Tag Archives: Linguere

Lost and Found

The wind kisses my tender skin
It’s my 7th autumn, the summer’s gone
Sun’s rays slowly nesting in the skies
Temperatures caress the ground; change.

I’ve seen winter storms and spring blossoms
Braved the chills in my copper coat
Found warmth in the hands of man, soft
Passed from one to the next, my journey.

I’ve got two faces
Equal value, minted for the same worth
Taking me through pockets and purses
Palm to palm, fingers touching briefly.

Brief. Like the life I’ve spent at each stop
Completing huge sums, part of a whole
No you without me; not much of me without you
Completing huge sums, part of a whole.

Then I fell.
My copper coat met the ground
Our embrace forced by passing feet
Soles of leather; soles of rubber
Oblivious to this new dance they create.

Is this love? Is this nature? Is this the end?
Part of a whole, now all alone. This turn
I see more soles; I see one good soul
He picks me up. One last chance?

The wind kisses my tender skin
It’s my 7th autumn, the summer’s gone
I’ve found a new home in his hands, her words
My life has come full circle.

 

Linguere
18/10/2016

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Writings On The Walls

The pain that reminds us that we are women is not limited to the one that fiercely arrives every beautiful full moon.

In the centre of nature’s most precious four corners, the one that embodies the strongest walls ever known to mankind also originated a different pain we have come to love. One we treasured, one we fed from the closest point that our heart beats, one we carried on our tired backs.

We fanned their egos at a very tender age, allowed them to believe that they were the alpha and omega. The bane of our existence.

This pain turned into one we can’t live with and can’t live without either.
Or so we believe.

We have lived side by side with them, in four-cornered walls. We have let them live within our sacred walls as well.

We have taken long rides with them, climbed the tallest and shortest mountains. Mastered every rock and conquered every obstacle along the blissful journeys we have taken together.

Spirit, mind and body we have shared with them. And in return they hide their true spirits, share a very calculated part of their mind but share all of their body with us.. With any of us that is willing or unwilling.

For centuries we have lived in this truth, a truth that falls in the ears of the deaf, seen by the eyes of the blind and spoken by the tongue of the dumb it would seem.

Because in this moment, as you read these words, we are still living in this truth as it continues to fall in the ears of the deaf, seen by the eyes of the blind and spoken by the tongue of the dumb.

The body we had shared sacred moments with, the one created strong and mighty to protect us is now being used as a tool of weapon against us.

Willing or unwilling.

This pain that knocks all four walls of mine every full blessed moon.. The one that  takes my mind back to my choices, back to my dreams, back to my regrets, reminds me that I am a woman who only existed to procreate with those who have been brought upon this earth through us; as I hold my stomach and close my teary eyes to sleep laying next to the body that was meant to give me pleasure and protect me.

Willingly or unwillingly.

Mariam Dainty

#GambiaAt50 : A Tribute To The Sheros Of Our Journey To Independence

I celebrate a force that is too often forgotten
When we share the stories of our journey
Our struggles, our negotiations, the final agreement
That brought us freedom on that fateful day, 1965.

This force… she was a Mother
To the founding fathers and their brothers
In the struggle
She raised, nurtured, and cared for
Groomed the leaders we cheered for
In the history books, she might not really be catered for
But her mark remains indelible in the hero she bore and guided
Blessed and prayed for.

This force… she was a Wife
The proverbial woman behind our successful man
The quiet engine driving the vehicle of change, our change
She was the one, his biggest supporter, his comfort when the days were gloomy
She saw our hero at his weakest and most vulnerable
Yet cloaked him with her sutura
Filling him with the strength he needed when the sun rose again
She waited through the long nights of late meetings
Then soothed aching feet and filled a growling stomach
She would eventually stand beside him, celebrating their victory
Thanking God for the wise counsel she gave when he was doubtful of his plans
To us, she was Mrs. Founding Father
To him, she was Bilqis… of love, hope, strength and loyalty.

This force… she was a Guewel, too
Singing the many praises of our hero,
Lifting his spirits when they were downcast and trodden
Reminding him of the glory of his ancestors who’d taken similar paths, in years past
She glorified him, Faye biram penda waagan, Njie kuli jatta njie, Cham baabel demba cham
He was Jawara…diko, Jahumpa, Dibba Chaaku,  John Massar
He was Small… yet of neither small feats, nor little accomplishments
This force, she exalted the royalty in their blood, celebrated their greatness
And propelled our nation to visions of the glory of Jollof and Sine, Kaabu and Manding
Remember her… this force.

Sometimes she would manifest her prowess in groups
Of mothers, sisters, aunties and nieces… in compins rallying support
She was the voice that rang across districts and constituencies
Carrying her message over the hills at Hella and the fields at Pachaar
She built trust and confidence among the people
And when the time came to cast votes, she echoed the great stories of the struggle
And linked the threads, weaving the fabric of our history.

Our force, she was a philantropist
Caring for many, her actions a reflection of the beauty in her heart
She was a teacher… beyond the home and neighbourhood
She shared her wisdom with hundreds in the classrooms
From Banjul to Fatoto, Serekunda to Kristi Kunda
Building the minds of generations
And shaping the future of our country.

We wonder if she just stayed in the background, bidding her time
But our force, she was at the forefront too
Mutating from follower and supporter to an active participant
In the politics of our baby nation
Setting the pace for many women that will come after her
Making them believe in the power of their thoughts, the validity of their dreams
Dispelling the myth that we were only made to be seen and not heard.

But this couldn’t, shouldn’t be a surprise
For she descended from the unrivaled Linguere, queen of Jollof
Leader, Mother, Giver of Care
Leadership, thus a genetic trait
Passed down through kingdoms, nations and republics
Clearing the path for my generation of young leaders.

So when we share the stories of our journey to independence
Let us remember this force
Whose mark still shines in all we do
I pay tribute to the many women who stood tall
And took their rightful places in shaping the history of this country
The giants on whose shoulders we now stand
The Lingueres whose place in history should never, can never be replaced.
This is a tribute to the Gambian woman.

Lost in Religious Translation

At around the age of twelve, I made the conscious decision to become a Muslim. Maybe, what I should say is that I made the conscious decision to become a practising Muslim. Let me explain.

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I come from a society where, when children are born, they generally follow their father’s religion. This is easy to handle when both parents are of the same faith and the kids are naturally brought up to believe in the same things. It seems even easier when the parents are married and live together, as the religious beliefs of the child are not just theoretical then, but also learned and nurtured from watching these parents, if they practise. There are these cases, considered normal, and then there is my case.

I was born to a Christian mother from a family of staunch Catholics, and a Muslim father from a family with strong blood and social ties to one of the sects in the Senegambia region. On the eighth day after my birth, I was named, had all the rituals for a new baby performed and welcomed as one of the Muslim ummah. My parents unmarried, I was raised by my mother and her family who held on to their Catholic faith while making me understand that I could practise my Islam freely.

However, I (and my sister who would be born three years after me), spent our early years in church, following what we saw around us and practically living as Catholics. We became so absorbed in the faith that on days when our Catholic cousins would decide to skip church, we would dress up and join my mother and uncle for Mass. This was the life we knew and had become a part of. We were taught very little about Islam, though my grandmother would always encourage us to perform the five daily prayers. On Muslim feasts, we would also celebrate with my father’s family. We enjoyed the best of both worlds… until I was about twelve years old.

My decision was mainly triggered by a series of embarrassing sessions in Islamic Studies class at my primary school where, looking back now, I was never given the option to choose what religious class I wanted to attend. By virtue of being a Muslim, I found myself in this class that would always reflect my lowest grade, throwing shade at my position as the top student and giving my classmates a chance to throw jibes at my little- almost nonexistent – knowledge of the chapters and verses of the Quran. Even at that young age, there was only so much humiliation I could take among my peers, and I decided to act. With my sister on my side, I found a teacher who would come to our home several times during the week, to teach us Quranic lessons and Arabic. These classes went on for about a year and ended, but by that time, we had learnt enough to perform the mandatory prayers and build up enough confidence to call ourselves Muslims.

For me, it was also a chance at self-discovery. Being curious and an avid reader meant I would go beyond the lessons taught at home and school. I found books I could gain more knowledge from and taught myself new chapters of the Quran and their meanings. I gradually stopped going to church, though I grew up being very tolerant and respectful of all other religions, thanks to my background. In my little research, I did not just become convinced of the religion I wished to practise. I found love and peace in messages that I wasn’t even taught. I discovered the beauty of Islam, devoid of the many interpretations from men, that would sometimes distort the messages in their favour. I was content with learning at my pace and embracing the beauty of the religion in its simplest forms.

Last week, I was on a flight back to Nairobi from Eldoret, where I had been invited to attend the launching of The Girl Generation  Africa Project. The discussion with one of my hosts turned to religion and I shared the story of my mixed background and how it has influenced my world view, especially in these times. She paid much attention to the parts about my early life in church, then turned to look at me and ask ‘how could you choose to be Muslim after that?‘ Usually, I would have the perfect answer, ready to defend my religion. This time, I just sat there and thought about the question. In the end, my response was simply ‘I learnt about the religion and fell in love with its message of peace and tolerance‘. When she invited me to Christ, we talked about my love for, and belief in him as a Prophet of God. By the time we landed in Nairobi, we both agreed on the need for respect and tolerance, and explored the possibility of simply believing in a Supreme Being without the conventional attachment to a religion.

This is something I have thought about on several occasions, especially when my faith hits the dust and I’m searching for excuses to justify the dip. Yet, it makes a lot of sense to simply believe and pray to God, without having to subscribe to the many emerging schools of thought with different interpretations on how to worship God. If anything, it could shatter the stereotypes that abound on things that seem foreign to us. When my friend asked about my choice, there were subtle references to the killings and injustices being carried out by Muslims around the world. These exist, just as they exist among people of other faiths, but we rarely use the same brush to paint everyone in the same way as we do Muslims.

I think about Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al Shabab, ISIS and other groups using religion as a justification for their heinous acts and I understand how easy it can be to draw conclusions based on them. However, it would be unfair to the greater majority of Muslims to be seen and treated in the same way, even when they join in the condemnation of these acts that target innocent people. I do not wish to defend anyone today, especially after the recent shootings at the Pakistani school, that claimed the lives of 132 children and 9 teachers.

What I wish for, instead, is healing for this world that has become too chaotic. I look back on my earlier years and even hope that people would take the time to learn more about the different faiths, if only to do away with the misconceptions. In my readings, I have found that we are more alike than different and our beliefs are generally founded on the same principles of good, peace, love, mercy and tolerance. It is sad that the structures intended to guide and keep humanity together are being used to draw us apart.

The truth is that I am tired and drained out by everything happening in the world around us. When I pause and draw myself away, I can’t help wondering what it would mean to have a world where we’re not bound by any structures, but guided only by the desire and will to be and do good. Maybe, it will bring back the essence of humanity and promote peaceful co-existence. Or maybe, I should get down from my cloud and face the harsh reality we live with.

I believe we are one, regardless of what religion we choose to practise. Our relationship with God is sacred, but our relationships with our fellow humans say a lot about the former. After all, we were created in his image… or so I have read.

I don’t know why I wrote this post, but I was at a place where the written word was the only way to express what I truly felt. I hope we can simply endeavour to be and do all the good we can in this world, for humanity and for the love of the God we all share.

 

 

International Women’s Day: I Celebrate

It’s International Women’s Day and today, as with everyday, I celebrate (with) all women and girls around the world!

Source: UN Women social media pack for IWD 2014

Source: UN Women social media pack for IWD 2014

I commend us all for the sacrifices we make, the burdens we bear, the changes we influence, the care we give, the love we share, the hope we restore, the strength we embody, going against the odds to succeed, and for a million other things we represent and do as women in this world.

I celebrate the Queens we are, giving birth to Princesses and Princes, partners to Kings, Mothers of the Universe and leaders in our Kingdoms. I celebrate us Lingueres, for even when the crown gets heavy, we still tote it atop our heads with dignity and unrivaled strength!

I celebrate my mother, my ultimate Linguere, for going against all the odds and raising her children and others under her care all alone. I never have to look far for motivation and inspiration and I pray I become even half the woman she is. I celebrate my grandmother too, for setting the pace and inspiring strength through generations.

I celebrate my teachers, mentors, and the many women taking the lead in developing our communities, countries, continents and the world. Your leadership paves the way for greatness and the future is bright for the younger generation.

Source: UN Women Social Media Pack for #HeForShe campaign

Source: UN Women Social Media Pack for #HeForShe campaign

I celebrate the woman who wakes up as early as 5am, takes care of her household chores and heads out to the farms, the markets, the offices etc to earn a living and give her children a better life than she had.

I celebrate and empathise with that woman who wakes up and tries to cover bruises on her body and face, a result of the severe beating she received from her partner the night before.

I celebrate and give my voice to the little girl lying on a mat, legs splayed apart while older women around her engage in excited chatter, as she loses her clitoris and becomes a ‘full woman’.

I lie beside the mother who is forced to abort her baby -one she had fallen in love with- just because it came with a vagina and is, therefore, worth little or nothing at all. Womanhood is sacred and I celebrate her today.

I remember the many victims of honor killings- stoned to death, drowned, suffocated, slaughtered, shot at- all in the name of restoring dignity. May God in heaven grant you the pleasures and freedom you were deprived of here on Earth.

I stand with all girls and women who’ve had their innocence stolen in childhood, during war, down that dark alley, within the walls of the homes where we are supposed to feel safe. I celebrate you and share my hugs when the hot flashes return and the trauma continues, even after 15 years. Rape is not your fault and you have nothing to be guilty for.

I celebrate, stand by and add my voice to the cries and calls of all women and girls who have been, are and will be victims of violence. One in three women could be me… and it is!

I celebrate the women who are rising against the status quo and proving that we are strong, phenomenal and forces to reckon with.

This year, the United Nations celebrates IWD with the theme ‘Equality for Women is progress for all’ and calls for more involvement from men and boys through the #HeForShe campaign. Partnership is the way forward. 

So today, I also celebrate our men and boys! Yes, I shall never tire of saying we can only really make great progress if we work together as partners. This is what the world needs and it will lead to progress in attaining equality and development. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue; it is humanity’s issue!

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Source: UN Women Social Media Pack for #HeForShe campaign

I celebrate the men in my life, and around the world, who recognise that women are equal beings and who continue to support us and work with us as we strive for excellence. I celebrate and commend all men who see women as partners and are not intimidated by a woman’s success.

I celebrate the men who say NO to violence and are ready to protect the women folk from any of its forms.

I have had quite a handful of these amazing men in my life and suffice to say, it has made a big difference and contributed to who I am. They’ve been some of my biggest mentors and supporters and I’m grateful for their presence in my life. I celebrate my WE-MEN today! I love you all!

Remember, equality for women is indeed progress for all! Let us reflect on this and work towards a better world, where gender is no longer an obstacle to success and growth.

Happy Women’s Day everyone!

I Am Sorry

I’m sorry…. Was all you said

Three words… cut short to two coz you needed to save your breath

Exhausted from the pumping and thumping

Making a way where there was none

Turned explorer, Cadamosto

Between my legs you yearned for moisture

Of whites and reds and clear liquids

Tearing paths and leaving scars

Sword cutting through, defying laws of compatibility

Your eyes reflecting power, dominance… your carnal ability

My eyes shut, my mouth gagged, screams unheard

With every thrust, every breath, you whispered…. I’m sorry.

 

I’m sorry… you still said

Darkness looms, pressure mounts, your voice fills my head

Within, around, deep inside, your thrusts are met with questions

Sorry?

For luring me into your room, forcing me into silence

For telling me you’d be my new playmate, give me a new toy

For taking the plastic from my hands, filling them with your leather

For cursing the sweetness out of lollipops coz you’d give me better

For bolting the locks, drawing the blinds and stripping me naked

For letting your hands roam, press, promising you aren’t wicked

For tearing me apart… skin, mind and soul

Sorry?

I’ll tell you what that is

 

I’m sorry you were sorry, for you knew not what to be sorry about

I’m sorry we weren’t discovered, I wasn’t rescued, my cries not heard

I’m sorry I grew up blaming myself for what I knew not

I’m sorry I have to live with the trauma, hot flashes, memories that refuse to rot

I’m sorry for my doubt… my curiosity… my self-consciousness

I’m sorry for my future of unstained sheets, unbelievable explanations, unusual hostility

I’m sorry for stories of unbeaten drums passed on to my daughters

I’m sorry for my daughters, that they may suffer a similar fate

I’m sorry because the world refuses to see,hear and act

Sorry?

This is what sorry means.

 

So when you trudge through the sacred valleys of yet another innocent one

Your breath coming out in low whispers of ‘I’m sorry’

Remember this… Remember me… Remember that…

When your deed is done, your thirst quenched

Sorry is the cloak you’ll leave us wearing.

Sorry, are we?

Sorry, I am

I am sorry!

You Are Woman

You are born, the only one crying in a room filled with laughter and smiling faces…your cry either natural or induced by a large palm on the small of your back. Sometimes, there is no laughter… the smiles replaced by grim looks on the faces of those around you… disappointment and fear lining their eyes as they take a quick glance at your sex. It doesn’t bulge out… it is flat… tame… as you would be expected to be… all the days of your life.

On your eighth day, you are given a name… carried onto the basang by your bajen. You hear it first from the Imam… and then it sticks on… to be used by all around you…. uttered on the lips of many who meet you… in varying tones as per the varying situations. Your mother will use it…as she sings to you each day… telling stories of going to Saloum…Saloum of the three rooms… a fourth being the kitchen… belonging to the Buur… that Burr of Saloum. Your father will use it too… as he calls out for water… for his meal at the end of a long day… for one to run a short errand for him. He’ll use it when he discusses with your mother… of your coming of age… of the time to make a full woman of you… of your visit to the ngaaman. This latter will use it as she prepares her instruments… the same ones she had used on your friends before you… telling you to calm down…promising you it wouldn’t hurt… assuring you that you will be worth a lot more when you come out of her room…a part of you missing. She does not only cut your flesh off… she cuts off your feelings… your sense of arousal… the ownership of your body… a part of your femininity. Your family uses it as they receive you… a second welcoming… your coming of age… amid dancing and drumming… feasting and merry-making… while you bleed somewhere within your chest… and further down.

You grow up… growing increasingly conscious of yourself…your feelings… your features… your surroundings. Your chest has turned heavy… curves mirroring those on your lower limbs… your hips… still capturing the defined contours of your face… your lips when you smile… your brows… suspended atop your large eyes. Yes, you are aware of these changes… just as everyone else starts to notice them too.Your mother lives to rain admonishment on you… telling you to be careful… to stay away from men… that a mere touch could get you pregnant… that your father will not hesitate in harming you for bringing shame to his name. That name he had proudly handed down to you… waiting for a suitable person to add his own to it… waiting to hand you over to another… a new owner… for a price. Your father…he says nothing to you… choosing to warn you with his eyes…his grunts… his refusal to let you attend the school party. He warns you silently… for his silence is louder than any words he could use.

You count yourself lucky… one of the few who go to school… even when you have to return to waiting chores. You are brilliant… a fast learner… fired up to shine among your peers… easily gaining recognition from your teachers. You keep growing… more beautiful… smarter… and as you grow, your dreams grow too. Your vision expands and you can’t wait to turn your dreams to reality… even as you hurt… even as your days are often marred by painful memories…painful moments…painful truths. You resolve to grow out of them.. to choose a different path… refusing to let them define you… reflecting the strength of the women you look up to… women who share similar stories but have overcome the pain…or so it seems. You keep trying… succeeding sometimes…failing most times. They’re a part of you… etched in your mind…your feelings… your being… until that last day… when you shall take your last breath. You force yourself to work hard… to take up more responsibilities than you can handle… to zone out of this world… to live a life void of pain and suffering. Your work pays off… at home… in school… as you weave your way to your final years… a secondary school certificate in hand.

You want to go to the University… to learn some more… be introduced to more ideas… philosophies… theories. You want to create your own… become a professional… from whom others could learn. Your family has other plans… different from yours… tied to the destiny of another… willing you to complete him… while he completes you…makes a full woman of you. You are entrusted in his care… but in fact, you are the caregiver… to feed him and cater to his needs… succumb to his demands and respect his wishes. His wants will be your wants… and all he loathes… you shall loathe too. This is expected of you… as it was of your mother… and her mother before that. You turn has come… and the legacy is for you to continue… your family’s pride in your hands… your wishes a non factor. You still have dreams… and still wish to see them come true. You were wronged once…left with the painful memories to live with… never having  a say in what concerned you. Not anymore… you tell yourself… not anymore. On your wedding eve… you walk away… covered by the darkness of the skies… the heavens aiding you… hiding their lights… yet guiding you. Your feet lead you on… even as you heart threatened to burst through your chest… and your head swam with a million thoughts. What if you get caught… what  will your father say… do? You still went on… starting a new life… an unsure one… one full of doubts… but still a new life.

The years go by… and you’ve survived them all. With God and his angels on Earth, your dreams start unfolding… when you thought you’d lost it all. You are independent…made it through life… the envy of many… most of whom do not know your story. They see your poise… the spring in your heels when you walk… the clothes you wear… the confidence in your every movement. They hear you speak… in that calm voice…yet so strong…commanding respect… willing everyone to listen. The women you’ve seen… once loved… once wished to become. You are them… they are you… the roles have changed… transforming from that night you walked away. You made a decision… a choice… to defy… refusing to conform to the norm… to let your future be planned…ruined… by another. You brought back life… to yourself… to your daughter after you… to her daughter after her.

Yes… you found love… even when you thought it impossible. You had been condemned to a life of solitude… by your peers…your colleagues… your neighbours and your friends. All they saw was a woman with too much power… too much education… a high-earner… an intimidating woman. They said no man would want you… that they would be afraid to approach you… that you should tone it down and settle for what was available. You… you stuck to what you believed… that which made you walk away… that which drew you through the pains…molded you and kept you strong when life threw rocks at you. Your growth wasn’t easy…but that was only for you to know… and with that knowledge, you  set your standards…for you deserved the best… never choosing to settle for less.  They talked… you worked… you earned… you built… you smiled and stayed happy… until love came knocking.  It knocked softly… and was let in… bringing all you deserved… worked for… started a new life for.

You had been hurt… a victim of tradition… of society and its beliefs… a patriarchy. You had a reason to crumble… to let go… accept whatever else was thrown at you. Yet…you chose to walk away from it… starting a new journey… with routes different from the usual… getting scorned by your family. They eventually came back… when you had made it…and you took them in… for they were still family. You traced a new path… for yourself… and for many after you… giving them the courage to make their choices… to own their lives…to live their dreams… to refuse to adhere to the rules that will only crush them. You are molded by the past…you are the present… you are the future.

You are hope… you are love… you are life. You are woman!