more about the man, even if it was written on the eve of Mozambican liberation.

A POEM STILL TO BE WRITTEN

I would like
to be able
to write a poem
as exalting,
as beatiful, as profound
as the victory of the people.

A poem telling
about the whole struggle, and how
it was waged
and won…….

A poem telling
finally
the reason for our struggle:
the new life we are building,
the pride of being who we are
the radical rejection
of exploitation.

These poems were written originally in Portuguese and copies in their original can be made available on request. The poem Josina, we continue with you refers to Josina Machel (née Muthemba) is Rebelo’s tribute to the first wife of the former president of Mozambique, Samora Machel (in the picture). She died in battle fighting Portuguese oppression on 7 April 1970, a day that is recognised as National Woman’s Day in Mozambique. Rebelo writes of her death:

Josina,
It was still dawn when you departed.
We had no time to say farewell,
you departed suddenly
silently
like a shooting star.

A gun which stood without owner
a child who cried in the night
were mute witnesses to your absence.
It was still dawn when you departed.

Do we mourn for you? (more…)

A final note:

You can Catch the Fire on DVD but want to advise that, in promoting the movie, media must use their dictionary to the full. It would be wise to include other words and phrases such as solidarity, love and liberation to draw people to the movie. Terrorism is real and does exist, but this movie was not of its ilk.

 

[1] The poems included in this edition are: Do you know me?, Once Upon a Time (1995), A Poem still to be written (1975), Brother from the West (1972), We are Fighters of FRELIMO (1971), Hearken to the Voice of the People (1971), Josina, we continue with you (1971), The World I Offer You (1967) and Letter from a freedom fighter (1965).

Advertisements

March 13, 2008

Do you know me? _ Jorge Rebelo

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:40 pm

(Granny Martha, in Hulene Township)

Do you know me? Do you know I’m here?
Have you ever noticed me? Perhaps not?
I am the woman at the roadside
beckoning you to buy
as you walk by.

At every break of day
I leave my tumbledown
for the long trudge
– a heavy bundle on my head –
I find a pitch
dump my bundle
stretch out a cloth
and line up one by one the hillocks
of onions, potatoes, garlic and beans.
Then I settle down
for the long and patient wait.

How much anguish in this wait!
Thirteen mouths to feed
(thirteen!) fugitives from the war
waiting at home, anxious and famished.
When I don’t sell there is hunger
and despair.

Sometimes I think about revolt:
living this marginal existence
alongside luxury and opulence
like a provocation…

But for me
storms have lost their charm
even the storms supposed to purify,
to scheme and shape fate.

So I carry on resignedly –
to the relief of you sirs.

This is my life.
I told it in the hope
that my presence
as you walk by
will challenge you
accusingly.

Once Upon a Time _ Jorge Rebelo (1995)

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:39 pm

Once upon a time
there was a man
who wanted to fly.

Just that: to fly –
but not by plane
nor by ballon!
He wanted wings
like the condor in the tale,
to spread them, lazily,
and mimicking the mischiefs of the wind
to rise in the air, in space, in the infinite,
to rise and fly to heaven.
It was one of his dreams,
in fact, just a mania.

But listen to this: so ardent
was his desire, so intense was his will
that wings began to sprout.

From then on every day
he would fly –
not far at first,
but later, more confident
further away.
And from heaven the distance would draw shorter.

He envisioned heaven
not with a god who is the boss of everything.
(He was so tired of being bossed around!)
He envisioned heaven like a large village
where destinies idyllically cross,
nature is treated with love
and rain always fall at the right time,
children are not lost to the streets,
everyone works, bread is plenty,
wealth is shared with justice
– and other utopias that came to his mind.

One day he flew and never came back.
Did he arrive? No-one knows.
What is known
is that other men also sprouted wings
and they are already a big crowd
demanding heaven.

And people say
that the rulers
are uneasy.

A Poem still to be written _ Jorge Rebelo (1975)

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:38 pm

I would like
to be able
to write a poem
as exalting,
as beatiful, as profound
as the victory of the people.

A poem telling
about the whole struggle, and how
it was waged
and won.

A poem recalling
the heroes who gave their lives:
with their bodies they built
the necessary bridge
that led us to victory.

A poem telling
finally
the reason for our struggle:
the new life we are building,
the pride of being who we are
the radical rejection
of exploitation.

… … … … … … … …

One day somebody will write
about what is already life
before becoming a poem.

Brother from the West _ Jorge Rebelo (1972)

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:36 pm

Brother from the West –
(how to explain that you are our brother?)
The world does not end at your doorstep
nor at the river which borders your country
nor in the sea,
in whose vastness you sometimes think
you have discovered
the meaning of the infinite.
Beyond your doorstep, beyond the sea
the great struggle continues.
Men with warm eyes
and hands as hard as the earth
embrace their children at night
and depart before dawn.
Many will not return. It does not matter.
We are men tired of shackles.
For us
freedom is worth more than life.

To you, brother, we offer
and from you we expect
not the hand of charity
which mystifies and humiliates,
but the hand of solidarity
engaged, commited.

How can you refuse, brother from the West?

We are Fighters of FRELIMO _ Jorge Rebelo (1971)

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:31 pm

So many paths we have trodden!
So many people we have greeted
liberated
sheltered
fed
taugth
on our march!

So many plains, mountains, rivers
we have crossed!

The day of independence is still far
but each day it comes closer.

We are FRELIMO fighters.
Planes? Tanks? We have none.
But we carry truths in our eyes
truths that can also kill and destroy
truths the enemy fears more than weapons:
but which can rebuild, out of ruins.

We go forward, instruments of an ideal
loftier than ourselves
finally stripping away our solitude.

Sometimes we stop along the way
for a child’s entreaty and greeting,
for a chance flower,
a certain smile, a star.

We halt within ourselves: our steps continue
and we meet up again further on.

We must not delay. Out there the enemy
continues to enslave our people…

To arms, comrades!

Hearken to the Voice of the People _ Jorge Rebelo (1971)

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:27 pm

Hearken, comrade, to the voice of our people.
It is a voice as ancient as time,
muzzled
but vibrating with dreams,
as resolute as the truth,
haughty and sharp
like an accusing pain.

Listen: it is Wyriamu, it is Mueda
mourning their slaughtered sons…
It is the peasants cursing the settlers
who robbed their land…
It is the mothers welcoming us as heroes
when we return from the battles…

Hearken to the voice of the people, comrade.
Let it be your light
let it envelope you like a mantle –
invisible but heavy
immensely heavy
because it bears the weight
of all the suffering that must end,
of all the dreams that must take shape.

Hearken to the voice of the people, comrade.

Josina, we continue with you _ Jorge Rebelo (1971)

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:21 pm

Josina,
It was still dawn when you departed.
We had no time to say farewell,
you departed suddenly
silently
like a shooting star.
A gun which stood without owner
a child who cried in the night
were mute witnesses to your absence.
It was still dawn when you departed.

Do we mourn for you?
It is too soon for us to mourn.
Absence hurts
in relation to time
and understanding.
Yesterday you were with us
Together we were building our new world
You tended the children whom the revolution
had placed in your care
You carried with you the seed and shared
the fruits of the freedom already conquered.

Today you are no more
– no more forever –
What does this mean?

(Ah, if only our hands were heavy hammers
that could beat and break the earth
that enfolds you!)
Our reason admits your absence,
but our hearts
refuse to understand
and to accept.
It is too soon for us to mourn.

Will we learn to live without you?
Who will teach us the right words
to sustain and console us
in our moments
of human hesitation and uncertainty?
Who will show the world the strength
the courage and the grace
of the women of our country?
You were for us the symbol of purity,
the sister, the comrade,
the embodiment of the revolution.
When you departed, the meaning
of many things
ceased to be so clear…

But listen:
When the struggle demands: Forward!
we shall advance.
You will be with us.
In our marches, in our battles,
in the schools, in the fields,
on all our missions
you will be with us.
Your youth, halted so soon
will be eternal
inspiring us, encouraging us.

No, we do not need to learn
how to live without you.
We continue
our struggle
with you.

[Josina Machel was a woman freedom fighter, who distinguished herself for her total commitment to the liberation struggle. She married Samora Machel, the President of Frelimo, during the struggle. The day of her death – 7th Abril – was declared Mozambican Women’s Day.]

The World I Offer You _ Jorge Rebelo (1967)

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:17 pm

The world I offer you, sweetheart,
has the beauty of an assembled dream.

Here men are believers –
not in gods and other things without sense
but in truths which are pure
and revolutionary,
so beautiful and so humane
that men accept
to die
for these truths to live.
It is this belief, it is these truths
that I have
to offer you.

Here tenderness is not conceived
in bed chambers.
It is a hard, violent, bitter tenderness
born in the tough harshness of the struggle,
in the long marches,
in the waiting days.
It is this tenderness, harsh and bitter
that I have
to offer you.

Here do not grow roses.
The weight of boots crushed the flowers
along the paths.
Here grow maize, cassava, beans
born of men’s efforts
to forestall hunger.
It is this absence of roses,
this effort, this hunger
that I have
to offer you.

Here children don’t grow old,
their smile is eternal,
they play with the sun, the wind,
with the rain and grasshopers,
with real guns
with bits of grenades.
It is this child’s eternal smile, this sun,
these real guns
(with which I also played)
that I have
to offer you.

The world in which I fight
has the beauty of an assembled dream.
It is this fight, sweetheart, this dream
that I have
to offer you.

Letter from a freedom fighter _ Jorge Rebelo (1965)

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:11 pm

Mother
I have a gun made of iron!

Your son
He whom one day you saw
chained
(and you wept
as though the chains had bound
and cut
your own hands, your own feet)
Your son is already free, Mother!
Your son has a gun made of iron.

With my gun
I will shatter all the chains
I will open all the prisons
I will kill all the tyrants
I will give the land back to our people.

Mother, it is beautiful to fight for freedom!
In every bullet I shoot there is a message of justice,
and old dreams wake like birds.

In the hours of combat, in the battle front
your image comes close to me.
It is for you too that I fight, Mother.
That you should not have tears
in your eyes.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.