Selection from Crespos: A Descolonização do Cabelo


Tradição do meu Cabelo

Os dedos no crespo
Cabelo é dengo,
Dengo no afro
Cabelo, magia.
Magia trançando
Um sonho inteiro
É mãe, mãe preta
Que tem na ponta do dedo
A tradição.

My Hair Tradition

Fingers in the nappiness
Hair is affection,
Affection in the afro
Hair, magic.
Magic braiding
An entire dream
Is mother, black mother
Who has at the tip of her finger
A tradition.

Note on the Translation from Kana Kavon

Davi and I first met in 2008 on the steps of the Public Library of the State of Bahia in Salvador, Brazil. I was an exchange student whose days abroad were waning, and I stood on the steps of the library not sure where I was going to spend the rest of my day, when two tall fellows walked up and began a conversation with me as though I were an old friend. Both Davi and his friend, Pardal do Jaguaripe, were traveling poets, cordelistas. Over the next month, I heard them recite poetry about race, equity, and life in Bahia’s wild urban and rural landscapes. Mostly, our trio wandered the streets, finding local bands to listen to and alleyways secluded enough to smoke maconha without being smelled by the police.

Davi and I have since maintained contact via Facebook. Earlier this summer, Davi posted a video that featured his poem, “Trança de Mãe.” I was so moved by the poem and its theme of black heritage in connection to hair that I asked him to email me the words so that I could translate them and post them on my page for my non-Portuguese speaking friends to experience. That conversation grew into our collaboration on the larger project of translating his upcoming book of poems, Crespos: A Descolonização do cabelo, all of which aim at cultivating a deep love and appreciation for black hair.

Our collaboration has evolved into a deep awe and respect for one another’s understanding of poetry’s power and beauty and a unity in our commitment to transforming the realities of the generally unaddressed African Diaspora. Davi and I met as distant cousins of this Diaspora that was scattered by the Atlantic Slave trade over several centuries. Our work together is a testament that creative collaboration can transcend such genocides and ultimately bring healing across culture, countries, and language.

Take Off