"lkwaba akwa oligholi" above does not accurately either translate or transliterate into "You will weep for the abomination" This is because "Ikwaba akwa" is a future continuous expression meaning "You will be crying the cry." The alliterative impetus of Ikwaba Akwa, which Chinua Achebe intended here is lost in the incorrect line; "You will weep forů." To weep for, would have been "Ikwaalu akwa."
Besides, Oligholi does not mean Abomination. The Nigerian Igbo word for abomination is Alu, or Aru depending on what part of Igbo land you come from. Oligholi means regret. Therefore the line should have read "You will be crying the cry of regret."
Lines 5 and 6 in the above translation are also questionable, line 5 because of the ambiguity of the words used, and line 6 because the translator has added words, which is a sin in "The Art Of Translation" according to T. Savory.
The Translation above reads:
L5: Ebe Danda nechi eze - Where White Ant installs king
L6: Ebe Uzuzu nete egwu - Where Dust dances to the drums
The words "nechi eze" used in the exact way it has been used in the line above could mean what the translator has written, "installs king" yet it could mean, and correctly so "becomes king" This is more accurate because it is the Danda (white ant) that in the context of the song becomes king.
Line 6: Ebe Uzuzu nete egwu simply means Where sand dances.
To begin with, Uzuzu is not dust. Uzuzu is sand, and "Nete Egwu" means "dances" or "is dancing" depending on context. In this case it reads better with "dances". The translator assumes that the dance is to the drums. The author does not say to what music the sand is dancing, which might just as well have been to the flutes or gongs.
Poetry will definitely continue to benefit from the work of translators. However the extent to which any work of translation can be accurate enough to survive criticism depends on how willing the translators can be to think in the original language of the works they wish to translate, and this means they have to learn not just the languages of their subjects but the culture, history, psychology, religions and superstitions that those languages express.
June 1, 2003
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