Can you love your people from a distance? Can you share the wounds of another without their invitation? In the Old Testament one can read of the frustrated yearning of Moses. A privileged but distanced brother who strives unrecognised to be a brother in arms. In Exodus for example it tells how after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them slaving away, oppressed. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, ‘Why do you strike your brother Hebrew?’ The man said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Will you kill me just as you killed the Egyptian?’
David Diop likewise loved his people from a distance – not a spatio-temporal distance that can be remedied- but the cultural divide of one born elsewhere. The only surviving collection of his angry poems convey a bitter protest against European cultural values, and enumerate the sufferings of his people first under the slave trade and then under the load of colonial rule. He calls out for revolution and yearns for Africa’s glorious future. A Negritude writing of unequalled intensity he rejected the assumption underlying of French Foreign policy that Africa possessed neither culture nor history.
Vernon was struck by the bitter blows of this African Moses.
THE NONSENSE FILTER
Section 31 shudders under the weight of it.
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
Springing up patiently obstinately
Whose fruits bit by bit acquire
The bitter taste of liberty.