Excerpts from Ö Börukku (Nostalgia)

translated by Shook

Equatorial Guinean author Recaredo Silebo Boturu’s play Nostalgia stars two siblings, brother Mbatua and sister Djibuti, presumably as illegal aliens in Spain. Following Djibuti’s arrest for a political protest, she is separated from her brother and extradited to her home country. The play ends with a courtroom scene in her home country, where Djibuti pleas for justice—her own as a thinly veiled political metaphor about social justice in Africa.

Considered an Africanist work, Nostalgia features Boturu’s poetry intermittently woven into the text. Like most of his work, it employs comedy to address serious political and social topics.

Second Scene

A handcuffed child appears accompanied by a policeman and is recognized by Djibuti.

DJIBUTI Brother (hugging him), brother.

MBATUA (A young African immigrant, he sings a very sad song that recounts part of his tragedy; the other characters accompany him in song, with the same sadness as the child. Djibuti watches excitedly.)

DJIBUTI (after the song, approaches Mbatua)
I feel I’ve left you in this darkness,
I feel I’ve left you in this tunnel,
I feel I’ve abandoned you
(She sniffles.) . . . and you’re handcuffed!

MBATUA I hope that
one day the eternal night that covers my continent,
my Africa, will disappear.
I hope that
one day her lips will sprout a pure, crystalline smile,
I hope!
I hope that
one day no child will go out looking
for the scraps others leave behind,
I hope!

DJIBUTI (drying her tears)
I feel I’ve abandoned you,
I feel I’ve abandoned you, brother.
Tell me, what happened?

MBATUA (nostalgic)
desperation worked on me
and I fell like a sardine into the hands of sharks,
I fell like a tiny bird into the hands of vultures,
I fell like a tiny mouse into the hands of lions. 

Nostalgia, desperation worked on me,
I fell into the hands of those that don’t sleep,
of those that take advantage of the slip-ups,
ignorance, nostalgia, the brother's disgrace
at turning into their henchman,
I fell into the hands of the mafia.

Sister, desperation worked on me
and I began the easy life, thinking that soon I would go home 

with my pockets full,
I tricked myself, sister,
and now I am here,
condemned to twenty years in jail, and my parents and my brothers,
hoping to have me back on fertile land, on beautiful land. 

DJIBUTI (consoling him)
Don’t keep crying, brother, calm down . . .
What about our other cousins?

MBATUA We threw their bodies out to sea.

DJIBUTI What about our siblings’ children?

MBATUA They couldn’t stand the Atlantic's intense chill,
they couldn’t stand the Atlantic's bold seasickness
and they perished on the way.

DJIBUTI My god! Each day that passes, each minute,
each minute the world evolves,
the human mind grows
and we as tiny stones in a thicket,
stepping out into the wind,
while a small few
get to keep the cake prepared for all,
stuffing themselves with everyone’s food
while their brothers flee famine,
the intense illnesses that exterminate us,
they flee from the extreme drought
that doesn’t let us breathe, sing, dance.
They flee misery.

Each day innocent children,
pregnant women,
strong men perish in our villages
from illnesses that could be prevented
and their families and their neighbors and their children
look impotently on their people's march.

(Djibuti, along with her brother Mbatua, sings a very sad song, which is sung when someone beloved dies on the Island of Bioko.)

DJIBUTI Eee Bosuee . . .


DJIBUTI Eee Bosuee . . . 


DJIBUTI Na ee Boitta o bai labeae

MBATUA O la bo tyi a la
A mai e ri hole ranno
Ria se tyi. 

(The statues become characters, they form the chorus and sing while crouched. They sing three times, and during the last time the policeman approaches and takes Mbatua away under Djibuti's attentive gaze. The chorus rises and returns to its initial position.)

End of Second Scene


Fourth Scene

Djibuti is in a jail cell with Mbatua. They read the newspaper.

“The number of sub-Saharan immigrants dead on their journey toward Spain rises to 115, including 50 children.” (She quits reading.) Each day, each minute that passes, my brothers flee famine, intense drought, and their corrupt brothers in search of a better life, and in their intentions stay on the path. Meanwhile in their countries, a rich few keep the money of all. 

MBATUA (reading)
“One of the sons of the president of one of the bloodiest sects of Africa has purchased a car that has an 8-liter engine, 16 cylinders, and runs 1001 horsepower. It has four-wheel drive and accelerates from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds. Unfortunately he can’t drive this vehicle in his country because of its lack of highways.” (Relaxed.) What luck!

JAILER (speaking through the window of the cell, has a moustache)
Damn niggers, why won’t you let anyone sleep? Are you the only prisoners here? Chattering solves nothing. What do you think, that a savior will come to liberate our miserable continent from the abyss it’s submerged in? Or do you think we will leave here to go to the South to die of malaria? You’re seriously fucked. There’s no longer any sympathy, so, I tell you—you yourselves try to clean up the shit you stomp around in. To try to give you the courage necessary to depose from power the corrupt that govern you, who cost us years, sacrifices, but little by little, step by step you are achieving it. 

DJIBUTI (leaving the newspaper that she has between her hands)
It’s true, we should be the protagonists of our history, it’s true.

JAILER (entering through the cell door
Ma’am, you have an order for extradition. Say goodbye to your brother because from here you’re headed straight back to your whore country. There, they’ll pluck you like a little bird. (He laughs heartily.) Let’s go, damn nigger, you have one minute to say good-bye to your brother.

MBATUA (giving Djibuti two kisses)
If you get to see our parents, tell then I am well, very well. (He grows emotional.)

JAILER (separating them)
No sniffles. (Directed at Mbatua) Get ready, they’ll come find you to clean the damn bathrooms. (He leaves with Djibuti.)

End of Fourth Scene


Translation from the Spanish
By David Shook

Recaredo Silebo Boturu (b. Baresó, 1979) is a poet, playwright, narrator, essayist, actor, and theater director from Equatorial Guinea. His writings expound on social issues while salvaging and rearticulating oral traditions. Author of the short story La danza de la abuela (2011; The grandmother’s dance), he is best known for his book of poetry and drama, Luz en la noche (2010; Light in the night). Presently, he is finishing a second book, Soliloquio (Soliloquy). Boturu’s work is at the heart of the theatrical activity in his country. He directs the theater company Bocamandja, which has performed in Spain and Colombia. In addition to working closely with other theater companies in Malabo and Bata, he is a key member of Orígenes, a Spanish-Guinean independent theatrical association that seeks to establish a national theater company in Equatorial Guinea.

Shook’s most recent book-length translations include Jorge Eduardo Eielson’s Room in Rome, a finalist for the PEN Award. Their forthcoming books include a new translation of Mario Bellatin’s Beauty Salon and a collection of Spanish-language poetry, Atlas estelar.