The sunset exile

Exile and deportation are not fixed concepts. They have always shifted over time, and been filled with different content. But the idea of returning home is at the center of all hope for freedom. The Cameroonian author Bertrand Teyou, who is currently an ICORN-writer in Mexico, writes about this. 

April 17 2012 Text: Bertrand Teyou Translation from France: Carl G. Liungman

In our traditional African societies the social organization has for a long time been based on ancestral practices whose orientation is guarded by patriarchs deciding over their subjects´ destinies. The challenging of certain customs has very serious repercussions. Confronted with certain ambiguities the individual must find a permanent compromise between the customs and his or her personal convictions or risk hurting the sensitivity of the customary authority. Because an opposition to the ritual order could turn out to be fatal. It may lead to an irreversible banishment that no one would like to become the victim of. This banishment, the exile, is experienced as the worst misfortune any man may have to live with.  One is forever excluded from society, the punishment is without appeal, and for the village one is dead and buried. Those who have to experience this destiny will have to be born again from their ashes elsewhere. For centuries such tragedies have shown that those sacrificed unfortunately are persons, which under other skies would have been great builders. Many generations of us are born by parents having had to live in such circumstances, families whose genealogical tree never reached past the first stage, stopped by a painful past: the history of a deportation.

Then came the time of the shocking encounter with the West, the invader first giving him the task of restructuring the memories. This was a necessary prerequisite permitting the conquest of territories through the control of people, the introduction of mental slavery. To this end a generous and implacable educational system was established, and those who had the chance to get access to it would discover a new exile through the representational regime. All through the epic narratives the exiled person became the lonely rider galloping away towards the horizon in the direction of the setting sun, leaving behind an intense admiration even stronger than the pain of the fatal separation. The liberated men and women see their hero disappear, maybe forever, to that imaginary territory which fascinates, the land of the brave warriors, asylum of the valiant. Thus they beheld the image of the irreducible warrior, the soldier who risks his life to help the weak and the shipwrecked. The painful parting towards the unknown, which terrified the village, became something virtuous. Our martyrs, which the ferocious political dictatorship had forced into exile, became an immense source of hope for freedom.

From the grievous times of the colonization people have retained the idea of the worst exile, that which will last forever. By playing with the weapon of representation as a paradoxical system of domination the invader connected with our deepest humanistic values and evoked such convictions in us that we no longer feared the terror. People learned in the most solemn way that parting and leaving behind the repressive tyranny was to run towards death. It became vital for the exiled that he wipes out the shame experienced. Even when the corrupt enemy forced you to retreat, as it did de Gaulle to the coast of England, it was absolutely forbidden to abuse the generosity of the hosts because in the exile from pain respite was no option. In the entrenchment one spent the nights by the fireside until the tyrant was gone. Then, in favor of the freedom won the voyage again found its worthy course. One approached the horizon in the way always dreamt of with the human pride we have been inspired with by the hero of the setting sun. It is now that the receiving country is no more just this shelter in bad times but becomes a dignified place of meeting of two proud individuals. Then we get out of the shadows, which made us believe that life is just a horrible jungle or a permanent catastrophe.

The exile does not prepare us just for the return to the native land; it prepares us for the return to life. For on the far away coast you are devoured from all sides by the yearning for your motherland. Thus your mental balance is constantly challenged. Although the winds may be tender one cannot escape the sorrow, one is always victim of thoughts of the destiny of parents and children left behind. One is always tortured by fear and powerless to do anything for mutilated or burned victims. From the coastal hills one can see piles of bodies rise towards the sky and darken the smoke, the consequence of a tragedy enveloped by all the imploding forces. They want to hide the volcano, a shame that makes the adepts positive of Africa, the cosmetic to hide horrible tragedies. Some persons envisage a glorious future built on gunpowder. They build tempting windows, present our death like a lie and then ruins of our lives as a sublime work. That discourse is aimed at preventing the necessity for the exiled persons to return and to weaken the defended cause. One has to keep in mind those sacrificed at Sidi Bouzid to accept that the frontage of prosperity is only a lie, such a heavy tribute for arriving at the reality in flames before our eyes. The martyrs were necessary to allow the age of freedom, the return from the exile. They have shown that the bridge, built out of the forty-two years of insomnia of Mongo Bétis, is possible to cross. Exiles from the country, return to your people! Attack the tyrant´s savage cavalry! History is on our side. No one is strong enough, strong enough to chase us from our native land.

The return from our exodus is inevitable because it has its source in the historical sacrifice. Our ancestors driven away from their villages, victims of the inheritors of the barbarism of the triangular trade, and the heroes of the fight for independence sacrificed by political conspiracy, and, lastly, the millions of citizens lynched for the sole reason of having chosen to be patriots, have all part in this inevitability. The blood of those, which were most dear to us, forges our courage and it makes every obstacle designed to stop our advancement contemptible. The morale among the troops is animated by the most courageous on earth: those dead on the field of honor, our martyrs. This battle is the end of all exile.