Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou, an African American writer, is visiting Ghana, in Africa, for the first time.

After a few seconds of studying me, the woman lifted both arms and lacing her fingers together clasped her hands and put them on the top of her head. She rocked a little from side to side and issued a pitiful little moan. In Arkansas, when I was a child, if my brother or I put our hands on our heads as the woman before me was doing, my grandmother would stop in her work and come to remove our hands and warn us that the gesture brought bad luck. Mr. Adadevo spoke to me quietly, “That’s the way we mourn .” The woman let her arms fall and stepping up to me, spoke and took my hand, pulling me gently away. Mr. Adadevo said, “She wants you to go with her. We will follow.” The girls and the driver had climbed the stairs, and we entered the crowded market. I allowed myself to be tugged forward by the big woman who was a little taller than I and twice my size. She stopped at the first stall and addressed a woman who must have been the proprietor. In the spate of words, I heard “American Negro.” The woman looked at me disbelieving and came around the corner of her counter to have a better look. She shook her head and, lifting her arms, placed her hands on her head, rocking from side to side. My companions were standing just behind me as the vendor leaned over the shelf where tomatoes, onions, and peppers were arranged in an artistic display. She began speaking, and raking the produce toward the edge. Mr. Adadevo said something to the driver who came forward and placed each vegetable carefully into his basket. My host said, “She is giving this to you. She says she has more if you want it.” I went to the woman to thank her, but as I approached she looked at me and groaned, and cried, and put her hands on her head. The big woman was crying too. Their distress was contagious, and my lack of understanding made it especially so. I wanted to apologize, but I didn’t know what I would ask pardon for. […] I said, “Mr. Adadevo, you must tell me what’s happening.” He said, “This is a very sad story and I can’t tell it all or tell it well.” I waited while he looked around. He began again, “During the slavery period Keta was a good-sized village. It was hit very hard by the slave trade. Very hard. In fact, at one point every inhabitant was either killed or taken. The only escapees were children who ran away and hid in the bush. Many of them watched from their hiding places as their parents were beaten and put into chains. They saw the slaves set fire to the village. […] What they saw they remembered, and all that they remembered they told over and over. “The children were taken in by nearby villagers and grew to maturity. They married and had children and rebuilt Keta. They told the tale to offspring. These women are the descendants of those orphaned children. They have heard the stories often, and the deeds are still as fresh as if they had happened during their lifetimes. And you, Sister, you look so much like them, even the tone of your voice is like theirs. They are sure you are descended from those stolen mothers and fathers. That is why they mourn. Not for you but for their lost people.”

Maya Angelou, “Return to Keta”, from Travelers’ Tales: A Woman’s path, 2000

▅ Commentaire du sujet

Maya Angelou (née en 1928) est afro-américaine. Issue d’un milieu pauvre, elle a subi la ségrégation. Après avoir fait de nombreux métiers, elle a écrit une autobiographie qui a obtenu un énorme succès. Elle a écrit depuis douze livres et des recueils de poèmes. Elle est la seconde personne dans l’histoire des États-Unis à avoir eu l’honneur de lire un de ses poèmes lors de la cérémonie d’investiture d’un président américain (Bill Clinton).

Le thème
La narratrice, américaine d’origine africaine, visite le village de Keta, au Ghana. Dès qu’elles l’aperçoivent, les femmes du village ont une attitude...
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