She who is looked upon by God’s angels,
She who is loved (if you want to be metaphorical),
My parents were clearly feeling very creative.
She who rounds us off,
Last born, we are enough.
Bukiwe. Simile. Sihlongonyane.
My clan, Sihlongonyane,
The melody of our praise names –
Sihlongonyane, saka laNgwenya Mhlophe,
Wena longakhonjwa yindvuku uyiyilandzela.
The pride of my lineage, this is who I am at home.
The Swazi; so many different flavours –
Dlamini, Mdluli, Fakudze, and on and on and on,
Different homes, of the same family because
Don’t forget, everyone in Swaziland is your brother or your sister.
Uyintfombi, uyimbali, uliSwati, you are Swazi
And this is how the comrades address me,
Or “Mswati’s sixteenth wife” if they’re trying to be funny,
“Do you really want to go there?” I toss back to the Zambian,
“Whatever, your president can’t even read” to the South African,
“Don’t even get us started” we all quip to the Zimbabwean,
It’s friendship, affection, understanding,
Let me tell you about the day I became just African.
Just. Another. African.
Mama, I made it I guess!
The airport looks kind of like ours,
Their coffee isn’t that great,
The air smells vaguely different though –
“Country of origin?”
The gentleman looks at me like I’m wasting his time, “you don’t look Swiss.”
No, sir… Swaziland. Not Switzerland.
Am I really about to teach geography to Customs and Border Protection?
I’m nervous now, I’ve only been in this country for 2 minutes,
Swaziland… like, um, it’s in southern Africa –
“OH. You’re African.”
He hammers away at his keyboard,
“What brings you all the way up here?”
Mama, I’m here I suppose.
“Hello! Welcome to Dartmouth! We’re soooo excited to add to our African population here.”
Mama.. I’m okay, I think?
“Welcome to your first year seminar.
You over there, can you give us the African perspective on Heart of Darkness?”
Mama, I’m not so sure about this anymore…
“Buki, tell the rest of the Bio class about your experiences with the famine.
And what about Ebola? Have you been affected by AIDS?”
Mama, I think I want to come home now.
“Oh my God, how do you speak English so well?
And how are you so on top of your music?
Whaaaaaat, y’all have Wi-Fi down there???”
Now, don’t let’s forget where we all come from.
Where I come from – a land of heat, and indecision.
Where hair smells of childhood, laughter and garlic,
And it’s dense and it’s Black and I don’t care if my roots show.
Where my hips sway with the pride of my people –
It doesn’t count as sass if you were born with it,
And this relentless throbbing deep in my core,
And my feet restless from the rhythm in my bones,
You’ve heard it many times but until you feel it you cannot know –
It’s true. Music came from OUR people,
As their spirits danced with the soil and danced with the sky,
And made love until the song became life, and light
Burnishing beautiful brown skin until it shone dark, and strong,
Love did not just live there; it was born there.
Love does not just live there; it was born there
And then YOUR gods came to see.
They were curious, they were jealous.
We breathed, Creation.
We were Creation.
And then they stole our souls
They broke our backs
Our Black was tarnished
Our skin was burnt
The ashes bled
Into our hearts
Our spirits fled
So we come here, looking for ourselves,
Land of the free, the American dream,
We are dying,
We used to hold life in our palms
And then our wrists were severed
And it’s gone.
But the homeland is forever golden.
The homeland is truth.
And the love, “down there” –
That, can never die.