This poem was written in July 2018 in response to a prompt from What Pegman Saw. a writing challenge based on different locations in the world each week.
This poem is set in Kinshasa, which was once part of the Belgian Congo, Africa.
It talks generally about statues portraying King Leopold of Belgium. You can see one such statue in an article in the Flanders Today newspaper.
The article discusses the controversy surrounding statues of King Leopold inside the country of Belgium. Congolese Belgians object to these statues, since they recall a horrible time in their history in which many of their countrymen were killed. In the same vein, many in the US object to and have caused the dismantling of Confederate Statues in the US, especially since the Black Lives Matter protests have begun.
A more recent article on the issue, tracking how the controversy is being propelled by the international Black Lives Matter movement and similar protests, gives the status as of June 2020.
A second article about a statue of King Leopold in Kinshasa portrays quicker, more decisive action. This statue remained only while the Congo was still ruled by Belgium.
It was torn down and placed in a garbage heap in 1967, seven years after Independence had been regained.
In a tone-deaf move, this statue was once again returned to a prominent square in Kinshasa in 2005. It was supposed to be an educational reminder of the time, when the Congo was controlled by Belgium.
It lasted a mere 24 hours in that spot, before it was mysteriously removed.
This story reminds us of the power of symbols, both to exalt and to oppress, and the power of their destruction, both to condemn and to vindicate.
Thank you for coming by to read!
There was a king of long ago,
Who helped the sales of rubber go
Right through the roof. This royal sage
Helped usher in the industrial age.
And using kingly powers of old,
The Belgian Congo’s Leopold,
A Western man, so full of pride,
Scarce blinked an eye, as millions died.
But this is now, and that was then.
Blood seeps into the ground, and when
We cannot see it, we forget.
Except the ones whose blood was let.
They live with us, and freely roam,
Who, once, were slaves in their own home.
They see nostalgic statuary
To men, to them, far worse than scary,
And yet, we recoil in surprise,
That History should offend their eyes!
So, too, Kinshasa, in grim reminder,
Re-erected him! Could they be blinder?
The statue lasted not a day.
The people locked the king away.
Copyright 2018 Andrea LeDew