If You Want to Know Me by Noémia de Sousa

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If you want to know who I am,

examine with careful eyes

that piece of black wood

which an unknown Maconde brother

with inspired hands

carved and worked

in distant lands to the North.

Ah, she is who I am:

empty eye sockets despairing of possessing life

a mouth slashed with wounds of anguish,

enormous, flattened hands,

raised as though to implore and threaten,

body tattooed with visible and invisible scars

by the hard whips of slavery…

tortured and magnificent,

proud and mystical,

Africa from head to toe,

– ah, she is who I am

If you want to understand me

come and bend over my African soul,

in the groans of the Negroes on the docks

in the frenzied dances of the Chopes

in the rebelliousness of the Shanganas

in the strange melancholy evaporating

from a native song, into the night…

And ask me nothing more

if you really wish to know me…

for I am no more than a shell of flesh

in which the revolt of Africa congealed

its cry swollen with hope

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