Tchicaya U Tam'si


The Rebels' Conga

Like rumba, conga!
Like rumba, Congo!

In Kin-the-Violent
The hips shake
Though they try to fool them
Down to the belt…
With conga rumba

To Kin
Come the blood of strength
Bandolier of the river
Like conga

The river's got this bridge
For the hands
The river's got this bridge
For the hearts
And he, he is alone.

He flies
From Kin to Kin!
From Kin to Kin,
Down to the blood
He has the sleep
Of those who die
In his ears,
He has the country's insomnia
In his belly
Pitted with grass…

From Kin to Kin!
From Kin to Kin:
Like rumba Congo!
Like rumba conga

What do the rebels search for
In Kin-the-Violent
Women to rape?
Is that all their violence?
Aren't they dancing!

Lumumba, rumba!
Like rumba, Congo!

With this rhythm
Is it the clouds that will fall?
Or the lightning storm that will
Burst open the bodies?

A mummy-paleness lingers
And returns to audacity
Blood in the fist
From Kin to Kin.
From Kin to Kin
Like conga Congo!
Where the hips break
Is the Union minière
The rebels' choreograph?
Does one unroot the man
Whose roots are his wounds
In his flesh?

The bazooka opens fire
And that's all
Or here come those who draw water
The women who perpetuate the river's flow
With the thirst of the pounders on their breasts
Clapping their hands:
Like rumba Congo
Like rumba, conga—
From Kin to Kin!
From Kin to Kin
That they die, that they die
as long as they have no grave!

Blowing the quarry
The bitch press of Big Capital
on the Congo
The bitch press of Big Capital
& scrambles for the spoils:
Like rumba, conga!
The river where the blood of strength
Bandolier of the river
In Kin
They throw they throw their garbage
On the human back
That the rebels search for at their head:
Like rumba, conga

This new source
Bandolier of the river
will link the six provinces
Or else long live the slavery of the Congo
And of that lonely man being drowned
Like rumba, conga
Like rumba, Congo!

And that the conga
No longer be a throwing weapon
At the heart of the Union minière.

7 July 1960

translated by Pierre Joris

[Translator's notes:

Kin == abbreviation for Kinshasa, capital city of the Congo / Zaire.

Union Minière: Belgian based company whose business was exploiting the rich mineral resources of Belgium's colony of the Congo: copper, cobalt, tin, zinc, precious metals, etcetera.

Patrice Lumumba: the first prime minister of the Congo, was deposed in September 1960 and tortured & killed in January in 1961.

7 July 1960: the poem was thus written a week after Congo became independent on June 30 1960. Civil war broke out in the Congo four days after independence.]