I am Africa, dark, mysterious, dangerous. At least that is what they tell me. I have disgorged my children all over the world. Although I love them the world has deemed them to be slaves. Their beautiful dark skins absorb my light, harsh to those not used to it. Their strong bodies dancing in war and in joy tickle my stomach.
I live to hear their rhythmic language.
Their blood has seeped deep into my crust. I hold them and they hold me. Even if they leave for generations their genes remember me.
Pale men came here with guns, bringing others from all the corners of the globe. Guns against spears, an unequal match foreshadowing what was to come. They brought a foreign religion that diluted my own, a religion that taught my children that they are inferior.
My knowledge in ancient Egypt was disseminated to the Greeks and the Romans, unacknowledged. The city of Timbuktu in Mali which yielded scrolls from the thirteen hundreds became a pot of honey for avid historians.
My rivers run through gold, minerals, coal, and diamonds. My riches have attracted rogues, adventurers, outcasts.
I cradle my people in the warm sun. I welcome the afflicted, the enslaved.
The baobab tree with its thick stem and short branches, the acacia tree with its thorns; the majestic mountains, deserts; the lion, the cheetah swift, the wild dogs and wildebeest, the elephants – bounty given to me to exploit.
I am the biggest continent made to look small in maps. I feed the wretched who shall inherit the earth.
One day I will open up and swallow all.
Sorry that just fell out of me. Africa is in my veins. I feel its drums in my bones. From there it circles to my chest, which bursts with, what? Pride, sorrow, shame. The shame of not knowing my ancestry because it was deleted, a forgotten history. Too embarrassing to discuss, too guilt-inducing. It interferes with a settled lifestyle.
South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Its citizens are riven in rage. Rage of the original landowner and rage of the current. Rage of lost privilege and past injustice. Anger leaps like flames, reflecting the cinders of frequently burnt buildings.
I feel a deep attachment to my land. At the same time an alienation. The places in it, for me, are the farm of my grandfather which was appropriated, before that the farm of my great grandfather where gold was discovered and they were evicted, family lost when race classification came and each had to go to a different area, my silent history of a white shopkeeper and a black girl, my birth town, a small village outside Johannesburg.
Aside from physical places there is the space of the oppressed which has wrought an upbringing of contradictions, go to church on Sundays but stand on the throat of your worker, read the bible every evening but choose only those verses that legitimizes what you’ve done, love thy neighbor but take his land.
How do I detach myself from history when it’s so intricately linked to my identity?