Man is born crying, Ifrani was born howling,
On a hot dusty day I, Ifrani was born, howling in pain as if in premonition of the life to come.
I was born amidst a sea of green, gold, lush with its ripeness and fullness, waterfalls spiralled around me;
Nature sang a song rich in its cadence, so rich, men weep to hear it, and no one ever forgets it, though they hear it but once.
And yet I howled at birth, but thrived in youth, growing as quickly as a palm tree, whose water source never dries.
And then I howled wildly as men surrounded me, wildly violating me and stripping my skin;
I was cast in chains and dragged off to work for my brothers, human like me, blood like mine, bones like mine
And then they came yet again, these brothers of mine and for the half-life left at home, And for a second I rejoiced, for I was home again, would grow again;
But alas, they locked me in a cell, forbidding me to speak or dance or talk or think or feel without permission;
They told me what to think, and what to wear and what was right and what was wrong;
They told me who I was, what I could never be, that I could never be free
And then they left.
Opened the prison doors and left. Yet again I rejoiced, for a second I thought to myself ‘here at last is true freedom’.
But then my body betrayed me. For though all around me lay green gold and growing nectar,
My hands refused to plough and my feet refused to move; I fell to the ground ravaged by hunger and disease.
Now here I lie the great Ifrani, fallen and dying.
But I do not die!
My body is constantly torn apart with its own wars, but it refuses to die.
Oh! How I pray for death. I should take nothing from my brothers;
Even if begged me, I should take nothing from them.
My body rots and the sun dries the pus and larvae eat my flesh;
And the jackboots trample me,
The gunshots echo over my head, piercing my dreams, piercing my nightmares
The bodies of my children, pile up the stink drawing the flies and the vultures
and the human flies and human vultures.
The bodies of my children float to the surface of the waters,
The scene of their aborted quest for freedom.
And yet I will never die; though I live in pain, the pain of war and strife.
And what will you do? You who hears the howling of Ifrani?
And my children (for they are many) flee to the homes of my brothers,
And they wait years at the door before they are let in,
To enter they promise not to eat, nor sleep on the beds,
They promise to wash the toilets
They promise to empty the trash.
And their cousins cringe from them,
As if they had a contagious disease.
But what can I do?
Stripped of everything but my pride, I cannot feed my children,
So they must go begging to their uncles who laid me waste…
And where is Freedom?
Is she hiding or was she killed too,
Another innocent ground to dust?
For here Silence reigns,
An evil taskmaster,
With a nefarious grin.
What must become of Ifrani and her children?
But this is not the end of the story, this cannot be the end.
For though my body lies ravaged like an aging tree striped of its bark;
My spirit leaps within be like a young deer.
My spirit still sings songs of aspiration,
My spirit still dreams dreams of deliverance.
Adversity may have laid me waste,
But my time is not done yet,
My song is not over yet and I am still here.
I still live and I still breathe and I still hope.
And my eyes still look up to the horizon,
Still look up to tomorrow,
Still look up in hope.
‘Ifrani’ is a play on the word ‘ifran’ from which Africa derives her name