By Bohani Shibambu

Bohani Shibambu

You know me
Don’t you?
You said you did
Yes you gave me a name
But you ask me now
I thought you know me

Which identity do you want?
Do you want to know my name?
Which one?
The tags of humiliation that dangle in my conscience
Whose pronunciation reduced my people to children
The one that defined my ownership in the marketplace
Of bidders in human souls

Do you want to know the spot I inhabit
In human consciousness and geography
I’m defined by the land I come from
Do you know my land?
Do I have land?
Can I call it my own?
How much will I pay?
My sweat and pain has no value
It would have earned my keep in your humanity

Do you want the identity of the people I come from?
Can you remember them?
Which ones?
The ones that diminished their value
To desuade you by cutting their limbs
To prove worthless for the toil of the plantations.
Or the ones who turned on their vormit above swearling oceans
The ones that made peace with hungry fishes of distant seas
Or the bones lying on the ocean floor
Proof of an unsuccessful endevour to the buyer’s house
Or the ones whose bodies enticed sugarcane and cotton to grow
Longer and faster to satisfy the owners of nickel

Do you want to know my occupation?
Of course it defines who I am
I used to be a farmer
Farming knowledge in marginal lands
Produce grain to feed distant neighbours
A blacksmith for world civilization
I crowned my name in princely affairs
Respected by the lion and the shark
Immigrants and land owners

Which identity do you want?
Do you want the language I learned to speak to myself
The one I use to speak to the grass and the birds
To speak to the gods and the departed
The one which flows in the veins of my ancestors and cattle
The one understood by my dog and the antelope
Or the one I use to mimic your shadow
To create myself in the image of the unknown
I can be anything
Tell me what you want me to be
Give me your identity to wear
Tightly I will embrace it like winter clothes
Like a serpent I will shed your skin

I am known only to my people
Those who honour an empty house of the widow
And praise the full calabash of the young princess
Protecting the child from bird of prey
Those who feed a hungry dog and stranger without plenty
Whose empty stomachs know no envy
Whose lips curse greed and death of the conscience
I have my identity
It’s not like yours


It’s about the identity of Africans which is poorly understood.

Even those who sought to obliterate and strip Africans of their identity think they understand and know them better.

They don’t realise that Africans have remained true to themselves, only allowing those who impose alien identity on them to gain a false sense of accomplishment.

Their identity is defined by geography (Africa), history of struggle, defeats and conquests. Above all they are defined by values of humanness (Ubuntu) which rests on empathy and consideration of the other person through which everyone is formed as a whole complete being.

Bohani Shibambu

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