Project Description

Faziry Mafutala

Faziry Mafutala was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Whilst working at the Ministry of Education, he became involved in political activities for the main opposition party but had to flee because his life was under threat. Since 1996, he has lived in exile with his family in the UK. Inspired by the story-telling tradition, he describes his culture, praises the noble deeds of his ancestors and echoes the suffering of refugees worldwide. He is currently reading Politics with Economics at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

My Ancestors’ Fire

During the night of Africa
Shining and black night
I have learnt the deep mysteries of the god of my ancestors
The first breath of humankind

It is a tradition among my people
To settle around the fire made by the ancestors
To hear a talking drum
To sing and dace
To hear legends and myths from the lips of a griot
While he communes with the night spirit

Every night
The griot gives birth to words
A truth of deep mysteries
The sea that fills my stream
That raises me high above all

I pass the words on to my children
As father told them to me
Who was told by his father’s father
To fuel the ancestor’s fire

My words are silent
Anyone can steal them
No-one can destroy them in my mind
My words have power over anything

Let me play a tune on the soft wood likembe
The art in my heart
Listen to my first words as likembe talks
From my ancestors
Who lived among the Bantu in the tropical rain forests
Among the Pygmies in the deep bush
I gathered the mysteries
How the strongest ancestors sank in the sea

In my mind’s burning
Into chaotic dreams
My memory is as dry as the Sahara desert
I want to drink from the old calabash
To remember my ancestors’ history

In the nightmare of the monster city
Stranger in the intoxicating beauty of the swarming city
Where crowds flow over high-rise islands of power and wealth
I get lost under the brown fog of a winter dawn

In the dark night of winter
All the dogs bark
The stars are dead
The moon, queen of the night realm, hosts her memory

Time seems to stand still in my brain
But it does not halt for those outside
In the splendour of the public gardens
Where streets in full daylight confront the passer-by

My grandchildren are ignorant of how the old calabash was broken
Tomorrow the words will cease to fuel the ancestors’ fire
My grandchildren won’t drink from the old calabash
The first breath of humankind will drift away