“THE LORD’S PRAYER”: A POEM ON RELIGIOUS COLONIALISM IN AFRIKA

Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta once said, “when the missionaries arrived, we had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land, and we had the Bible”. I know this is ironic, because despite fighting colonialism on one hand, Kenyatta became a beneficiary of it on the other, resulting in his family owning over 500,000 acres of prime land across the country today. Nonetheless, I believe this does not take away from the validity of his statement.

When Afrikans talk of colonialism, religious colonialism is often left out of the conversation. I am not certain whether this aspect of colonialism is constantly overlooked because we are afraid to confront Christianity because it is a religion many Afrikans have, over the years, come to place great faith in, or if it is simply forgotten.

“The Lord’s Prayer” is a poem addressing the issue of religious colonialism and is part of an Afro-Oriented spoken word album I am currently putting together titled ‘Melanated Healing’.

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My father said they came on boats,
Bearing strange objects that would go bang and take a life,
Wearing white robes they came with books,
Peculiar books we couldn’t read,
We were told they were about God,
This benevolent creature,
High and mighty,
Loved everyone,
But us just less,
Thought us all equal,
But not equal enough,
Said we were all children of God,
But even God had favourites,
And his, had pale skin, coloured eyes and straight hair.

See we worshiped the earth,
Prayed to the alignment of the stars as signs of better days to come,
Believed ourselves linked to nature,
Our priests understood the sirius star system before modern day astronomy,
We had songs for the unborn,
Dances to welcome the rain,
Chants in honor of the dead,
But we had it all wrong we were told,
Nothing short of witchcraft,
Primitive ways of the uncivilised,
Though our tongues rolled to pronounce names whose rhythm theirs couldn’t dance to,
And we spoke in tongues their mouths couldn’t forge,
We were taught shame.

Taught to pronounce their names,
Denounce ours,
Our spirituality beat out of us,
Till we claimed their religion,
Our bond to nature was not sacred,
Their God was,
Our land did not belong to us,
Our women theirs,
Our children theirs,
Our labor theirs,
Their God shared.

A paradise on earth for them,
A hell for us,
With a promise of heaven for those who believed,
Ours awaited upon death,
So we closed our eyes,
On bent knees,
Reached out to our father which art in heaven,
For Hallowed was his name,
While a genocide was committed against our fathers here on earth,
And our mothers raped,
We prayed Kingdom come,
Accepted his will be done on earth as it is in heaven,
And as they took our daily bread,
Left us crumbs,
They sometimes stopped to pray with us,
Asking for forgiveness for trespass,
And deliverance from evil.

My father said they came on boats,
Bearing strange objects that would go bang and take a life,
Wearing white robes they came with books,
Peculiar books we couldn’t read,
We were told they were about God,
This benevolent creature,
High and mighty,
Loved everyone,
But us just less,
Thought us all equal,
But not equal enough,
Said we were all children of God,
But even God had favourites,
And his, had pale skin, coloured eyes and straight hair,
Who took our daily bread,
Left us crumbs,
Sometimes stopping to pray with us,
Asking for forgiveness for trespass,
And deliverance from evil,
For thine is the kingdom,
The power and the glory,
Forever and ever,
Amen.

FIRST PUBLISHED ON FACE2FACEAFRICA.

 

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