From Shame and Fantasy I Rise – by Maimouna Jallow

Narissa Allibhai Voices 2 Comments

In the post “Am I Kenyan or Indian?”, I described my identity search as a Kenyan of Indian heritage. Next will be a piece on “Brown Privilege”, looking at the interactions between brown and black Kenyans, and how the fault for a lack of integration and harmony lies on both sides.

Before that though, here’s another take on the identity crisis faced by people who don’t fit into a “pure” stereotype of belonging to a people or place. Maimouna Jallow has been interrogating her own identity as a mixed-race African (whom we love to label “point-fives”). With echoes of Maya Angelou and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the poem is an inspiring journey from shame to ownership and pride.

 

From Shame and Fantasy I rise

The walls are murmuring
Whispering about the original sin
Of Conquest and Slavery
Of Rape and Savagery

The details remained buried
Under the cloak of the past
A mix of shame and fantasy
Exposed only by my skin

They reduced me to just half of a caste
Called me zero point five
Mathematically drawing a decimal into my existence
As though in those numbers did not lie
Thousands of years of resistance

They put me in a glass bottle
And labelled me IN-FER-TI-LE
With their false tales
Of scientific evolution

Don’t they know?
That I’m the child of the NI-LE
And within my veins
Run stories of revolution

Now, just like then,
Mulatita dances off their tongues
Insult camouflaged by exoticism
And it seems to me
That…
Darwin raped me
Colonialism fucked me
And commercialism just came in my mouth!

But from shame and fantasy,
I rise
Unbury the secrets for centuries held
I rise
And I’ve found in them things
That might surprise…

I was given a difficult name
So that people would call me with intent
Made of red clay not porcelain,
So that I would not shatter

I was given words and thoughts
From worlds that collide
So that I could make poetry
Create something new

And yes I dance
Like I’ve got diamonds,
At the meeting between my thighs

That’s because I am…
Half of a yellow sun,
Half of a full moon
And like Maya Angelou
Still, I rise

©Maimouna Jallow (September 2015)

 

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About the Writer
Maya and Maimouna

Maya and Maimouna

Maïmouna is a Nairobi-based writer, storyteller, and journalist who uses poetry, prose, performance and radio to explore questions around modernity & identity and all that exists in the cracks in between. She recently directed and staged ‘And Then She Said…’ an adaptation of five African novels. She has worked as a radio producer for the BBC World Service; as a correspondent in the island nation of São Tomé and Principe; and managed Regional Communications for Medécins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the Horn of Africa region.

Maïmouna is currently curating the Re-Imagined! series, a project to readapt contemporary novels and traditional folktales. She launched an online contest inviting African writers to re-imagine African folktales for the new millennium in March 2016 and will publish and perform an anthology of the best works. The contest is open to all African writers and runs until May 20th 2016. To apply, visit www.reimagined.com

Follow Maïmouna’s work on the Positively African facebook page and on twitter: @PstvlyAfrican

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