28 June 2009

A Jamaican Poem - 'Back to Africa'

I love this poem by the late great Louise Bennett, also known as 'Miss Lou'. This poem is written in the Jamaican patois and deals with Miss Mattie's yearning to go back to Africa.
Miss Lou questions this desire very eloquently. Let me know what you think.

'Back to Africa'

Back to Africa, Miss Mattie?
You no know wha you dah seh?
You haf fe come from somewhe fus
Before you go back deh!

Me know say dat you great great great
Granma was African,
But Mattie, doan you great great great
Granpa was Englishman?

Den you great granmader fader
By you fader side was Jew?
An you granpa by you mader side
Was Frenchie parlez-vous?

But de balance a you family,
You whole generation,
Oonoo all barn dung a Bun Grung-
Oonoo all is Jamaican!

Den is weh you gwine, Miss Mattie?
Oh, you view de countenance,
An between you an de Africans
Is great resemblance!

Ascorden to dat, all dem blue-yeye
White American
Who-fa great granpa was Englishman
Mus go back a Englan!

What a debil of a bump-an-bore,
Rig-jig an palam-pam
Ef de whole worl start fe go back
Whe dem great granpa come from!

Ef a hard time you dah run from
Tek you chance! But Mattie, do
Sure a whe you come from so you got
Somewhe fe come back to!

Go a foreign, seek you fortune,
But no tell nobody say
You dah go fe seek you homelan,
For a right deh so you deh!


Ralph Dumain said...

It's difficult to comprehend in spots, but it's quite remarkable. I'm trying to remember if I've heard of this woman before.

Dee said...

Wow Ms. Lou is here. I used to say her dialects when I was a little girl.

entrepod - mama asid said...

Nice Very Nice. unnu amemba unu culcha. bigup mi sistren

isabella mori said...

aaah, haven't been here for a while, my good zee ...

but every time i show up, i see something great!

this one ran all the way up and down my spine. as i may have mentioned before, i live in vancouver, one of the most multicultural places in the world. i was in the bread store today and there were two women talking, both of them, it turned out, first nations (i.e. of aboriginal ancestry). with me in the store, they talked about how "the chinese" should just go back to china because "our country" is overrun. they didn't know i've only lived in canada for 27 years and that my husband's family came here from japan 80 years ago. i didn't know one of them was native because she was blonde and white-skinned. and the english/french/german/italian/??? ancestried priests who put their parents through the torture of residential school didn't know (or believe) that first nations culture is as valuable as any other.

such much ignorance.

let's stop hurting each other like that. let's seek our fortunes together.

Anonymous said...

As a white British Englishman may I say that this has always been one of my favourite poems, ever since I read it in "Black Youth Rastafarianism in Britain". Thank you so much for helping to make it better known.

Michelle said...

I love it. :-) You should read Guyana-Gyal's blog. She writes prose like this poem. here's her link -

As a colonial (African) mongrel I relate to it completely... from my Irish, Persian, Scottish, Dutch, Jewish, English, Greek, Turkish German ancestry! :-D

Wonder what Miss Lou would have made of my Homeland poem? ...but I bet Mattie would have understood.

PS... I found you through CrackerHead. He nabbed my blog to advertise today and I found yours further down. Serendipity

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

mi love di patois an me love 'ow miss lou use it fi express harself.. oonoo Jaaicans use up di patois yah!! embrace oonoo culcha!! Jamaica a di best!!
i love the patois and the way miss lou uses it to express herself.. Jamaicans, speak the patois and embrace your culture. Jamaica is the best

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