Regional Programs > Africa > Next Story

Alien in Amsterdam
Malika Conning Ndlovu

Will I ever peel this black and white
veil from my eyes
blinding polar view
Dutch sites and scenes
nauseatingly familiar
boer faces, names and places
a blurring recurring image
die klein vasberade volk
fixated with the fatherland
violators of one after another

Against this dense cityscape
colours and shapes blend
below a shadow-grey sky
often I must step back
resist being sucked in
remember to look up
knowing that in this very instant
another reality lies
beneath the same awesome sky
a magic blue free of shadows
way across the equator
in a city not built on water
but where two oceans meet
where the history of my world
begins and ends
wind woven
vine vallied
blasted and blessed
Cape Town

25 to 45 degrees there
some days maybe 10 degrees
but most days below zero here
same day
one hour's difference
yet opposite poles
on the flipside of the equator
two halves of the whole

There are no seasons for grapes
oranges, mangoes, strawberries
or bananas here
they import everything
from almost anywhere
for consumption
gratification all year round
shipping them in
carting them out
like the Savannah giraffes
or the three Asian elephants
in the Amsterdam zoo
cargo cut out of their cycle
uprooted from home
now part of a splendid display
day after day after day

I try
to balance the scale
question veil upon veil
though the silence hangs thick
in contact our eyes make it clear
no matter how much we travel
no matter how much we touch
too much is missing

I speak
they do not hear
I am making African noises
not to them
but at them I think
they think

I do
they do not see
I am making African gestures
not toward them
but for them I think
they think

I tell myself
It's no longer true
there must be more
we couldn't possibly be back
at this invisibility black
the abc boxing of humanity
our weakest
lowest point
even monkeys are more evolved

Malika Conning Ndlovu is a Durban-born poet, playwright, and performing artist. In April 2000 she was commissioned to write and perform "Two Halves of the Whole," a BBC World Service radio programme, recorded on location in Amsterdam.