ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Chris Abani - Novelist, poet
Imprisoned three times by the Nigerian government, Chris Abani turned his experience into poems that Harold Pinter called "the most naked, harrowing expression of prison life and political torture imaginable." His novels include GraceLand (2004) and The Virgin of Flames (2007).

Why you should listen

Chris Abani's first novel, published when he was 16, was Masters of the Board, a political thriller about a foiled Nigerian coup. The story was convincing enough that the Nigerian government threw him in jail for inciting a coincidentally timed real-life coup. Imprisoned and tortured twice more, he channeled the experience into searing poetry.

Abani's best-selling 2004 novel GraceLand is a searing and funny tale of a young Nigerian boy, an Elvis impersonator who moves through the wide, wild world of Lagos, slipping between pop and traditional cultures, art and crime. It's a perennial book-club pick, a story that brings the postcolonial African experience to vivid life.

Now based in Los Angeles, Abani published The Virgin of Flames in 2007. He is also a publisher, running the poetry imprint Black Goat Press.

More profile about the speaker
Chris Abani | Speaker | TED.com
TED2008

Chris Abani: On humanity

Kris Abani (Chris Abani): Kris Abani razmišlja o čovečnosti

Filmed:
911,881 views

Kris Abani pripoveda priče o ljudima: o ljudima koji se suprotstavljaju vojnicima. O ljudima koji saosećaju. O humanim ljudima i onima koji ponovo pronalaze svoju humanost. To je "ubuntu," kaže on: jedini način da budem human jeste da u vama vidim odraz svoje humanosti.
- Novelist, poet
Imprisoned three times by the Nigerian government, Chris Abani turned his experience into poems that Harold Pinter called "the most naked, harrowing expression of prison life and political torture imaginable." His novels include GraceLand (2004) and The Virgin of Flames (2007). Full bio

Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.

00:18
My search is always to find ways to chronicle,
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Ja uvek tražim načine kako bih zabeležio,
00:23
to share and to document stories about people, just everyday people.
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podelio i dokumentovao priče o ljudima, o običnim ljudima.
00:28
Stories that offer transformation, that lean into transcendence,
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Priče koje nude preobražaj, koje naginju transcendenciji,
00:33
but that are never sentimental,
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ali koje nikada nisu sentimentalne,
00:35
that never look away from the darkest things about us.
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koje nikada ne zatvaraju oči pred onim što je u nama najmračnije.
00:39
Because I really believe that we're never more beautiful
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Pošto zaista verujem da nikada nismo lepši
00:42
than when we're most ugly.
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nego onda kada smo najružniji.
00:44
Because that's really the moment we really know what we're made of.
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Jer to je trenutak kada shvatamo od čega smo napravljeni.
00:48
As Chris said, I grew up in Nigeria
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Kao što je Kris rekao, odrastao sam u Nigeriji
00:53
with a whole generation -- in the '80s --
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-- tokom osamdesetih --
00:55
of students who were protesting a military dictatorship, which has finally ended.
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koji su protestovali protiv vojne diktature, koja je kasnije i okončana.
01:01
So it wasn't just me, there was a whole generation of us.
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Dakle, ja nisam bio jedini, postojala je čitava generacija sličnih meni.
01:03
But what I've come to learn
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Međutim, ono što sam shvatio,
01:06
is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures,
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bila je činjenica da svet nikada ne spasavaju veliki, mesijanski gestovi,
01:10
but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion,
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već akumulacija blagih, mekih, gotovo nevidljivih izraza saosećanja,
01:17
everyday acts of compassion.
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svakodnevnih izraza saosećanja.
01:19
In South Africa, they have a phrase called Ubuntu.
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U Južnoj Africi postoji fraza pod nazivom ubuntu.
01:26
Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says,
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Ubuntu potiče od filozofskog pogleda koji kaže
01:28
the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect
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da je jedini način da budem human, ako u vama
01:32
my humanity back at me.
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vidim odraz svoje humanosti.
01:34
But if you're like me, my humanity is more like a window.
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Ali ako ste slični meni, moja čovečnost je više nalik prozoru.
01:38
I don't really see it, I don't pay attention to it
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Ja ga ne vidim, ne obraćam na njega pažnju
01:40
until there's, you know, like a bug that's dead on the window.
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sve dok se, znate, na njemu ne pojavi mrtva buba.
01:43
Then suddenly I see it, and usually, it's never good.
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Tada ga iznenada primetim i to obično nije lep prizor.
01:47
It's usually when I'm cussing in traffic
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To se uglavnom događa kada, u saobraćaju, opsujem
01:50
at someone who is trying to drive their car and drink coffee
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nekoga ko pokušava da vozi ispijajući kafu
01:53
and send emails and make notes.
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i pišući e-mailove ili beleške.
01:57
So what Ubuntu really says
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Dakle, ono što ubuntu zaista govori
02:00
is that there is no way for us to be human without other people.
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jeste da ne možemo biti čovečni bez postojanja drugih ljudi.
02:05
It's really very simple, but really very complicated.
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To je zaista veoma jednostavno, ali je, u stvari, i veoma komplikovano.
02:08
So, I thought I should start with some stories.
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Zato sam mislio da bi trebalo da počnem sa nekim pričama.
02:11
I should tell you some stories about remarkable people,
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Trebalo bi da vam ispričam nekoliko priča o izuzetnim ljudima,
02:13
so I thought I'd start with my mother.
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pa sam mislio da bih mogao da počnem od moje majke.
02:16
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
02:17
And she was dark, too.
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I ona je bila crna.
02:19
My mother was English.
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Moja majka je bila Engleskinja.
02:20
My parents met in Oxford in the '50s,
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Roditelji su mi se upoznali u Oksfordu, tokom pedesetih,
02:22
and my mother moved to Nigeria and lived there.
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i moja majka se preselila u Nigeriju.
02:24
She was five foot two, very feisty and very English.
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Bila je visoka 158 cm, veoma energična i velika Engleskinja.
02:28
This is how English my mother is -- or was, she just passed.
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Evo koliko je moja majka velika Engleskinja -- ili koliko je bila, jer, nedavno je preminula.
02:31
She came out to California, to Los Angeles, to visit me,
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Došla je jednom u Kaliforniju, u Los Anđeles da me poseti
02:35
and we went to Malibu, which she thought was very disappointing.
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i otišli smo do Malibua, za koji je smatrala da je veoma razočaravajuć.
02:37
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
02:39
And then we went to a fish restaurant,
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Potom smo otišli u riblji restoran,
02:41
and we had Chad, the surfer dude, serving us,
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u kome nas je posluživao surfer iz Čada.
02:44
and he came up and my mother said,
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Prišao nam je i moja majka je rekla,
02:46
"Do you have any specials, young man?"
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"Da li biste nam nešto preporučili, mladiću?"
02:48
And Chad says, "Sure, like, we have this, like, salmon,
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A momak iz Čada reče, "Normalno, imamo tog lososa,
02:52
that's, like, rolled in this, like, wasabi, like, crust.
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koji je, kao urolan u neku koricu, kao od vasabija.
02:54
It's totally rad."
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Vrh je."
02:56
And my mother turned to me and said,
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Majka se okrenula ka meni i rekla,
02:59
"What language is he speaking?"
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"Koji to jezik on govori?"
03:01
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
03:02
I said, "English, mum."
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"Engleski. mama," rekao sam.
03:04
And she shook her head and said,
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A ona odmahnu glavom i reče
03:06
"Oh, these Americans. We gave them a language,
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"Oh, ti Amerikanci, pa dali smo im jezik.
03:08
why don't they use it?"
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Zašto ga ne koriste?"
03:10
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
03:16
So, this woman, who converted from the Church of England
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I tako je ova žena, koja je prešla iz Engleske crkve
03:20
to Catholicism when she married my father --
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u katolicizam kada se udala za moga oca --
03:22
and there's no one more rabid than a Catholic convert --
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a niko nije fanatičniji od katoličkog preobraćenika --
03:26
decided to teach in the rural areas in Nigeria,
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odlučila da, u ruralnim oblastima Nigerije,
03:30
particularly among Igbo women,
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posebno Igbo žene,
03:32
the Billings ovulation method,
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podučava Bilingsovoj ovulacijskoj metodi,
03:34
which was the only approved birth control by the Catholic Church.
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jedinoj kontraceptivnoj metodi koju je katolička crkva odobravala.
03:38
But her Igbo wasn't too good.
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Ali, ona nije dobro govorila Igbo jezik.
03:42
So she took me along to translate.
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Tako da je vodila mene da prevodim.
03:44
I was seven.
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Bilo mi je sedam godina.
03:46
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
03:47
So, here are these women,
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Tu su, dakle, bile žene
03:49
who never discuss their period with their husbands,
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koje nikada nisu razgovarale o svom ciklusu sa muževima
03:52
and here I am telling them, "Well, how often do you get your period?"
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a ja bih ih pitao, "Pa, koliko često imate menstruaciju?"
03:56
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
03:57
And, "Do you notice any discharges?"
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I da li primećujete neke izlučevine?
03:59
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
04:00
And, "How swollen is your vulva?"
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A koliko vam je stidnica otečena?
04:02
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
04:07
She never would have thought of herself as a feminist,
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Moja majka sebe nikada ne bi smatrala feministkinjom,
04:10
my mother, but she always used to say,
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ali je imala običaj da kaže,
04:13
"Anything a man can do, I can fix."
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"Sve što muškarac može da uradi, ja mogu da popravim."
04:16
(Applause)
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(Aplauz)
04:23
And when my father complained about this situation,
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A kada se moj otac žalio na ovu situaciju,
04:28
where she's taking a seven-year-old boy
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jer ona vodi sedmogodišnjeg dečaka
04:30
to teach this birth control, you know,
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da podučava žene kontraceptivnoj metodi
04:32
he used to say, "Oh, you're turning him into --
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rekao bi, "Jao, pretvorićeš ga...
04:34
you're teaching him how to be a woman."
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naučičeš ga da bude žena."
04:36
My mother said, "Someone has to."
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Moja majka mu je odgovarala, "Pa, neko mora da ga nauči."
04:38
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
04:39
This woman -- during the Biafran war,
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Ta žena -- tokom nigerijskog građanskog rata,
04:43
we were caught in the war.
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doživeli smo taj rat.
04:45
It was my mother with five little children.
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Moja majka je bila sama sa petoro dece.
04:48
It takes her one year, through refugee camp after refugee camp,
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Provela je godinu dana po izbegličkim logorima,
04:51
to make her way to an airstrip where we can fly out of the country.
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dok nije stigla do uzletne piste sa koje smo mogli da napustimo zemlju.
04:53
At every single refugee camp, she has to face off soldiers
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U svakom logoru u kome smo bili, morala je da se suočava sa vojnicima
04:59
who want to take my elder brother Mark, who was nine,
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koji su hteli da regrutuju mog starijeg brata Marka, devetogodišnjaka,
05:01
and make him a boy soldier.
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u dečake-ratnike.
05:03
Can you imagine this five-foot-two woman,
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Možete li da zamislite ovu ženu, visoku 158cm,
05:05
standing up to men with guns who want to kill us?
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kako se suprotstavlja naoružanim muškarcima koji hoće da nas ubiju?
05:09
All through that one year,
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Čitave te godine,
05:11
my mother never cried one time, not once.
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moja majka nijednom nije zaplakala, ni jedan jedini put.
05:14
But when we were in Lisbon, in the airport,
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Ali kada smo bili na aerodromu u Lisabonu,
05:16
about to fly to England,
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neposredno pre leta za Englesku,
05:18
this woman saw my mother wearing this dress,
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jedna žena je ugledala moju majku u haljini,
05:21
which had been washed so many times it was basically see through,
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opranoj toliko puta da je postala gotovo prozirna,
05:25
with five really hungry-looking kids,
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sa petoro izgladnele dece.
05:28
came over and asked her what had happened.
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Prišla je i upitala ju je šta se dogodilo.
05:30
And she told this woman.
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Moja majka joj je sve ispričala.
05:31
And so this woman emptied out her suitcase
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Žena je ispraznila svoj kofer
05:33
and gave all of her clothes to my mother, and to us,
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i svu odeću je dala mojoj majci i nama,
05:36
and the toys of her kids, who didn't like that very much, but --
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kao i igračke svoje dece, kojoj se to nije baš mnogo dopalo, ali --
05:39
(Laughter) --
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(Smeh)
05:40
that was the only time she cried.
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Bio je to jedini put da je moja majka plakala.
05:43
And I remember years later, I was writing about my mother,
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Sećam se da sam, godinama kasnije, pisao o svojoj majci
05:45
and I asked her, "Why did you cry then?"
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i pitao sam je, "Zbog čega si tada plakala?"
05:47
And she said, "You know, you can steel your heart
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Ona mi je odgovorila, "Znaš, srce možeš stegnuti
05:50
against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror.
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pred bilo kakvom nevoljom, bilo kakvim užasom.
05:53
But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger
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Ali jednostavan gest dobrote, koji ti ukaže potpuni neznanac,
05:58
will unstitch you."
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potpuno će te razoružati."
06:04
The old women in my father's village, after this war had happened,
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U očevom selu su starice, nakon rata,
06:08
memorized the names of every dead person,
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pamtile imena svih pokojnika,
06:11
and they would sing these dirges, made up of these names.
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i pevale bi tužbalice, sastavljene od njihovih imena.
06:18
Dirges so melancholic that they would scorch you.
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Tužbalice, toliko melanholične, da bi vam sledile srce.
06:20
And they would sing them only when they planted the rice,
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Pevale su ih samo dok su sadile pirinač,
06:24
as though they were seeding the hearts of the dead
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kao da su sejale srca mrtvih
06:26
into the rice.
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u njega.
06:28
But when it came for harvest time,
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Ali, kada je došlo vreme žetve,
06:30
they would sing these joyful songs,
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pevale bi radosne pesme,
06:32
that were made up of the names of every child
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sastavljene od imena dece
06:34
who had been born that year.
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koja su se te godine rodila.
06:37
And then the next planting season, when they sang the dirge,
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A kada bi sledeće godine, tokom setve, pevale tužbalice,
06:41
they would remove as many names of the dead
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uklonile bi onoliko imena umrlih,
06:44
that equaled as many people that were born.
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koliko se dece rodilo.
06:46
And in this way, these women enacted a lot of transformation,
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Na ovaj način, ove žene su donosile ogromnu transformaciju,
06:52
beautiful transformation.
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divnu transformaciju.
06:54
Did you know, that before the genocide in Rwanda,
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Da li ste znali da je, pre genocida u Ruandi,
06:58
the word for rape and the word for marriage
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silovanje i brak
07:01
was the same one?
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označavala jedna ista reč?
07:04
But today, women are rebuilding Rwanda.
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Ali danas, žene ponovo grade Ruandu.
07:08
Did you also know that after apartheid,
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Da li ste znali i to da, po završetku aparthejda,
07:11
when the new government went into the parliament houses,
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kada je nova vlada ušla u zgradu parlamenta,
07:13
there were no female toilets in the building?
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nije bilo ženskih toaleta u zgradi?
07:17
Which would seem to suggest that apartheid
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Što bi, izgleda, trebalo da znači da je aparthejd
07:19
was entirely the business of men.
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u potpunosti bio muški posao.
07:22
All of this to say, that despite the horror, and despite the death,
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Poenta je da se, uprkos užasu, uprkos smrti,
07:26
women are never really counted.
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žene nikada ne računaju.
07:29
Their humanity never seems to matter very much to us.
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Njihova čovečnost nam, izgleda, nije mnogo bitna.
07:34
When I was growing up in Nigeria --
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Dok sam odrastao u Nigeriji --
07:37
and I shouldn't say Nigeria, because that's too general,
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mada ne bi trebalo da kažem u Nigeriji, jer je to suviše uopšteno,
07:39
but in Afikpo, the Igbo part of the country where I'm from --
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već u Urhobu, lgbo delu zemlje, odakle potičem,
07:42
there were always rites of passage for young men.
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uvek su postojali rituali prelaska za mladiće.
07:45
Men were taught to be men in the ways in which we are not women,
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U suštini, muškarci su učeni da budu muškarci, na način koji
07:49
that's essentially what it is.
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ih razdvaja od žena.
07:51
And a lot of rituals involved killing, killing little animals,
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Mnogi rituali su uključivali ubijanje, ubijanje malih životinja,
07:55
progressing along, so when I turned 13 --
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i odrastajući, kada sam napunio 13 godina --
07:57
and, I mean, it made sense, it was an agrarian community,
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mislim, to je imalo smisla, bila je to poljoprivredna zajednica,
08:00
somebody had to kill the animals,
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neko je morao da ubija životinje,
08:02
there was no Whole Foods you could go and get kangaroo steak at --
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nije bilo Whole Foods marketa u kome ste mogli da kupite šniclu od kengura --
08:05
so when I turned 13, it was my turn now to kill a goat.
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tako je, kada sam napunio 13 godina, došao red da ubijem kozu.
08:10
And I was this weird, sensitive kid, who couldn't really do it,
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Ja sam bio čudno, osetljivo dete, koje to nije moglo da uradi,
08:14
but I had to do it.
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ali sam ipak morao.
08:16
And I was supposed to do this alone.
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I trebalo je to da uradim sam.
08:18
But a friend of mine, called Emmanuel,
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Međutim, jedan moj prijatelj, po imenu Emanuel,
08:20
who was significantly older than me,
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koji je bio dosta stariji od mene,
08:22
who'd been a boy soldier during the Biafran war,
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i koji je bio dečak-ratnik tokom građanskog rata,
08:24
decided to come with me.
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odlučio je da krene sa mnom.
08:27
Which sort of made me feel good,
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To mi je, na neki način, pomoglo da se osećam bolje,
08:30
because he'd seen a lot of things.
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jer je on dosta toga video.
08:32
Now, when I was growing up, he used to tell me
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Dok sam odrastao, on mi je pričao
08:34
stories about how he used to bayonet people,
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priče o tome kako je ubadao ljude bajonetom,
08:36
and their intestines would fall out, but they would keep running.
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i kako su oni nastavljali da trče iako im je utroba ispadala.
08:39
So, this guy comes with me.
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I tako je ovaj momak pošao sa mnom,
08:42
And I don't know if you've ever heard a goat, or seen one --
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ali, ne znam da li ste nekada čuli ili videli kozu --
08:45
they sound like human beings,
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one zvuče kao ljudska bića,
08:47
that's why we call tragedies "a song of a goat."
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zbog toga tragedije nazivamo "kozjom pesmom."
08:50
My friend Brad Kessler says that we didn't become human
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Moj prijatelj Bred Kesler kaže da nismo postali ljudi
08:55
until we started keeping goats.
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sve dok nismo počeli da čuvamo koze.
08:57
Anyway, a goat's eyes are like a child's eyes.
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U svakom slučaju, kozje oči su poput dečijih.
09:02
So when I tried to kill this goat and I couldn't,
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Kada sam pokušao da ubijem kozu i nisam mogao to da uradim,
09:04
Emmanuel bent down, he puts his hand over the mouth of the goat,
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Emanuel se sagnuo, zatvorio joj je usta rukom,
09:09
covers its eyes, so I don't have to look into them,
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i prekrio joj oči, tako da ne moram da je gledam,
09:12
while I kill the goat.
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dok je ubijam.
09:15
It didn't seem like a lot, for this guy who'd seen so much,
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To nije delovalo kao nešto posebno, jer je ovaj momak, koji je toliko toga video,
09:19
and to whom the killing of a goat must have seemed
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i koji je -- kome je ubijanje koze sigurno delovalo
09:21
such a quotidian experience,
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kao neka svakodnevna stvar,
09:23
still found it in himself to try to protect me.
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ipak osetio potrebu da me zaštiti.
09:29
I was a wimp.
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Bio sam kukavica.
09:31
I cried for a very long time.
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Plakao sam jako dugo.
09:33
And afterwards, he didn't say a word.
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Posle svega, on nije rekao ni reč,
09:35
He just sat there watching me cry for an hour.
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samo je sedeo i posmatrao me kako plačem čitav sat vremena.
09:37
And then afterwards he said to me,
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Nakon toga mi je rekao,
09:39
"It will always be difficult, but if you cry like this every time,
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uvek će biti teško, ali ako svaki put budeš tako plakao,
09:44
you will die of heartbreak.
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srce će ti prepući i umrećeš.
09:46
Just know that it is enough sometimes
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Samo znaj, da je ponekad dovoljno
09:49
to know that it is difficult."
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saznanje da je to zaista teško.
09:54
Of course, talking about goats makes me think of sheep,
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Naravno, priča o kozama me je podsetila na ovce,
09:57
and not in good ways.
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i to ne u pozitivnom smislu.
09:59
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
10:01
So, I was born two days after Christmas.
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Ja sam rođen dva dana nakon Božića.
10:05
So growing up, you know, I had a cake and everything,
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I tako sam, znate, odrastajući, imao tortu i sve ostalo,
10:08
but I never got any presents, because, born two days after Christmas.
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ali nikada nisam dobijao poklone, jer -- rođen sam dva dana posle Božića.
10:13
So, I was about nine, and my uncle had just come back from Germany,
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Kada mi je bilo oko devet godina, ujak mi se tek vratio iz Nemačke,
10:16
and we had the Catholic priest over,
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i jedan katolički sveštenik nas je posetio.
10:19
my mother was entertaining him with tea.
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Moja majka ga je ugostila čajem,
10:21
And my uncle suddenly says, "Where are Chris' presents?"
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a moj ujak je iznenada rekao, "Gde su Krisovi pokloni?"
10:25
And my mother said, "Don't talk about that in front of guests."
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Majka mu reče, "Nemoj o tome pred gostima."
10:29
But he was desperate to show that he'd just come back,
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Ali on je očajnički želeo da pokaže da se upravo vratio,
10:32
so he summoned me up, and he said,
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tako da me je pozvao i rekao,
10:34
"Go into the bedroom, my bedroom.
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"Idi u sobu, u moju sobu.
10:36
Take anything you want out of the suitcase.
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I uzmi šta god poželiš iz kofera.
10:38
It's your birthday present."
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To je tvoj rođendanski poklon."
10:40
I'm sure he thought I'd take a book or a shirt,
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Siguran sam da je pomislio da ću uzeti knjigu ili košulju,
10:42
but I found an inflatable sheep.
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ali ja sam našao ovcu na naduvavanje.
10:45
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
10:51
So, I blew it up and ran into the living room,
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Naduvao sam je i utrčao sa njom u dnevnu sobu,
10:53
my finger where it shouldn't have been,
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držeći prst tamo gde mu nije mesto,
10:55
I was waving this buzzing sheep around,
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Mahao sam unaokolo tom ovcom, koja je šuštala,
10:58
and my mother looked like she was going to die of shock.
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a moja majka je delovala kao da će umreti od šoka.
11:01
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
11:04
And Father McGetrick was completely unflustered,
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Otac Mekgetrik je bio savršeno miran,
11:07
just stirred his tea and looked at my mother and said,
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samo je promešao čaj, pogledao moju majku i rekao,
11:09
"It's all right Daphne, I'm Scottish."
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"U redu je, Dafne, ja sam Škotlanđanin."
11:12
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
11:14
(Applause)
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(Aplauz)
11:28
My last days in prison, the last 18 months,
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Tokom poslednjih dana u zatvoru, poslednjih 18 meseci,
11:34
my cellmate -- for the last year, the first year of the last 18 months --
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moj cimer -- tokom poslednje godine, odnosno, prve godine poslednjih 18 meseci --
11:38
my cellmate was 14 years old.
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moj cimer je imao 14 godina.
11:41
The name was John James,
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Ime mu je bilo Džon Džejms,
11:44
and in those days, if a family member committed a crime,
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a u to vreme bi vojska, ukoliko je neki član porodice
11:48
the military would hold you as ransom
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počinio zločin, uhapsila vas kao taoca,
11:51
till your family turned themselves in.
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sve dok se vaš rođak ne preda.
11:53
So, here was this 14-year-old kid on death row.
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I tako je ovog četrnaestogodišnjaka čekala smrtna kazna.
11:56
And not everybody on death row was a political prisoner.
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Nisu svi osuđenici na smrt bili politički zatvorenici --
11:58
There were some really bad people there.
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među njima je bilo nekih jako loših ljudi.
12:01
And he had smuggled in two comics, two comic books --
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Ovaj dečak je prokrijumčario dva stripa --
12:04
"Spiderman" and "X-Men."
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Spajdermena i strip X-men.
12:06
He was obsessed.
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Bio je opsednut.
12:07
And when he got tired of reading them,
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A kada se zasitio od čitanja,
12:09
he started to teach the men in death row how to read,
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počeo je da uči osuđenike na smrt da čitaju
12:13
with these comic books.
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iz ovih stripova.
12:15
And so, I remember night after night,
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Sećam se kako su se, iz noći u noć,
12:19
you'd hear all these men, these really hardened criminals,
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mogli čuti ovi ljudi, ovi okoreli zločinci,
12:21
huddled around John James, reciting, "Take that, Spidey!"
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kako zbijeni oko Džona Džejmsa, izgovaraju, "Eto ti ga na, Spajdi!"
12:26
(Laughter)
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(Smeh)
12:28
It's incredible.
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Neverovatno.
12:31
I was really worried.
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Bio sam vrlo zabrinut.
12:33
He didn't know what death row meant.
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On nije znao šta znači smrtna kazna.
12:35
I'd been there twice,
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Ja sam bio dva puta u zatvoru
12:37
and I was terribly afraid that I was going to die.
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i strašno sam se plašio da ću umreti.
12:39
And he would always laugh, and say,
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Ali, on bi se uvek nasmejao i rekao,
12:41
"Come on, man, we'll make it out."
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"Ma hajde, čoveče, izvući ćemo se."
12:43
Then I'd say, "How do you know?"
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Ja bih mu odgovorio, "Kako znaš?"
12:45
And he said, "Oh, I heard it on the grapevine."
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A on bi uzvratio, "Ma, čuo sam glasine."
12:49
They killed him.
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Ubili su ga.
12:51
They handcuffed him to a chair,
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Vezali su ga lisicama za stolicu,
12:54
and they tacked his penis to a table with a six-inch nail,
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i ekserom od petnaest santimetara su mu zakucali penis za sto.
13:00
then left him there to bleed to death.
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Onda su ga ostavili da iskrvari do smrti.
13:03
That's how I ended up in solitary, because I let my feelings be known.
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Tako sam završio u samici, jer sam pokazao svoja osećanja.
13:12
All around us, everywhere, there are people like this.
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Svuda oko nas postoje ovakvi ljudi.
13:17
The Igbo used to say that they built their own gods.
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Igbo su govorili kako su sami stvorili svoje bogove.
13:23
They would come together as a community,
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Istupali su kao zajednica,
13:25
and they would express a wish.
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i tako bi izrazili svoju želju.
13:28
And their wish would then be brought to a priest,
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Njihova bi želja tad bila izneta pred sveštenika
13:30
who would find a ritual object,
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koji bi potom pronašao ritualni predmet,
13:33
and the appropriate sacrifices would be made,
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i određena žrtva bi bila prineta,
13:35
and the shrine would be built for the god.
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a za boga bi bio podignut hram.
13:38
But if the god became unruly and began to ask for human sacrifice,
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Ali, ako bi bog postao samovoljan i ako bi tražio ljudske žrtve,
13:43
the Igbos would destroy the god.
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Igbo bi ga uništili.
13:45
They would knock down the shrine,
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Srušili bi hram,
13:48
and they would stop saying the god's name.
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i prestali da izgovaraju ime toga boga.
13:50
This is how they came to reclaim their humanity.
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Tako bi ponovo osvajali svoju ljudskost.
13:55
Every day, all of us here,
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Svi mi ovde, svakoga dana,
13:57
we're building gods that have gone rampant,
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podiženo bogove koji su postali osioni,
14:00
and it's time we started knocking them down
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i vreme je da počnemo da ih rušimo
14:03
and forgetting their names.
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i zaboravljamo njihova imena.
14:06
It doesn't require a tremendous thing.
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To ne zahteva mnogo.
14:09
All it requires is to recognize among us, every day --
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Sve što je potrebno jeste da, svakoga dana, prepoznajete među nama
14:13
the few of us that can see -- are surrounded by people
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nekolicinu nas koja vidi da smo okruženi ljudima poput
14:16
like the ones I've told you.
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ovih o kojima sam vam pričao.
14:19
There are some of you in this room, amazing people,
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Među vama, u ovoj prostoriji, ima neverovatnih ljudi
14:22
who offer all of us the mirror to our own humanity.
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koji nam svima nude ogledalo naše sopstvene ljudskosti.
14:28
I want to end with a poem by an American poet called Lucille Clifton.
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Želeo bih da završim pesmom jednog američkog pesnika po imenu Lusil Klifton.
14:33
The poem is called "Libation," and it's for my friend Vusi
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Naslov ove pesme je "Pijanka", i posvećujem je mome prijatelju Vusi
14:38
who is in the audience here somewhere.
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koji je ovde negde u publici.
14:42
"Libation,
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"Pijanka "
14:44
North Carolina, 1999.
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Severna Karolina, 1999.
14:47
I offer to this ground, this gin.
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"Nudim ovoj zemlji, ovaj džin.
14:54
I imagine an old man crying here,
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Zamišljam starca kako ovde plače,
14:57
out of the sight of the overseer.
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izvan vidokruga nadzornika.
15:01
He pushes his tongue through a hole
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On gura jezik kroz rupu
15:04
where his tooth would be, if he were whole.
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gde bi mu stajali zubi, da je i dalje čitav.
15:09
It aches in that space where his tooth would be,
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Boli ga to mesto gde bi mu bili zubi,
15:13
where his land would be,
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gde bi mu bila zemlja,
15:16
his house, his wife, his son, his beautiful daughter.
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i njegov dom, žena, sin, njegova prelepa kći.
15:22
He wipes sorrow from his face,
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On briše tugu sa lica,
15:27
and puts his thirsty finger to his thirsty tongue,
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i stavlja žedni prst na svoj ožedneli jezik,
15:31
and tastes the salt.
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i kuša so.
15:37
I call a name that could be his.
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Ja dozivam ime kojim bi se mogao zvati,
15:39
This is for you, old man.
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ovo je za tebe, starče.
15:44
This gin, this salty earth."
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Ovaj džin, ova slana zemlja."
15:48
Thank you.
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Hvala vam.
15:50
(Applause)
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(Aplauz)
Translated by Ivana Karic
Reviewed by Biljana Tesic

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ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Chris Abani - Novelist, poet
Imprisoned three times by the Nigerian government, Chris Abani turned his experience into poems that Harold Pinter called "the most naked, harrowing expression of prison life and political torture imaginable." His novels include GraceLand (2004) and The Virgin of Flames (2007).

Why you should listen

Chris Abani's first novel, published when he was 16, was Masters of the Board, a political thriller about a foiled Nigerian coup. The story was convincing enough that the Nigerian government threw him in jail for inciting a coincidentally timed real-life coup. Imprisoned and tortured twice more, he channeled the experience into searing poetry.

Abani's best-selling 2004 novel GraceLand is a searing and funny tale of a young Nigerian boy, an Elvis impersonator who moves through the wide, wild world of Lagos, slipping between pop and traditional cultures, art and crime. It's a perennial book-club pick, a story that brings the postcolonial African experience to vivid life.

Now based in Los Angeles, Abani published The Virgin of Flames in 2007. He is also a publisher, running the poetry imprint Black Goat Press.

More profile about the speaker
Chris Abani | Speaker | TED.com