Note from BW of Brazil: As we continue to try to re-construct our realities as African peoples stolen from our lands, we must deal with the multiplicity of methods that the colonizer used to conquer our beings, essences and very souls. One of those methods that is often overlooked is the simple usage of the language we were taught to use in the new lands to which we were transported and how these foreign tongues often cannot sufficiently describe our experiences, memories and ancestral ties as a people. Below, Davi Nunes explores the usage of a term that supposedly describes a universal sentiment and how its imposition on a people is yet another mismatch in our experience.
The word is not amor (love), it’s dengo.
By Davi Nunes *
Portuguese, the language imposed by the colonizer, even after centuries of use, is an imperfect fit in our ori, in the mutuê (‘cabeça’ or head in Bantu). It is a word stuck on the tongue. It is the language reservoir in the words that disengage us as beings in the world. Clothes we wear and don’t fit comfortably on our body. I speak specifically of the standard norm, the squalid and pale muse, the ivory tower which is a linguistic concentration camp to torture and grammatically dissolve our ancestral body-language.
I note that our affections, feelings transposed through words, terminologies, nomenclatures historically organized by hegemonia branca (white hegemony) to dominate us – language like a hot iron in the mouth – demarcates the terrible ballast of enslavement and racism, can’t serve as a symbolic element, signs, to represent the forms of affection that occur between negros e negras (black men and women).
I think that the word love so consecrated by cultura occidental (Western culture) since the not so classic and ancient “Antiguidade Clássica” (“Classical Antiquity”) as the classic melanodermic and ancestral civilizations, cradle of everything, is one of these. The word amor (love) for us negrxs (black men and women) is a mirror of false reflection, it doesn’t fit our image in it, which is human profusion and beauty that extrapolates its logic.
The word amor is articulated in the mundo branco (white world) as a pre-hatred, an example: first, they invade other nations, commit the most atrocious barbarities, then come to terms with their philosophical treatises, religions, myths, literatures that haunt the idea of love, the greatest flower of human sentiments according to them, to construct a positive sanction of their melted humanities and quietly exercise power over other peoples. The word amor as such this is a hoax of something sublime that works for them, because it has an objective function: to create comfort before its deepest chimeras.
For us, blacks, it does not work, it is a false mirror and a tragically bifurcated reflex, it is cognitive and affective detachment, a sophism that makes us sick, a delusional illusion that we don’t reach and doesn’t commune with the abysmal extent of our feelings, as since the beginning we are beyond. It is a sign that does not carry the significant density and beauty of our affectivity, of our feeling. It is the dislocation in the heart, okan, and in the head, ori.
The word that gives account of coupling to our affectivity, in the case of Brazil, to embrace the mandingoira beat of our heart, the magic and poetry of the ancestral encounter of black men and women, is the word of Bantu origin of the Quicongo language, totally inserted in the variation of Portuguese spoken mainly by negrxs called dengo. Obviously I speak here of dengo in its deepest and ancestral sense, the supreme dengo. Not the meaning subscribed in the white dictionaries, which narrows the meanings of words of African origin.
Dengo throughout the history of enslavement, favelização (favelation or making something ghetto) and racism in this diaspora of anguish, Brazil, was the eternal moment of liberation expressed in a simple coziness of hope in the daily discomfort. The union of the hearts in ancestral sublimation, the oriki that shivers the hair, because it echoes throughout the body, the axé and the power of the orixás. The eyes that intertwine and fixed each other, for there must be the kiss, supreme dengo, libel of liberation expressed in the gesture. The hearts that intertwine to make the “flow” of the quilombo intimate and move the other mocambos (places of refuge) to construct the great quilombo. The humanity that rebuilds after being diluted through the racism of the great metropolis in frenzy in the smile of the companion in the sacred encounter after the battle confronted. The reunion of the parted continents through a sly uniting of azeviche (charcoal black) faces to form destinies.
The word dengo is a portentous sign, and it combines the word chamego in its interior, it is the família preta (black family) in celebration of the intimate quilombo, it is Africa at its origin, the breath of the original creation in the ear to bring placidity and beauty to the heart.
* Davi Nunes, born a Soteropolitan (native of Salvador, Bahia), graduated in Literature from the State University of Bahia, is a poet, short story writer and children’s book writer. In 2015 he had the book Bucala: a pequena princesa do Quilombo do Cabula (Bucala: the little princess of Quilombo of Cabula) published by Editora Uirapuru, in addition to having the story called Cinzas (Ashes) adapted for cinema.
Source: Duque dos Banzos