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The African Wench

Composed on 26 July 1988

This woman of gigantic stature, of African descent

Who, when angered, left on anything a dent,

Was known to be of a romantic temperament.

She married a Maldivian indigent

A slight Didi whose lack of energy was evident,

And for her was never meant.

Ghee-chillies she sold for a cent,

To big wigs little favours she lent,

But on young lads, she lavishly spent.

Betel-nut she chewed constantly for enjoyment,

Making the mouth red and radiant

And matching it well with her garment.

This African Wench was quite liberated and independent,

Though by no means very innocent,

And knew a few ways to keep people silent.

Authorís Annotation:

"The African Wench" the person was a Negro slave bought and imported from a slave market near Mecca by one of the aristocratic families of Male. She was the last of a long line of African and Eastern European (Charukeysi) slaves imported to Male, up until early in the twentieth century. She was normally called "Baburu Manje", which meant "Negro Wench". Her legal name was Baburu Aminah Fulu. Most imported African and European slaves were given Maldivian names on purchase. There were some slaves who were allowed to keep their native names. Three slaves owned by our family come to mind. They were Heyna, Combo, and Akayambo Yamakuwa, all Negro men. A massive Negro woman, complete with tribal markings branded across her face, "The African Wench" would have stood out among the rather diminutive Maldivians. Baburu Aminah Fulu died in the 1950ís.

Abdul Rasheed did not include "The African Wench" in his anthology of poems and verses because the ethnically polarised American readership was likely to misunderstand it. In fact from the point of view of Maldives society up until the mid-twentieth century, there was no ethnic derogation in the poem. Slaves, both Negro and Eastern European held a higher status compared to many common Maldivians, because of the status of their owners.

"Ghee-chilli" is literal translation of "githeyo-mirus". "Ghee" is an Anglo-Indian term used for clarified butter, which in Maldivian is called githeyo. "Githeyo-mirus" is a variety of very hot peppers sometimes known as "Scotchmanís bonnet".

 

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