The poems were read aloud as the banners were unfurled outside parliament, protesting the proposed fracking of the Karoo.
Questions were put forward to the Oil Men and Politicians:
“To whom does the vast landscape belong?
How deep into the ground and how high into the sky does that ownership go?
How far back and how far forward into time?
Is that ownership exclusive?
Should not consideration be given to life forms other than our own when decisions of destruction and vast scale are made?”
What will become of the little foxes and the desert larks, after the land has been ruined,
after the poisoning of water?”
a cool wind weaving sunlight
at the end of winter
the presence of the hill
which rises to meet other hills
the delicate stars of the thorntrees
a sloot with strong water
the thorn-strewn shale
which drinks the sun’s fire
The desert lark
(Song of Nampti, the little Bushman girl)
Translated from the Afrikaans by Uys Krige and Jack Cope
Gampta, my little grey sister,
all that I have in the world
beside my old grandmother!
When you sing up in the sky
you can see all the wonderful things below;
the hare creeping away
and the little steenbuck making its lair.
And the young girls cannot harm you
for you are stronger than all
though you are weaker than I.
Even the mountain lion, whose roaring
scares us at night
cannot touch you.
I shall watch over you, my sister,
till all your nestlings are grown.
My little grey sister, Gampta,
I see you!
Robert Berold is one of the poets featured in the new definitive anthology, Africa! My Africa! He is coordinator of the MA programme in Creative Writing at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. He is also an editor and the publisher of Deep South books. Karroo noon was first published by Gecko 1999 in Rain across a Paper Field.
Eugène Marais (1871-1936) was a journalist, writer, lawyer, naturalist and one of the greatest Afrikaans poets of his time.
Africa! My Africa! is a new definitive anthology of poems. To order a copy, please email African Sun Press firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo A by Nicky Newman: SEE THRU MEDIA
Photo B by Don Pinnock