Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in 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
Africa, tell me Africa
Is this your back that is unbent
This back that never breaks under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying no to the whip under the midday sun?
But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
springing up patiently, obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
The bitter taste of liberty.
- “Africa” is a poem written by the Afro-French poet David Diop.
- David Mandessi Diop ( 1927 – 1960) was a French West African poet known for his contribution to the Négritude literary movement.
- The Negritude literary movement, was born out of the Paris intellectual environment of 1930s and 1940s. It is a product of black writers joining together through the French language to assert their cultural identity.
- While in Paris, Diop became a prominent figure in Négritude literature.
- He died in the crash of Air France Flight 343 in the Atlantic Ocean off Dakar, Senegal, at the age of 33 in 1960.
- “Africa” was originally written in French but later translated to English. The French version has 24 lines while the English version has 23 lines.
- It is one of Diop’s most famous poems in which he explores the history of colonialism in Africa.
- He was known for his involvement in negritude movement.
- His works reflect his anti colonial stance.
- It is a patriotic poem that visualises the bitterness of liberty.
- This poem shows his deep seated anger in African slavery.
- It is a lament on the state of African continent.
- Poem starts with the narrator reminiscing about Africa, which he has not yet seen but knows from his grandmother’s songs of his childhood.
- His use of the word distance shows how far he is now from Africa.
- Diop lived his life transitioning constantly between France and West Africa, from childhood onwards.
- He lived in France throughout his childhood
- Despite not having been to Africa, he calls it “My Africa” to emphasise his sense of belongingness. We can feel how much he misses Africa.
- Poet’s agony is visualised in the repitation of the word ‘Africa’.
- Here he picturises vivid scenery of Africa.
- Africa is a land of proud warriors in ancestral Savanah.
- Here Savanah means meadows or Greenland. The African savanna ecosystem is a tropical grassland with warm temperature.
- He says his grandmother sings about Africa.
- The poet came to know about the history of Africa from his grandmother’s songs.
- Grandmother’s song shows the oral tradition of Africa.
- He says he had never know you means Africa.
- The poet didn’t spend much of his time in Africa
- Despite he is away from Africa he can not deny how much Africa is a part of him.
- He describes the “black blood” which flows in his veins as a descendant of the continent.
- He hails the beauty of the colour black.
- He says it with proud that the African blood is flowing through his veins.
- He says with stress that it is the blood and sweat of his people which is irrigating the fields of the colonialists without any benefit to the black people of Africa.
- The blood of your sweat, the sweat of your work, the work of your slavery worked for the benefit of colonisers.
- Diop goes on to urge the black African people to stand up to the humiliation and pain that they suffered in their own motherland.
- Africans were dehumanized and made to work out their bones on the white men’s plantation.
- He shows the need to say ‘no’ to the whips of the colonial masters who make them work under the hot midday sun leaving ugly scars on their backs.
- ‘Red scars’ represents the wounds received by Africans from their colonisers.
- He urges Africans to be strong.
- Poet’s query is answered by a grave voice. Grave voice is metaphorical.
- The tree “young and strong” represents the young African generation who are patiently but “obstinately” waiting for liberty.
- The tree is standing among the “white and faded flowers’’, by this line the poet means the colonialists who will fade in time while the youthful Africans will grow and seize their freedom from the invaders.
- The tree represent Africa. It is a symbol of growth and poet tries to show that despite all struggles, Africa continues to grow.
- The white faded flowers represents colonisers.
- Nevertheless, the poet is optimistic about the African future. He believes Africa still has a bright future.
- This poem carries a nostalgic and optimistic tone and typifies the philosophy of the negritude movement.
- In short the poem remains significant even after many years of “independence” of Africa from colonial rule because the continent still experiences neo-colonialism up to this day.
- Black people should not be under the illusion that political independence automatically translates into full independence from oppression and exploitation.
- Through this poem he expresses his hope for a postcolonial Africa.
- This poem is a dramatic monologue where the speaker seams to be in conversation with Africa.
- The poem can be the thematically divided into three parts pre colonial Africa, Colonial Africa, post colonial Africa.
- There are evidences of torture and exploitation in the poem.
- Oppression and humiliation were common practices in colonial time. They were used to force Africans work for colonisers without objection.
- In the very first line”Africa my Africa”Diop is having a conversation with Africa.
- Here in this line he used the poetic device apostrophe, in which a poet addresses a person or abstract idea as if it were really there.
- In lines like ”I have never known you,” ”Is this you this back that is bent,” he used personification in which non-human things are given human characteristics.
- In short Africa, the continent, is anthropomorphized and treated like a human.
- These poetic devices help us appreciate Diop’s internal connection to Africa as an ancestor or as a family member.
- Diop’s poem has a great sense of rhythm in both French and English.
- For this he used repetition, repeating words, phrases, lines, or stanzas.
- He also used alliteration, which is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words.
- Next the repetition of consonants throughout the poem. Example: ”Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields.”
- Another literary device is anaphora, in which a word is repeated often at the start of a line or clause.
- In some places he used anadiplosis, in which the last part of the line becomes the first part of the next line.