Some of the most interesting poetry written in Spanish over the last couple of years appears in Ritos de jaima by Limam Boisha. Published in 2012 by Bubisher, an innovative literary organization (especially with regards to their “bibliobus” that delivers educational literature to the Sahrawi refuge camps in Tindouf, Algeria), Boisha has incorporated cultural anthropology into his maturing verse, summoning his Hassaniya tongue to emerge in his Spanish stanzas—a the kindest, gentlest, and most hospitable gesture of barbarism, since he goes so far as to contextualize those barbarities in a series of explanatory afterwards that range from topics on Bedouin mythology to meanings of Hassaniya words that multiply or divide as they bend into Castilian. In this way, the these haymah rites are not imagined as a spectacle, where the reader is on the outside looking in; but as a celebration to which the reader is cordially invited. Here’s an English translation of one of the early poems from this collection:
SALAM ALEIKUM (THE GREETING)
The visitor comes and greets us,
peace be with all of you,
& everyone present,
peace be with you:
Aleikum bi salam.
Tak lebas, someone replies
stoking the coals,
we’re all fine.
Yak eljeir, others reply
while they take their tea,
we’re in prosperity.
Yak elaafia, we’re in harmony,
says the oldest, Alhamdulilah, everyone adds,
thanks be to God as always.
Merhba, merhba, welcome, welcome,
no matter where you come from, visitor.
The hands are clasped,
& the enlarged eyes of a boy observe
how adult conversations are cultivated.
A gust of sand raises the rush mat
& two furtive gazes caress each other and smile.
Even if the wind is whipping
in the hammada, there’s time to ask:
is anyone in the family sick?”
Shtari mn lajbar? Anything new?
Nope, or so it seems, just
Al’la eli tafrah bih, the news that joy has brought you here.
Yak kulshi bijeir?, one insists. Everything in harmony?
Bijeir ua aalá jeir, everything in harmony, happiness & wellbeing.
Alhamdulilah, to be precise,
thanks be to God as always.
& he places a hand on his heart,
while he stares at the high blue sky.
There is not even a hurry to find out if,
thanks be to God, the livestock had found its field,
Alhaía wakla? & if the season is favorable
and the sun revives the grasses again one will confess
that there’s plenty, Mashalah.
Well then, Idumha Naama, may it last, Alhamdulilah,
your prosperity & ours,
by the baraka of your father & grandfather,
Amín. Barket bu yedak.
The man says goodbye.
& on the road that winds
among the haymahs his afternoon meeting awaits him:
a game of checkers with his old friends.
Aleikum bi salam….
Shatari mn lajbar? Anything new?
Our brothers have left
the city stirred by a flashing scream,
like a flock of bubisher
filling the desert with jabar eljeir, good news.
So then my dream was true.
What did you dream?
I dreamt of a flock of bubisher.
Jabar eljeir, jabar eljeir.
Aleikum bi salam…
Limam Boisha was born in the Western Sahara in 1973. In 1982 he relocated to Cuba, where he would carry out undergraduate studies and receive his degree in journalism. He then returned to the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria, and collaborated on Sahrawi National Radio, promoting the preservation of Sahrawi culture through the arts. He is a member of the Generación de la Amistad saharaui, and his poems have appeared in the anthologies Añoranza (2003) and Bubisher (2003). In 2004, he published his first monograph, Los versos de la madera (Puentepalo), and in 2012, his second, Ritos de jaima (Bubisher). Mulligan’s translations of Boicha have appeared on Asymptote Journal, and Poems for the Millennium, Volume Four: The University of California Book of North African Poetry. He lives in Barcelona.