"Murzynek Bambo" (Bambo the black child) is a children's poem by Polish author Julian Tuwim (September 1894 – December 1953), written in 1923 or 1924. It is about a little black boy called Bambo, who lives in Africa.
The poem is sixteen lines long, arranged in eight rhyming couplets. It tells the story of Bambo, a young black African child, who diligently studies in an African school. When he returns home, he fools around and is told off by his mother. He reacts by frowning. When offered milk by his mother, he runs off and climbs a tree. His mother tells him to have a bath, but he is afraid that he will whiten. His mother loves him though. The poem ends by saying that it is a pity that "black, happy Bambo" doesn't go to school with us.
Meaning of Murzynek
The poem refers to Bambo as murzynek, the diminutive form of murzyn. Murzynek can be translated into English in a variety of ways, such as "black child" or "little Negro". The word "murzyn", which in the opinion of many Poles, including academics, is not offensive, is seen by some black people as discriminatory and derogatory. Etymologically, "murzyn" comes from the same root as the English word Moor.
Others argue that the poem should be seen in the context of its time, and that commentators should not go overboard in analysing it. A journalist Adam Kowalczyk says that he "did not become a racist" because of reading the poem. A reader of Gazeta Wyborcza, Ewa Trzeszczkowska, describes in a letter how she identifies with Bambo: "For me, this work was and is a cheerful story about a naughty boy from a distant, exotic country, that, although so distant – both the country and the boy – is also similar to me. He has a joy of life which is expressed, amongst other ways, in the climbing of the trees (I climbed them too), and has a slight note of defiance, independence, liberty. Which was and is close to me!" Indeed, she claims that she does not suspect "the author of these words of bad intentions", though she admits feeling discomfort reading that Bambo fears baths because he might become white.
- "Murzynek Bambo w Afryce mieszka", czyli jak polska kultura stworzyła swojego "Murzyna", by Patrycja Pirog (in Polish)
- Czy "Murzynek Bambo" obraża Afrykanów?, Gazeta.pl (in Polish)
- Murzynek Bambo dla licealistów?, Colemi.pl (in Polish)
- Huckleberry Finn a Murzynek Bambo, Debata.olsztyn.pl (in Polish)
- O Murzynku Bambo raz jeszcze – list, Wyborcza.pl (in Polish)