Murzynek Bambo

Murzynek Bambo

"Murzynek Bambo" ("Bambo the Black child" or "Bambo the little Negro") is a children's poem by Polish author Julian Tuwim (September 1894 – December 1953), written in 1923 or '24. It is about a small black boy called Bambo, who lives in Africa.[1] The poem is familiar to most Polish children, but has been accused of promoting a stereotypical and demeaning view of Africans.[2]


Poem's content

The poem is sixteen lines long, arranged in eight rhyming couplets. It tells the story of Bambo, a young black African child, who goes to 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 his colour might wash off. His mother loves him though. The poem ends by saying that it is a shame that "black, happy Bambo" doesn't go to school with us.


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".[1] According to Patrycja Pirog, the word "'murzyn', which in the opinion of many Poles, including academics, is not offensive, is seen by black people as discriminatory and derogatory."[3] Etymologically, 'murzyn' comes from the same root as the English word 'moor'. Murzynek is also the name of a Polish chocolate cake.


The poem is familiar to most Polish children[4] but has been accused of promoting a stereotypical[4] and demeaning[1] view of Africans.

Patrycja Pirog describes the post-colonial interpretation of the poem, which she characterizes as "one of the most popular images of the Negro":

One of many, the post-colonial interpretation of the poem ​​by Marcin Moskalewicza reveals tendencies to domination by Western culture, tendencies which were camouflaged by Tuwim. Briefly speaking, this is a story about how enlightened Europe tries to civilise the savage.... The school, bath and milk are symbols of civilisation, of washing away that which is impure and incompatible with high culture, until it is white and pure. Bambo instinctively runs away from this. Complying with the rules of the West means the loss of his identity. [The word] 'Koleżka' means civilisational and cultural immaturity. Bambo is characterised as good, cheerful, black – the Enlightenment myth of the good savage, creating an opposition to that which is white and rational.[5]

Others argue that the poem should be seen in the context of its time, and that commentators should not go overboard in analysing it.[6] And journalist Adam Kowalczyk says that he "did not become a racist" because of reading the poem.[7] Journalist Ewa Trzeszczkowska, writing on, describes 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 a 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".[8]


  1. ^ a b c Murzynek Bambo w Afryce mieszka ("Bambo the Black child lives in Africa"), or how the Polish culture created its Negro., Historia Sztuki
  2. ^ Czy Murzynek Bambo to rasistowski wierszyk?, TVP2 (video, in Polish)
  3. ^ "Murzynek Bambo w Afryce mieszka", czyli jak polska kultura stworzyła swojego "Murzyna", '"Murzyn", który zdaniem wielu Polaków, w tym także naukowców, nie jest obraźliwy, uznawany jest przez osoby czarnoskóre za dyskryminujący i uwłaczający.' (in Polish)
  4. ^ a b Czy "Murzynek Bambo" obraża Afrykanów?, (in Polish)
  5. ^ "Murzynek Bambo w Afryce mieszka", czyli jak polska kultura stworzyła swojego "Murzyna"
  6. ^ Murzynek Bambo dla licealistów?, (in Polish)
  7. ^ Huckleberry Finn a Murzynek Bambo, (in Polish)
  8. ^ O Murzynku Bambo raz jeszcze – list, (in Polish)

See also

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Murzyn — is a Polish word for a black person. It is seen by some as a neutral word,[1] but others consider it to have pejorative connotations.[2] Notably, the noun murzyn appears in a popular Polish saying which referres to any menial work performed by a… …   Wikipedia

  • koleżka — m odm. jak ż III, CMs. koleżkażce; lm M. ci koleżkakowie, te koleżkaki, DB. koleżkaków pot. pouf. «bliski kolega, towarzysz; kompan; młody kolega» Grono koleżków. Popił sobie z koleżkami. Murzynek Bambo w Afryce mieszka, czarną ma skórę ten nasz… …   Słownik języka polskiego