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AFRICA BY David Diop (Senegal) ~ Growing Up With Poetry

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AFRICA BY David Diop (Senegal) ~ Growing Up With Poetry

Africa my Africa

Africa of proud warriors in the ancestral savannahs

Africa of whom my grandmother sings

On the banks of the distant river

I have never known you

But your blood flows in my veins

Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields

The blood of your sweat

The sweat of your work

The work of your slavery

The slavery of your children

Africa tell me Africa

Is this you this back that is bent

This back that breaks under the weight of humiliation

This back trembling with red scars

And saying yes to the whip under the midday sun

But a grave voice answers me

Impetuous son that tree young and strong

That tree there

In splendid loneliness amidst white and faded flowers

That is Africa your Africa

That grows again patiently obstinately

And its fruit gradually acquires

The bitter taste of liberty.

INTRODUCTION

This poem is written by David Diop – A Black African who was born in France in 1927. His father was from Senegal and his mother from Cameroon and he grew up in France and West Africa aware of both cultures and traditions. He was deeply concerned by the question of independence from colonial rule.

This poem is a dramatic monologue where the speaker seems to be in conversation with Africa. The poem can be thematically divided into three parts; pre colonial Africa, colonial Africa and post colonial Africa.

THEMATIC ANALYSIS.

EXPLOITATION

There are evidences of exploitation in the poem in the fact that the poet expresses how the sweat of Africans was lost in vain.

The blood of your sweat

He sweat of your work

All this was done at a time when Africans were turned into slaves and worked for their masters without any benefit.

The work of your slavery

The slavery of your children

OPPRESSION AND HUMILIATION

Oppression and humiliation were common practices in colonial time. They were used to force Africans work for colonisers without objection. This has left scars to Africa that we still depend on them even when they seem to mistreat us.

This back that breaks under the weight of humiliation

This back trembling with red scars

And saying yes to the whip under the midday sun

IDENTITY AND AWARENESS

The poet however seems to be aware of his identity as black African. Although he grew up in France he shows that black blood flows in his veins, which is to say he is still an African regardless of where he grew up.

I have never known you

But your blood flows in my veins

The voice that answers Diop sums up his African identity.

Impetuous son that tree young and strong

That tree there

In splendid loneliness amidst white and faded flowers

That is Africa your Africa.

EFFECTS OF COLONIALISM

The poet concludes his poem by showing the effects that colonialism had on African continent. Nevertheless, he seems to be optimistic that at least Africa is growing up again just like a young tree.

That is Africa your Africa

That grows again patiently obstinately

a) What is the poem about?

The poem is about the effects colonialism has had on Africa. It traces the history of pre-colonial Africa, then shows the torture that Africans underwent in colonialism and how Africa is starting afresh like a young tree.

b) What does the symbol ‘that tree young and strong” suggest?

First of all the symbol refers to Africa. It suggests that after colonialism Africa began to grow up again just as a young tree.

c) Why do the fruits acquire a bitter taste of liberty? Why does liberty taste bitter?

The fruits acquire a bitter taste because liberation of the oppressed is not a simple thing. It needs sacrifice and determination. Some people lose their lives in the process. So in such a case liberty is never sweet but bitter memories.

d) What do these words symbolise?

Scars’, ‘whip’ and ‘blood’. They stand for the torture that Africans went through in colonial time.

e) What is the tone of the poem?

The tone changes from the beginning it is happy in the middle it becomes sad but at the end it becomes optimistic.

f)   Why does the poet say that “black blood flows in his veins”?

Black blood in this poem symbolises Africanism as there is no blood that is black in colour. So he shows that although he grew up in France he is still aware of his African identity.

g) How have the past effects of colonialism shaped the Africa’s present?

The socio-political and economic state of Africa today was seriously affected during colonial time. So Africa was paralysed and is just starting afresh as a young tree while the colonisers are well off.

h) Comment on the figures of speech and poetic devices.

Anadiplosis; the repetition in which the last expression of one statement becomes the first expression in the following statement

   The blood of your sweat

The sweat of your work

The work of your slavery

The slavery of your children

Rhetorical question a question that does not need a reply.

Is that you this back that is bent

Symbolism

Ø Scars’, ‘whip’ and ‘blood’. They stand for the torture that Africans went through in colonial time.

Ø Black blood– symbolises African identity

Personification.

The poet addresses Africa as though it is a human being and has blood that flows, and can sweat etc.

Alliteration- repetition of similar consonant sounds at the beginning of consecutive words

You beautiful black blood

Repetition (for emphasis)

The word Africa is repeated 7 times throughout the poem Eg. Africa my Africa.

Under exaggeration.

Your beautiful black blood

This is under exaggeration because there is no black blood in colour.

MESSAGE

Ø Colonialism paralysed Africa so it is up to us to make Africa’s hope alive again.

Ø We must know our identity as Africans, where we come from, where we are and what we need to do to get where we are going.

1 COMMENT

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