Farewell Africa

John Otim

There was something noblesse about the evening. The canopy was on fire. From the mountains beyond came whispers of winds laden with fragrance. It was getting late. Birds of the night were in the air. Dew was beginning to form. Tonight, was the night. It would be his last evening. Everything took on the air of finality. As if the world was ending.

The hour drew near. Down the lane he slipped away. Fresh as the dawn.

Swift as sparrows he flew. Off after him they went. He sensed something was brewing. Whatever it was, on he flew. He was the wind. They were the shadows. Up and away he sped. He felt himself beyond the pale. On and on he flew. Of his quests there were no limits.

Up and away he soared. His feet were as wings of lightning. His spirits, a roaring mission to the stars. Still, his every step they followed. Malice alone drove them. On and on he flew.

I listened to the wind come howl telling me I have to hurry

I listened to the robin’s song telling me not to worry 1

The howling winds gave him succor. He listened to the robin’s song. It gave him heart. And on and on he flew. Till a voice said to him. Why? Why? Why? He glanced around. There was nobody. He slowed down and fell back to a trotting pace. They closed in on him and now at last they got him. They could not believe their luck. What happened to him!

As they laid hands on him their glee knew no bounds. But the kid was tougher than anything they knew. His mouth ran like the speeding waters of the Nile. His words stung like poisoned arrows of Bushmen.

They pinned him to the ground. They propped him up again and stood him on his feet. The better to get at him. They threw him down again and soaked him in the mud.

‘Look what we got!’ they mocked him. ‘Look at you! What happened?’ They pulled him out again and punched him.

But the boy his mouth kept jetting. The kid knew no conquer. Nothing in the world could touch the spirit that inside him surged. The spirit that in the beginning was in the rivers and in the valleys and on the mountains of Africa.

While they still held him, he heard from a distance, melodies of the new Africa. It rose from the Cape and flew over the Limpopo. An old song that first came in a dream to a school teacher deep in the village while he taught the school choir, God Save the Queen, in preparation for the Empire Day. In the years ahead, it’s soothing sounds will echo across the global world.

And now his face shone. His eyes were a million stars. A transfiguration! When they saw it, mortal fear gripped them! They lost heart and fled as fast their legs could carry them.

The day after, under a canopy still on fire, and the robin’s song still in his ears, he flung himself out of bed. Took a last deep look at his room. The clutter of books! The forest of magazines! The piles of his beloved music! And his favorite photos still on the walls. And the voice of his sister calling out to him. He loved that voice.

On the balcony to the front a table was laid. He could hear his father say something. His two brothers were arguing. One last look! And he glanced back at the sweeping horizon down beyond the lake, and up and away to hills beyond. He was struck again by the beauty of the day.

But there was no time to lose. In five hours, his flight will be airborne. Farewell Africa!