Friday, November 24, 2006

Léopold Sédar Senghor

Poetry from West Africa
Prayer to Masks

Léopold Sédar Senghor
Country: The Republic of Senegal
Poet and former President of the Republic of Senegal

Prayer to Masks

Masks! Oh Masks!
Black mask, red mask, you black and white masks,
Rectangular masks through whom the spirit breathes,
I greet you in silence!
And you too, my panterheaded ancestor.
You guard this place, that is closed to any feminine laugh-
ter, to any mortal smile.
You purify the air of eternity, here where I breathe the air
of my fathers.
Masks of maskless faces, free from dimples and wrinkles,
You have composed this image, this my face that bends
over the altar of white paper.
In the name of your image, listen to me!
Now while the Africa of despotism is dying – it is the agony
of a pitiable princess
Just like Europe to whom she is connected through the
Now turn your immobile eyes towards your children who
have been called
And who sacrifice their lives like the poor man his last
So that hereafter we may cry ‘here’ at the rebirth of the
world being the leaven that the white flour needs.
For who else would teach rhythm to the world that has
died of machines and cannons?
For who else should ejaculate the cry of joy, that arouses
the dead and the wise in a new dawn?
Say, who else could return the memory of life to men with
a torn hope?
They call us cotton heads, and coffee men, and oily men,
They call us men of death.
But we are the men of the dance whose feet only gain
power when they beat the hard soil.

Image by Joe Pollitt | Scars of Africa

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