For Natty Mark's poetry published by PAMBAZUKA NEWS, a Pan-African publication, visit...
For his poetry published by LISSAN, an Ethiopian art and culture magazine, visit....
http://lissanonline.com/blog/?p=616 -  Ethiopia           
For poetry published by Igbo News, (a cultural publication for Igbo living in the UK), visit

Little Mamadou

to my son Bingy

Little Mamadou
Little Mamadou
The Kora Man
 Plays a lullaby for you

No school today
You've been running wild
Done all your chores
Running wild, running wild
He sings a lullaby
For the restless child

Around the night fire
In your fathers lap
Sleepy after peanut stew
Your fathers lap, your fathers lap
Dream, Little Mamadou
He'll watch you as you nap

Little Mamdou
Little Mamadou
The Kora Man
Plays a lullaby for you.

© Natty Mark Samuels, 2008.

The Golden Calabash

When the time of rain begins
Their heads commence the dreaming.
So they pick up their containers
In the season when mothers become miners.

Diligently searching.
Economic turning.

Every year so it goes
In Lobi, Burkina Faso.
Waiting for the glinting flash
Women of the Golden Calabash.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011. From the GOLDEN CALABASH and other poems; celebrating the  traditional gold-working of West Africa. Partly inspired by the Museum of Gold, South Africa.

Hope and Endurance

Once upon a time, in medieval times, during the Kingdom of Dagomba, in the country called Ghana, there was a princess called Yennanga, a warrior princess; reputed to be an expert in ancient weaponry, such as the  spear and bow and arrow. Brave and beautiful, she was a respected and popular personage throughout the kingdom.

But she was sad. Because her father the king refused to allow her to marry. Fearful maybe, that marriage would take her away from the battlefields, would take her elsewhere. So after repeated appeals and petionings, she sped away from Dagomba, on her trusted stallion.The horse of all her past battles and now of her future wanderings.

Her wanderings took her north, into present day Burkina Faso. After crossing a river one evening, she met and fell in love with a famous elephant hunter. The child of this union was called Ouedraogo (pronounced weh-dra-o-go), which means male horse; honouring the stallion that brought them together. This child became the founding figure in Mossi statehood.

I tell you this story, to introduce you to a legendary heroine of mine; the Mother of the Mossi people, the largest ethnicity in Burkina Faso. In honour of her, the major award given at F.E.S.P.A.C.O., a Pan-African film festival, is called the Etalon de Yennanga (Stallion of Yennanga); a stature of a golden horse. This is the biggest film festival on the continent, held every two years, in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou (pronounced wa-ga-doogoo). This celebration of African film-making, as well as television and video productions, lasts for a week. It has honoured Masters of African Cinema such as Ousmane Sembene of Senegal and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun of Chad.

Places where people walk and sit have been named after her. There are statures of her, here and there throughout the capital city. The national football team is called the Stallions, in memory of their brave and beloved mother; a symbol of hope and endurance.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

The Sacred Tailor

To the Embroiderers of Katsina

When I need to slowdown, I go and watch the embroiderers. When I need to remember that patience is crucial, I go to them for the quite reminder.
For months, they will sit there, stitching in silk and cotton. Moments of silent contemplation. Periods of respectful debate. For they are mallams – teachers. Men versed in law and astromony; in ethics and philosophy. And Islam guides and enthuses, their every utterance and action. I call them the Sacred Tailors. The Men of Babariga. The long traditional gowns, known around the world as boubou; which we call babariga, which means Elephant Robe. A garment of size and it's attendant rank. Everyday attire of the dignitary; on special occasions for the rest of us.
Someone just commisioned one for a wedding. Tomorrow, maybe a commision for a birth that is coming. Yesterday came the sad one, requesting one for the funeral of his father.
Indigo blue embellished by silk of white. Heirlooms, like holy relics, embroided and blessed by some past mallam, passed on from father to son.
When I need to remember that patience is a virtue, I walk across town and watch the great embroiderers. Working away at their craft, as ancient as time. Like their fathers before them and their ancestors before them. They are the men who know time. Who know the value of patience.
Their knowledge of geometry and calligraphy raises and sustains their reputation as teacher-tailors. They know that talent is time. That their skill is a gift from God.
When I need to, I go and watch the Sacred Tailor.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

Addis Ababa Morning

As the first light appears, so does the sound of the early birds. And just like a yawn that is contagious, from compound to compound, the cockerels raise their voices; welcoming us, to another Addis Ababa morning.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

Mountains of leaf and branch

I saw them on Entoto Hills, under their mountains of leaf and branch. Some of them, from the waist upwards, bodies almost horizontal to the ground.
   I must confess, water came to my eyes, to see the massive struggle of these women: the old women. In my leisurely taxi drive, I saw the women of Entoto Hills, striving to survive.
   Because of their efforts, we shall all eat injera.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

Blue Nile Hotel

to my daughter Ruby

The beggar girl who showed me where to buy bananas. Her and my daughter have divergent stories to tell.
The shoeshine boy across the way, who doesn't seem to be doing so well.
The blind man, shaking his tin, like a local church bell.
Their struggle to survive goes on, nearby this balcony, of the Blue Nile Hotel.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

Goats and Donkeys

Not here, road raging man. Coming round the corner, you might hit the goats, or their half-blind herder. Take your time; the donkeys would like a piece of the road too.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

The Spell of Lake Tana

Did you ever cycle round a lake, when the sun was shining? And time was of your choosing. Fig tree on the bank, pelicans in the middle. Ibises flying above, a Goliath Heron; majestic on a rock.
  Did you ever find yourself in the Lake Tana spell? Cycling along, smiling, greeting everyone; thinking all is well, all is well.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

Children of the Isle

By the spot where the lake becomes the more famous river, the children of the Debra Maryam Monestry  isle, go to school in a tankwa; ancient rivercraft of the Nile. Made from papyrus reed, propelled by bamboo pole. Everyone has one: man, woman and child.
  Where I saw the kingfisher dive and the cormorant sunbathe, the children of the isle, race each other to school, gliding through the water.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011.

Vision is a Lonely Place

to the African School

I didn't realise vision was such a lonely place. Up Apparition Avenue, round the ol' Wasteland Works, across  Dippers Ditch, to the Street of the Solitary Walker.
So I step on; for it is not good to spend time here and vision knows no end.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2010

Lakeside Verse

Just made my appointment to see the nurse,
To talk of yellow fever and malaria.
I'm getting closer to you Ethiopia.
To sit beside Lake Tana.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2010.

Three poems from  Achimota - Love Poems To Ghana

Little Heartbeat

For my daughter Ruby

A poem for children

Lizards flitting by my feet
Lizards everywhere
Fast and fleet.
Some green and yellow
Some dry-earth brown
Lizards in the country
Lizards in the town.
Gods' little dinosaurs
No sound or bleet.
I think I'll sit awhile,
To watch natures' little heartbeat. 

The downpour is over

Come with me into the African night.
Along the road of bump and breakdown.
Cho-cho on the move
The toot  of taxi horn.
Walking the trail of trucks
Dust for you and me.

Come with me into the African Night.
Cold water from the water seller;
Up and down all day
In the middle and at the roadside
Surrounded by car fumes and dust
Heat and the rain.
She is one amongst many
Along this road to survival.

Come with me into the African night.
Where the kebeb vendor plays the molo
Original two-string 'guitar' of Ghana.
In between the cooking and the serving
He plays and sings
Raising beauty from the strings.

Come with me into the African night.
Lucky Dube here
Culture over there.
Call to prayer from the local mosque
All the voices from all the churches.
The ragged man
Shouting without cease.

Come with me into the African night,
Where nobody seems to sleep.
The old and the young
 Baby held on mothers' back.
Chop bars and hairdressers
Electrical shops and clothes stalls
Sellers of coconut and melon.

The downpour is over.
Come with me into the African night.


To General and Treeocko

My spirit is at ease
Like the palm tree dance
Embraced by the African breeze

I say your name like a talisman
Mantra for myself
 African amulet

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2008. Achimota, Accra

These poems were inspired by a working holiday in Ghana. For more information about the Ghana visit

Eight poems from Lullaby to the Soldier (18 poems of war) - dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi.


If in this wretched place
My heart should be dancing tonight,
It is because I am thinking of you.
If in this place of ceaseless horrors
My eyes should be sparkling,
If suddenly
From this spot
I should raise myself
And go jumping
Rolling and running around;
It is not because
The war has finally got to me
It is simply because,
I am thinking of you.

Cabbage and Stone

We were given our brains I think
To raise our behaviour and lifestyle
Above that of the
Cabbage and the stone.
But look,
We are here at another war.

Little Boy Blues

Mummy, I saw a boy on TV
They said he was a refugee
Mummy, I saw a boy on TV
They said he was a refugee
They said he was hungry and homeless
Because of you and me.

Look Mummy
They look so ragged and poor
Look Mummy
They look so ragged and poor
I was going to ask Daddy
But he's gone to a place called War.

Don't Come Today

I heard you were coming today.
Don't come today.
My husband is not beating me
And our child is happy at play.


I was dreaming of you
Immersed in you
Intending to write you a poem.
Then the soldier next to me shook me.
Remembering I was in a place of war,
I wrote instead an elegy for humanity.


And she said she will go to every war, as the munition tycoon goes to every war. I will make good money in the suffering, as he does. I shall become rich quick, for there are many wars and many men - all without women. Soldiers, journalists, diplomats, technicians, etc. All with money, all without women. I shall take off my cleaners' apron of grey and put on a mini-skirt of red. And I will sell sex, til' the last soldier is dead.

Above Us

We are below them
Almost envying them
Their beautiful trance

There is a lull
In the first action
So the birds have come back to dance;
Maybe for the last time.

Lullaby to the Soldier

No war lasts forever weeping soldier
The day will come when you will lay down your gun;
I hope that day comes soon.

And you will touch again
The hand that writes you the letter of love;
I hope that moment comes soon.

Embracing, crying, laughing, whispering
War is over, War is over, War is over;
I hope that peace comes soon.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 1995.