Poem: Lost

What could be more important to you than your name? Your last name, surname or family name especially. Passed down through generations carrying your family’s heritage and ‘connecting’ you to your ancestors. What if that connection gets cut?

ln many ways, your identity is rooted in your name. Others know you by your name, those that don’t know you ask you your name. Every application form requires you to enter your name. For many, simply stating their name can trigger a persistent, painful reminder of a shameful episode in history.

Once I belonged. Once I had pride.
Head of my family. My life was my tribe.
We had a great chief. He had my respect.
He guided us through harsh wars and conflict.

Then forced emigration. I joined a new tribe.
We sailed ‘cross a river as broad as ‘twas wide.
With no common tongue, ‘twas rare did we speak.
Tight packed. Long journey. It damn near killed me.

Detribalisation. They made me forget.
My tongue, my tribe. I had nothing left.
I’m lost now I know not from whence I came.
I’m stripped and never will know my real name.

Yendis 1989


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