Home BOOKS ANALYSIS I REMEMBER by Naomi Mnthali (Malawi) ~ Growing Up With Poetry

I REMEMBER by Naomi Mnthali (Malawi) ~ Growing Up With Poetry

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I REMEMBER by Naomi Mnthali (Malawi) ~ Growing Up With Poetry

I remember, Countrymen,

The days of ‘Dawn Over the Land’.

Of hopes and expectations

When I truly understood

Slavery was a thing of the past –

We, the people of the land,

Had been freed.

I was there when slowly

Darkness set in.

The gradual destruction

Was there in front of me,

But I did not see it.

I continued, Countrymen, to live in the past.

And when I finally looked

It was too late, and even I

Had become a scavenger.

INTRODUCTION

This is a poem by a Malawian poetess Naomi Mnthali that tells a story of changes of power and of hopes being raised and disappointed. The poem refers to Malawian independence that brought hopes to the people of the land but later became only a nightmare or a daydream. Although it is about Malawian independence it can also describe other parts of African continent in general.

THEMATIC ANALYSIS

DISILLUSIONMENT/DISAPPOINTMENT

Most freedom fighters did not ever imagine that the post independence life would be like this. When they were fighting for freedom they believed that things will actually change in their favour.

 I remember, Countrymen,

The days of ‘Dawn Over the Land’

Of hopes and expectations

When I truly understood

Slavery was a thing of the past –

That is however not what it turned out to be. They are still living the life of the past and life has even become worse since they live like scavengers.

I was there when slowly

Darkness set in.

The gradual destruction

Was there in front of me,

But I did not see it

BETRAYAL

The leaders who took power from the colonisers have betrayed the common people most of whom took part in the struggle for freedom. The common people live the same life they lived before independence. To them independence makes no sense.

The poet compares this situation with destruction that lay ahead but he did not notice it before.

The gradual destruction

Was there in front of me,

But I did not see it

He even shows that while some people live the modern life; he himself lives in the past. The same kind of life they lived before independence.

I continued, countrymen, to live in the past.

And when I finally looked

It was too late, and even I

Had become a scavenger

POVERTY

A scavenger is an animal or a person who collects things by searching them from waste or unwanted objects. The poet seems to come from a poor class that was betrayed by the bourgeoisie class. This class always finds it hard to get their daily bread. They have become scavengers in their own free countries. They eat the leftovers thrown by the privileged few.

And when I finally looked

It was too late, and even I

Had become a scavenger

This situation is almost evident in all African countries

STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

The poet talks about “the days of ‘Dawn over the land’” what do you think this means?

‘Days of dawn’ means the very days when independence was attained and became like the outbreak of a new day.

There is one metaphorical expression in the poem. Mention it.

The metaphor is ‘…I had become a scavenger’ he compares himself with a scavenger.

‘I was there when slowly darkness set in’ what does this statement imply?

The poet confesses that he was aware as things began to change to worse.

What type of poem is this?

It is a lyric poem but a special form of lyric poems called aubade. This is a poem about morning celebrating the coming of dawn.

What is the tone of the poem?

The tone is unhappy.

How many stanzas are there? And comment on the rhyming pattern.

The poem has only one stanza with irregular rhyming pattern and unequal length of verses.

Comment on the use of allusion.

The poet has employed allusion in the first two lines by citing the very specific historical event of Malawian independence. He shows that he actually remembers what happened.

Is the poem relevant to Tanzanians today?

Oh! Yes it is. Like most African countries the issue of betrayal by the bourgeoisie class is common. So even in Tanzania most people live in the same situation described by the poet.

What message do we draw from the poem?

Ø Betrayal is not good in social and economic development.

Ø Those in power should recognise that the resources of the nation should benefit both the proletariat class and the ruling class.

Ø Independence was just a handover of authority from white colonisers to black colonisers, true independence is still to come.

Epilogue

Grace Nichols (Guyana)

I have crossed an ocean

I have lost my tongue

From the root of the old

One

A new one has sprung

INTRODUCTION

This poem was written by a black woman from Guyana (Grace Nichols) who later moved to England. It expresses important ideas about separation and a new beginning.

The poet says she has “lost her tongue” what does that mean?

It means she has adopted a new language. She no longer speaks her native language.

Which ocean has she crossed?

While she has crossed the real geographical ocean (Pacific) from Guyana – Caribbean all the way to England, “crossing the ocean” could also imply or symbolise other changes that happen to people. As she crossed the ocean she never remained the same because even her language changed.

What does she mean when she says “a new one has sprung from the root of the old one’?

Here the poet talks something about the development of languages. We all know that languages are dynamic (always changing) and that they borrow words and even grammatical structure from each other. Languages like creoles come of the blend of two or more languages. So the language she speaks originates/emanates from the old one.

What is the theme of the poem?

The central theme is separation and loss of identity.

The poetess shows that when most people move away from their motherland they tend to lose their identity and adopt the culture of the foreign land including but not limited to language.

The poem could be about Grace herself who moved from Guyana to England.

It could also be addressing all the Caribbean who left their homes and went to England.

But also all those people who left their own countries to go to the Caribbean in the last few hundred years, especially all those who were taken from Africa in slavery;

All black people all over the world whose roots can be traced back to Africa over the centuries;

All people all over the world, as scientists think that human life originated in Africa thousands of years ago.

1 COMMENT

  1. Along with the whole thing that seems to be developing inside this subject matter, a significant percentage of perspectives are actually relatively stimulating. Even so, I appologize, but I do not give credence to your entire idea, all be it radical none the less. It would seem to everyone that your remarks are generally not entirely justified and in fact you are yourself not wholly convinced of the point. In any event I did enjoy reading it.

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