I Come from a Country by Tijan M. Sallah

Author:  Tijan M. Sallah

The cover to I Come from a Country by Tijan M. SallahTrenton, New Jersey. Africa World Press. 2021. 69 pages.

IN I Come from a Country, Tijan M. Sallah brings to the façade a deep sense of purpose and a richness of heart for the love of his country, The Gambia. His feelings for this tiny strip of land that is divided by one of the most beautiful rivers in the world invites the reader to appreciate Sallah’s recollection of the country of his birth with candor and truthfulness, despair and longing. It is remarkable to see the way in which Sallah infuses these feelings of sorrow and despair with dreams of a better future. “I come from a country where poverty contorts the smiles of children, but they still smile. Blessed is the country where life still has zest and meaning.” It seems as if Sallah is concerned about the progress or lack of progress that he sees in his country.

And because these poems are stories of remembrance, Sallah takes us with him on this nostalgic journey, narrating to us in simple language the hopes and dreams of youths and the failures of the postcolonial state. For instance, in “In a Tropical Country,” Sallah reminisces how this once-beautiful country is now submerged under corrupt muddy waters. “These days, when you descend from the plane, you see some with their handlers bypass the line, and you feel like protesting, ‘why should the last be the first?’ You should know you are in a tropical country, for in a tropical country, the monied and powerful have big feet and they trample like dingy elephants, over the law and order.” Whether he remembers the capital city Banjul or the women in swampy rice fields, his yearning for a better country surfaces in every other poem; thus “blessed is a country that produces its own rice. Here, Sallah admonishes leaders over the uninterrupted dependency on imported rice.”

As a result of his travels around the world, Sallah also devotes a few pages that reflect on what and where home really is. In this way, he complicates the concept of home. Is home the country of birth or any other country where one finds joy and solace? Is home a state of mind? To this end, Sallah skillfully expresses his feelings through a variety of themes nicely knitted in this short collection.

Bala Saho
University of Oklahoma