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Bela-Wenda
Voices from the Heart of Africa

Poetry by Mutombo Nkulu-N'Sengha
translated by Marcela Malek Sulak

8.5" x 5.5"
156 pages

Bela-Wenda is a playful and musical journey into the human condition in the age of globalization. Set in a small, nameless Congolese village, Bela-Wenda is narrated by a diverse cast of characters, including an aged grandmother, Bela-Wenda, the keeper of the village's traditions; the son of a Chief; citizens oppressed by corruption and greed in a dictatorial regime; and young immigrants whose dreams of a Western paradise have turned into the nightmare of cultural shock, homelessness and exploitative working conditions.

These poems measure the entire world according to Congolese villages standards, creating a poignant sense of irony and unexpected humor that emphasizes the ephemeral nature of appearances. But rather than acknowledging a Western dichotomy between lies and truths, the poems advance the notion that sometimes a changing context requires a changing image of the truth, just as sometimes the truth becomes a mask for the lie. Although originally written in French, these poems are imbued with the rhythm of African oral poetry and the elegant rhetoric of Bantu languages. They reflect on modernity and tradition, religion and the global market, and the human journey from birth to the afterlife. Bela-Wenda is a lyrical tribute to the unconquerable power of the human spirit and its dream of a peaceful world without borders.

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