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Feminine Archetypes in Ossie Enekwe's Poetry  by Catherine Schneider

GAYLE Rubin and Barbara Melosh in their book Modern Literary Theory: A Reader posit that “gender” is socially constructed. Their classic example comes from Nineteenth-century Victorian culture which Melosh notes,

described sexual difference in terms of the duties and obligations that followed from men's and women's inherent characteristics. Women's moral superiority made them ideal wives and mothers, charged with the solemn responsibility of guiding errant children and men. (“Introduction” 7)

Many socially constructed notions have been perpetuated through the literary works and philosophies of many societies. Elaine Showalter in her paper “Towards a Feminist Poetics” of the opinion that when “we study stereotypes of women, the sexism of male critics, and the limited roles women play in literary history, we are not learning what women have felt and experienced, but what men have thought women should be” (34-36). Hence recent Feminist interest in literary criticism is directed at exposing how ideas of gender, gender relationship are constructed and transmitted through literary works. This becomes the objective of this paper, from a Feminist theory, to assess how Onuora Enekwe's portrayal of women pander to archetypal inscriptions of women as either mother (the Madonna) or destroyer (la femme fatale) – masculinist portraitures which aid in entrenching contestable notions and myths of male superiority and female inferiority. In contesting phallocentric systems of thought and dismantling logocentricism, Feminist criticism challenges Masculinist female (mis)perceptions and (mis)presentations while simultaneously deconstructing patriarchal “systems of thought which legitimize themselves by reference to some presence or point of authority prior to and outside of themselves “ (Hawthorn 130).

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Onuora Ossie Enekwe
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History, Memory and Tradition in African Poetry     

by Sarah Anyang Agbor

POETRY has become a means of remembering history and documenting the oral lore of a people. It is a medium of transposing the culture of the people as well as exposing the abnormalities within it through memory. This study points to the function of African poetry, to educate, entertain, and moralize. It examines attempts to deploy elements of orality, history and memory in through poetry.
Niyi Osundare belongs to the third generation of Nigerian poets along with Odia Ofeimun, Tanure Ojaide, Ezenwa-Ohaeto and Olu Oguibe while Dasylva can be pitched in the fourth generation poets along with the host of Chin Ce, Esiaba Irobi, Onookome Okome, Uche Nduka, Chiedu Ezeanah, Usman Shehu, Kemi Atanda-Ilori, Idzia Ahmad, Sesan Ajayi, Remi Raji, Nnimmo Bassey, Toyin Adewale, Joe Ushie, Maik Nwosu, (Ushie 22-23) etc. It has been noted that the third generation poetry is characterised by social contradictions that are "resolved in favour of the masses" (Aiyejina 122), while the fourth and younger generation are more forceful in expression because their “impatience” with the prevailing condition of their country “has widened in dimensions of anger, hate, contempt and sheer distrust for the prevailing status quo” (Ce 18).
By definition, memory is the “mental faculty of retaining and recalling past experience based on the mental processes of learning, retention, recall, and recognition” (Stedman par.1). Poetic memory recollects past events or history (his story) which are can be couched in orality. Maurice Taonezvi Vambe notes how the notion of orality is broad and elastic, “including everything from allegory, folktale, spirit possession, fantasy and myth to ancestor veneration, ritual, legends, proverbs, fables and jokes”(235).
The recourse to orality in Africa is an attempt by her writers “to gain aesthetic independence from Western traditions involved the revitalisation of traditional African cultural modes. It was perceived that the use of elements of African oral traditions could become a powerful tool in the establishment of an alternative, oppositional discourse” (MacKenzie 348). Because of the influence and history of colonialism, the indigenous people resorted to their oral culture to create a sense of belonging and identity against imposed Eurocentric traditions. As Maurice Vambe states: “Colonialism's attempt to suppress African culture (had) instead (produced) a united community with the single aim of achieving freedom” (235).

 

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'Closer to Wordsworth': Nature and Pain in Chin Ce's Full Moon poems   by Kola Eke

FEW AFRICAN POETS have been concerned with nature and the natural world in contrast to English poets who have written much more on nature. In Chin Ce's poetic universe, mind and nature act and react upon each other to generate a network of pleasure and pain.In his theme poem, "Full Moon", there is the attempt to elevate moonlighting above the ordinary pleasure of communal life. It is a poem of the mind and its relations to the external world, signified in the "moon". The description of the moonlight compels one's participation with the speaker:

The passions gather with violent
crackling and nothing
can stop the animated fire. (33)

The influence of nature upon him is such that the "moon" is perceived as living. With Chin Ce, the moonlight should no longer be taken for granted, it is now gifted with passionate and energetic feelings. These very few lines show that one moment of communion with the great moods and beams of moonlight can generate enough "wisdom"... The speaker and the moonlight as travellers run into each other. Here, "crossroads" may suggest a sense of universality. It might be tempting to think of the poem as a dramatic monologue or lyric. There is some form of dialogue between the speaker and the moon, but this is revealed from the discourse of the single speaker...Although "Full Moon" is spoken by one person as he walks in the "woods" by moonlight, it does not have all the features of a dramatic monologue. For one thing, the foundation of the poem is not the revelation of the speaker's temperament but the development of his observation and feelings.

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The Works of Chin Ce
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British Racial Problems and the Poetry of Fred D’Aguiar  by Dilek Sarikaya


FRED D’Aguiar is black British poet whose poetry gives voice to the problems of black immigrants who were considered as the problem groups by the British public during the 1970s and the 1980s. Fred D’Aguiar was born in England but was sent back to Guyana at the age of two, to live with his grandmother during his childhood (Slade 1). D’Aguiar focuses on the problem of racism and its negative effects on the lives of black people in his poetry. He concentrates on both contemporary racism and colonial racism, and the psychological trauma of the black people caused by racism. D’Aguiar inclines to dwell upon the cultural alienation and psychological isolation of the black people in a completely foreign society, and their feelings of exile in a different society together with their desire to return back to their black African roots. The aim of this article, therefore, is to study Fred D’Aguiar’s poetry in terms of the problems of immigration and racism which shape social and political circumstances of Britain during the 1970s and the 1980s.
Racism, an “ideology of racial domination based on (i) beliefs that a designated racial group is either biologically or culturally inferior and (ii) the use of such beliefs to rationalize or prescribe the racial group’s treatment in the society” (Bulmer and Solomos 4), has been a highly contested issue playing a socially and politically important role on the contemporary global platform. Attributing different origins to each human community, racism aims at creating cultural, social and class barriers between people. The configuration of racial issues in contemporary Britain goes back to the social, economic and cultural impact of mass immigration after World War II, which took place after the loss of the British empire at the end of the 1940s (Solomos 3). The gradual racial re-structuring of Britain has been determined by its economic and Capitalistic interests which were essentially instrumental in regulating immigration to Britain (Brown 7). The homogenised structure of Britain is changed into a multiracial structure; as stated by Ian Spencer, “Britain had ceased to be a white man’s country” (2). This multiracial structure brought about a series of problems for the black people like “struggles to achieve equal opportunity, fairness in criminal justice system, equal access to good housing and obtaining satisfactory education” (Goulbourne 75). The problems of “health, social and community services” were the issues that immigrants had to face during the process of their integration into British society (Goulbourne 75). Entangled within such unpredicted problems as an outcome of immigration, Britain found itself endeavouring to restructure its social, political and economic laws according to the problems of immigrants. Black immigration was conceived as a threat endangering the British way of life since those people who immigrated to Britain, instead of incorporating themselves into the mainstream British culture, tried to preserve their own racial identity by creating a kind of counter-cultural identity in opposition to Britishness.

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Literature JAL #9

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Beyond Subjectificatory Structures: Chin Ce 'In the season of another life'  by GAR Hamilton

LIKE the works of many other politically-conscious Nigerian poets –such as Ada Ugah, Odia Ofeimun, and Niyi Osundare – Chin Ce's collection of poetry, An African Eclipse, is clearly concerned with the ethical and moral transgressions of Nigeria's political leaders in its post-independence years. Yet, one would like to demonstrate here how Ce's poetry offers something more profound than a simple sketch of the various past injustices inflicted on a largely poor Nigerian population by both civilian and military leaders following the official end of British colonial governance. Indeed, this paper argues that Ce's An African Eclipse conceptualises a non-personal force of Life that not only conditions a revolutionary way of being for its readers but also functions as an ethical principle that has the potential to become the antidote to the diseased morality of Nigeria's political leaders. ...For Ce, this simply cannot be said of the post-independence Nigerian political leaderships. Indeed, the political emphasis of Ce's An African Eclipse ensures that the collection is not without (many) examples of the impoverished condition of what one might call 'State thinking'. So, Ce writes of the profligacy of political administrations and the manner in which such recklessness and wastefulness is learned and repeated by the Nigerian everyman in the damning social commentary of 'Prodigal Drums'; he writes of the rampant egoism of Nigeria's political leaders in 'African Eclipse', which results in the social blight of self-interest and self-importance and claims of billions of dollars in oil revenues siphoned from the Nigerian economy by some Nigerian leaders and their families; and he writes of the willingness of the politicians to hide rather than disclose and resolve social problems and injustices, in the poems of 'The Second Reptile' and 'The Champ'. Taken in concert, Ce's cutting overview of State thinking presents a scathing indictment of a leadership that demonstrates a complete inability to empathise with, and react to, the experience of being a modern Nigerian. However, in Ce's essay 'Bards and Tyrants' one can trace the inability of the political leadership to form an appreciation of other Nigerians to a failure of thinking itself. Linked to his discussion of the degeneration of the integrity of the Nigerian university system, Ce reasons that the inadequacy of State thinking is due to the failure of Nigeria's political class to engage in deep personal thought at the hands of a 'liberating' literature:

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African
Journal of

New Poetry
NP. 3
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Broken Humanity: The Poetry of Osmond Ossie Enekwe     by FO Orabueze


OSMOND OSSIE Enekwe was born on 12th November, 1942 in Affa, Enugu State of Nigeria. He graduated from the University of Nigeria in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He earned his masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, New York. He is a scholar and a prolific writer whose teaching experience spans several universities in two continents: America and Africa. His international reputation is primarily as a poet, but he is also a theatre scholar, director, musician and novelist. Ossie Enekwe, like the English Romantic poet, William Blake, was apprenticed to an artist but his longing for education propelled him to abandon that career for education. His competence in these several professions bears on his works, especially on his poems. Today, his works are published in several local and international academic journals and books. Some of his poems, particularly those in his recent collection of poems,
Marching to Kilimanjaro, are already in Tijan Sallah's New Poets of West Africa.

Ossie Enekwe cannot be seen solely as a pessimistic poet; he also gives out rays of light and hope at the dark and dangerous tunnel of life in which man is a wayfarer. In Broken Pots, he believes that the cycle of doom of broken humanity can stop if there could be unadulterated love and friendship. And in Marching to Kilimanjaro, he advocates that the chains of bondage, servitude, humiliation, degradation, suppression and injustice must be broken by a bloodless revolution, where the 'rockets' and 'bazookas' fired to be replaced with new weapons: 'knowledge', 'intellection', 'work', 'love for truth and beauty'. The poet agrees with Richard Wright in his inspiring novel, Black Boy, and William Blake in the poem, "The Tyger" (Songs of Experience) that it is only through the power of knowledge that comes from education 'burning bright/in the forests of the night' that broken humanity can break the dams of inequality and injustice, which separate the mighty from the weak. It is only through this violence-free revolution that they can create an egalitarian society where all men will live in peace and love. The poet espouses in "Situation Report": But through knowledge, intellection and work, we will give this rage the firmness and potency of rockets and bazookas, streaking fast against the assumed permanence of injustice. Through love for truth and beauty, we will create the world where the hawk and the eagle can perch, none displacing the other.

 

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New [Nigerian]
Poetry Journal
Journal No. 2

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The Revolutionary Lyrics of Fela Anikulapo Kuti                by Albert Oikelome

BY the nineteen seventies, a unique popular musical typology emerged from the continent of Africa pioneered by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Afrobeat, Fela's musical synthesis from rhythm, jazz and highlife was defined by this fusion of foreign elements in a socio-stylistic musical framework whose roots are African traditional. Felá Anikulapo Kuti remained an enigma to his generation. Some said he was one of Africa's best musicians. To others he was a prophet. And to the governments that ruled in his time, he was an odious rebel. In all, Felá stood as an outspoken musician that employed his music as a weapon to propagate both political and social ideologies. His irresistible rhythms and instrumental composition were laid with originality that grew increasingly political and revolutionary in nature. Coker describes Fela as a brilliant artist:

He was able to establish an entirely new genre of resistance. He despised political corruption, and the persecution of the masses. Self-identifying as an artist of the people, he managed to upset the ruling class of his own society and to cast a spell of reform on the elites of other societies. (95-95)

Fela Anikulapo Kuti's music was unique in the sense that his fearless projection of anger released new creative possibilities. These resulted in his forceful, aggressive, socially and politically explosive lyrics.

 

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NP No.6

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Eco-critical Spaces: The Natural Landscape of New Nigerian Poetry   by Devapriya Sanyal


THIS Eco-critical reading of what is being tagged as ‘New Nigerian poetry’ uses the poetry collections Marching to Kilimanjaro (Enekwe 2005) and Full Moon (Ce 2001) to focus mainly upon how local poets in Africa perceive nature in their poetry, and what possible interpretations can emerge from their poetic representations of personae, subject and ideas with the natural landscape. Interestingly, as Eco-criticism attracts scholarly interest throughout the Eastern and Western hemispheres in the twenty-first century, arguments still abound concerning standards of practice, focus and the actual relationship between environment and literature. ...while discussions and propositions continue in the West, some eco-critics have been very busy creating “model” nature writings in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Mary Austin, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Wallace Segner, Robinson Jeffers, Edward Abbey, Gary Synder, Ann Zwinger, Wendell Berry and Barry Lopez while others have not been too idle in the narrativisation of scholarship as a method of imparting and exploring knowledge. For critic Lawrence Buell, this foregrounds the “liveliness” and not “consensus” that abounds in critical practice. For him this point of disparity is traceable to the concept of literature and environment. Our practice departs from those of mainstream Western scholars as described above and situates the investigation on the broadest definition of Eco-criticism as the imagining and representation of nature in literary texts. And so our use of Eco-criticism in this study shall be based broadly on the definitions of the concept offered by Cheryll Glofelty and Michael Cohen. According to Cheryll Glofelty, Eco-criticism shares the fundamental premise that human culture is connected to the physical world, affecting it and affected by it. Ecocriticism takes as its subject the interconnectedness between nature and culture, specifically the cultural artefacts of language and literature. (Ecocritical Reader 1996)


 
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Onuora Ossie Enekwe
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Song of the Season: Osundare's Lamentation for the Dead and Living         by Kola Eke

 

COLLEGE students who occasionally open an anthology of poetry are familiar with his name and with one or two of his poems. Some are familiar with such collections as: Songs of the Market Place (1983), Village Voices (1984), A Nib in the Pond (1986), The Eye of the Earth (1986), Moon Songs (1988), and Waiting Laughters (1990). However, this study will be entirely focused on Songs of the Season (1990). This is because of the conspicuous development of Osundare's skill in elegiac poetry. Osundare's critics have more frequently affirmed no impression than that of the fullness of the poet's participation in the socio-political affairs of his country. It has been asserted that the themes that preoccupy him are "social and political corruption, maladministration and mismanagement, deprivations and oppression suffered by the masses and concern with Third World situations" (Bamikunle 121). Another critic is of the opinion that Osundare has devoted his "poetic energies to the service of the exploited African peasantry (Ngara 177). It has also been pointed out that in Osundare's poetry one confronts "poetry of revolution and revolutionary poetry" (Jeyifo 320).

An aspect of Osundare's poetry scarcely mentioned by critics, but which is the subject of some remarkable poems and of central importance in Songs of the Season. Call him what you will, tragic poet, poet of the masses; the point is that a careful reader cannot miss the elegiac tone of a number of poems in this collection. Surprisingly enough, critics seem to lose sight of the lament quality of his poems, though this is a subject worthy of careful study. In Songs of the Season, some poems do share enough features to make them worth discussing together, and these poems can be grouped under the common elegy. Therefore, one makes bold to say that the lament over the dead and the living is no chance interest but one of his central concerns in Songs of the Season.

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NP. 3
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Post-colonial Power Tensions in Current West African Poetry     by Ama B. Amoah

THE Postcolonial discourse being that which attempts “…to elucidate the function of cultural representations in the construction and maintenance of “First- /Third-world relations” (Said Culture” 349) implies a perspective that is constantly aware of power tussles and the strategy of “negotiating with the structure of violence imposed by Western liberation to intervene, question and change the system from within” (350). Negotiating power, both on political, economic and socio-cultural spheres and its straggling motifs of social disequilibrium, hybrid cultures, high criminality, prostitution, gender inequality, et cetera, have provided the critical tandem that post colonial discourse in Africa must align with. This has been the preferred creative perspective of many contemporary African writers among whom Ossie Enekwe, Kofi Anyidoho, Chin Ce and Joe Ushie are significant voices. As Okafor avers:

A work of act is never created in a vacuum, it mere supposes a culture, a civilization which is the emanation of a particular historical, geographical, socio-economic and political circumstances hence geography, history, economics, politics are to a great degree … are indeed very important. (105)

This exposition of recent poetry from West Africa aims at reviewing existing power tensions in different social and political contexts of the African continent. It purveys poetry’s attempt to artistically subvert these structures for the enlightenment and empowerment of the people. For the purpose of this discourse, a single poem from each of their selected poetry anthologies shall serve as illustrations of how poetry has been deployed to undermine the favourite accompaniments of colonialism, western imperialism and postcolonialism in Africa.
Anyidoho Kofi is the poet from the homeland of Ghana who shares the belief of his compatriots in committed art. His poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies world wide. His four published books of poetry: Elegy for the Revolution (1978), A Harvest of our Dreams (1984), and Earth Child (1985) all show sentiments rooted in the traditions and culture of the Ewe. Although Kofi’s is wont to be elegiac in tone, it also reveals an artistic awareness of the African universe which situates life and death as a continuum of existence while sorrow and joy occupy the same revolving axis.

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Onuora Ossie Enekwe
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The Mythography of Tanure Ojaide's Poetry         by Ogaga Okuyade

To most African writers, there seems to be a formidable energy in the past which they endlessly invoke in their art in order to interrogate the calamitous present in the invention of a pellucid future. Benji Egede attributes this backward glancing as an avenue from which the writer is, "supplied (…) with symbols, images and techniques in addition to furnishing him with themes at public level" (67). It becomes an undeniable fact that the magnetism of orature on the social existence and life of Africans are evident in contemporary African literature. The pervasiveness of orature manifests to a large extent, the profound impact it has in the social formation, shaping and constitution of the geneology and life of a writer. Ojaide himself observes that "poetry in Africa is generally believed to be currently enjoying an unprecedented creative outburst and popularity" (4). According to him this popularity seems to arise from "some aesthetic strength hitherto unrealized in written African poetry which has successfully adapted oral poetry technique into the written form" (4). Although the scribal expressive medium is English, the poetry carries the African sensibility, culture, and worldview, as well as the rhythms, structures and techniques of tradition, which give credence to what is designated as "double writing" (Soyinka 319). Yaw Adu-Gyamfi factorizes such features to include "ceremonial chants, tonal lyricism, poetry of primal drum and flute, proverbs, riddles, myths, songs, folktales, the antiphonal call-and-response styles, and the rhythmic, repetitive, digressive, and formulaic modes of language use" (105).

....

In Ojaide's poetry, social existence is constructed through communal landscapes given in myth, folklore and common histories that provide a community with a source of identity. Ojaide develops this form of art by transposing traditional forms and images into the contemporary world in order to address more pressing post-independence concerns. Since the work of art according to Hugh Webb "arises out of the particular alternatives of his time (24), the historical circumstances that inform Ojaide's art is a real issue of this study.

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NP. 3
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“I Too Sing Zimbabwe”: The Conflict of Ethnicity in Popular Zimbabwean Music   by Joseph Chikowero


Zimbabwean music is often conscripted into “popular” garrisons, foreclosing possibilities of reading the power of music beyond mere entertainment. This paper attempts a critical thematic analysis of music by selected Zimbabwean musicians of foreign origin to illustrate their contestation of political and popular constructions of Zimbabwean identities. While the two musicians whose lyrics are examined here do not question their foreign origin, they challenge narrow, nativist constructions of Zimbabwean postcolonial identities that exclude citizens such as themselves who are, after all, not immigrants but are only descendants of colonial migrant workers. By challenging narrow, exclusivist conceptions of national identity, the Khiama Boys expose the postcolonial government's failure to move beyond colonial hierarchies, anxieties and categories that were concocted to drive wedges between various races, shades and ethnicities. The musicians propose Zimbabwean identities as essentially multifaceted as opposed to one identity that seamlessly traces its origin to one ethnicity or place of origin. This former position is made more plausible given that Zimbabwe's national borders are an artificial creation of British colonialists and the fact that many people currently living in Zimbabwe trace their origins to areas outside the country's national borders. In this vein, selected musicians of foreign origins articulate the failure of the Zimbabwean post-colonial nation to achieve what Benedict Anderson had termed “simultaneity”, that is “the ability to imagine the existence of an extended community in time, even without direct knowledge of other members of this community who exist at the distant edges of national space” (Szeman 7) This is within a nation that has generally not appealed to a mythic or primordial past for national legitimacy but rather “a communal project whose aim is to create a promising future out of a terrible past” (8) These musicians insist that in spite of the mark of “foreignness” they remain Zimbabweans, thus dismissing notions of national identity rooted in ethnic origin or place of origin. The paper exposes the schizophrenic character of Zimbabwean post colonial identity(ies) given its ambivalent relationship with certain prominent “foreigners.”

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Journal of
African Poetry
JAL No.5

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Revolutionary Strategies: The Poetry Of Odia Ofeimun            by Idaevbor Bello

With regard to the poetry of Ofeimun, there has not been much critical attention. In spite of this, however, those who have had to make one comment or the other about the poetry have not dealt with the steps by which Ofeimun believes revolution can be achieved in his society. For instance, Harry Garuba discusses his "… passionate commitment to public issues and social causes" (Ogunbiyi Perspectives 270). Egudu (Okike 79-92) focuses on the effort of Ofeimun in depicting the problems in his society. In her own contribution, Patience Iziengbe Osayande dwells on the mobilizing power of Ofeimun's poetry. Funso Aiyejina (Ogunbiyi Perspectives 112-128) sees Ofeimun's poetry as a product of the anger he has against his society. Tanure Ojaide ( Research 4-19) sees Ofeimun's poetry as merely an expression of anger against writers who are not committed to the people. None of these critics has focussed on the strategies by which the poet believes change can be brought about in his society. In this paper, therefore, we shall discuss the strategies by which Ofeimun feels revolutionary change can be effected in the Nigerian society; namely, knowledge, defiance, as well as resistance and physical destruction.

Ofeimum in his poetry tells us his objective is "to nudge and awaken them / that sleep / among my people" into action "Prologue" (TPL1). In brief, Ofeimun does not just capture and present the sordidness in his society to amuse those who read him but with the objective to make the people see the dirt and the pain around them so they can be adequately respond to it. Niyi Osundare observes that "knowing is ending evil" ( Songs 60). And as Aiyejina also puts it "…to ask the right question in a season of fear and lurking death is a revolutionary gesture" (127). Our preoccupation in this section is to examine how Ofeimun's poetry the pain and social decay in his society.

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New [Nigerian]
Poetry Journal
Journal No. 2

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Njange Wan: Birth Songs of Oku Women of Cameroun     by Frida Mbunda

PERFORMANCE like all other speech acts, is a communication system in which social discourse takes place principally between a narrator/performer and an audience. Malinowski in his study of Trobiad oral narratives was struck by how much was lost in the reduction of the oral text to print and the subsequent analysis of the material divorced from the context that gave it life. As Ben-Amos observes: "an oral poem is essentially an ephemeral work of art and has no existence or continuity apart from its performance" (1971:18). Coffin and Cohening also point out that "folklore enters a state of suspended animation when in print; it becomes alive again only when it flows back into oral circulation through performance" (1966: xiv). One gets a meaningful understanding and a deeper appreciation of Njange Wan more by observing the artists perform than by reading the texts. Finnegan asserts: "The nature of performance itself can make an important contribution to the impact of the particular literary form being exhibited" (1967:93).

Njange Wan is context-bound. The songs have their integrity impact and realisation only within the scope of performance, which is done on specific occasion. Malinowski makes an apt observation which is appropriate to Njange Wan: The text, of course, is extremely important, but without the context it remains lifeless... The whole nature of the performance, the voice and the mimicry, the stimulus and the response of the audience means as much to the natives as the text;... the performance has to be placed in its proper time setting -the hour of the day, and the season (1926:24.)

 

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African Literary
Journal
ALJ No.2
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Conflict Resolution in Oral Literature: A Review of some Yorùbá Satirical Songs   
by Arinpe Adejumo


CONFLICT, an ever-present human phenomenon in social life, is a universal one. The perception of individual action as a threat to the goals of another is the springboard for the different forms of conflict that manifest in every part of African societies. Attempts have been made to manage conflicts in Africa through Western approaches. However, total breakthrough has proven evasive. In the traditional Yorùbá society of Southwestern Nigeria, satire, a form of literary art, is one of the powerful weapons used to sanction erring members in a bid to forestall and, at times, manage and resolve conflicts. This paper, using the sociological approach to literary evaluation, specifically focuses on Yorùbá satirical songs as a way of demonstrating how traditional methods of ridiculing non-conformists could prove an effective strategy for conflict management and resolution.
Literature takes its root from the realities of the conditions and values of the society that provides and primarily consumes it. Thus, the norms and values of the society are transmitted and internalized into the audience or citizens through the various literary genres that exist in that society. Globalization and civilization are trends that have promoted a state of anomie in most parts of African societies as a result of cultural diversity and cultural integration which gradually culminate in perpetual conflicts. In contemporary Nigerian society, ethnic, religious, political, social, domestic and interpersonal conflicts are prevalent. Research findings reveal that attempts have been made to manage conflicts in Nigeria without paying attention to the deployment of traditional methods for the resolution of conflicts. Such methods in Yorùbá society clearly involve the deployment of satire, a form of literary art, in ritual and festival songs for the purpose of mediation, reconciliation and resolution of conflicts. Salient lessons could therefore be learnt from Yorùbá satirical tradition for the peaceful resolution of animosities that constantly arise among the various ethnic and religious groups in the African continent.


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Journal of
African Poetry
JAL No.5

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Riddle and Bash: The Creative Wit of Alaa's Children       by Chin Ce

LITTLE HAS been written about the riddle genre of Africa's oral art apart from scattered references in some research efforts by western scholars. Yet the riddles of African oral literature still survive as a literary genre in its own right with short diction and imposed meanings, stock devices and stock answers repeated almost word for word in communities where they flourish.l Among the children of Alaa the value of the riddle and bash contests is not just in the educational or entertainment motif. There lies some superabundant wit in the prolific deployment of imagery, epithets and symbolism from the repertoire of Alaa tradition and culture. Alaa's progeny themselves are regular contestants and have, over time, cultivated so much artistry in this artistic form that they must generally come to be recognised as bards in their own right. The creative genius in African literary tradition is often indebted to his immediate environment or larger society. It is the society that provides him with linguistic and literary traditions in terms of a common language or dialect, metaphor, imagery, and proverbs. But this in no way dims the creative vision that drives the spirit of his art and the genuineness of his work. 'Genius' here implies the artiste's ability to effect some variations on this body of existing traditional sources at his disposal. 'Some traditions allow for considerable individualistic expression,' says Abdulkadir. '(So) the poet must however rely to some extent on traditional forms and structures... and traditional materials in (his)... composition. (Abalagu, et al, 1981) Thus the evidence of performance reveals that it is the personal dynamics that must coalesce acceptably with the artiste's traditional repertoire in order to make the final piece a unique and aesthetically pleasing experience. This is what makes the elaborate riddle contests of Alaa a richer concatenation of expressions of intrinsic poetic value than ordinary riddles and one can agree no less with Jack Mapanje that 'the person who can complete the metaphor (and symbols laden in this art genre)... is well equipped to understand (great) poetry.' (Mapanje, 1983)

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Igbo Oral Poetry   by F. O. Orabueze

MAN has always expressed his feelings, experiences, expectations and dreams through the medium of poetry. Although there may be no final definition of poetry, all ideas about poetry centre on one thing: man's display of emotions in a unique language that is devoid of every day usage. To the Romantic writer, William Wordsworth, it is 'the imaginative expression of strong feelings, usually rhythmic…. the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility' (in Obi Maduakor 2) And for the Chinese poet, Kuo Mojo, it is 'the music invoked from men's hearts by the age in which they live'. (Mojo 1)

The differentiation of oral from written poetry is not the message but the form and structure. Oral poetry is essentially '… a collective enterprise handed down by word of mouth dependent upon the memories of listeners and story-tellers….' (Levitas xxiii). Traditional poetry is, therefore, the cultural heritage of indigenous people. Poetry to a critic and art historian is the song of the heart which touches on and rekindles the very living chords of human experience. (Otagbunagu & Okoro 5).

Poetry, which is the oldest of all the literary genres, is categorized into two: written and oral. Written poetry is the property of one poet or a group of poets and for the literate reader. Oral poetry, on the contrary, is the property of non-literate societies. Every African society is very rich in traditional poetry which is the common property of the whole community; the poet or groit or the praise singer and bard use that to express the communal vision of life. Abiola Irele agrees that African traditional poetry is culture-tied and handed down orally from generation to generation:

It represents our classical tradition i.e. that body of texts which lies behind us as a complete and enduring literature though constantly being renewed and which most profoundly informs the worldviews of our people and is thus at the same time the foundation and expressive channel of a fundamental African mental universe. (12)

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Rhythms of Combat: Re-visioning Igbo-Biafran War Songs   by Onyebuchi Nwosu


WAR songs are essential elements of Igbo oral poetry and pervade a huge part of Igbo and African oral repertoire. This treatise assesses the thematic imports of some Igbo war songs before the Nigerian civil war. It compares tendencies in war songs before and during the war while juxtaposing some relevant themes of war with the experiential testimonies of living witnesses to the Biafran war with Nigeria.
Conflicts are said to be inevitable in human existence. Misunderstandings frequently occur in relationships and, if they are not properly handled, often degenerate into a bitter and protracted combat. The general “state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict, carried on between nation states, or parties” (Free par. 1) known as war, leaves little to be desired for the ruin, destruction, suffering and debasement it brings to persons and places. The Biafran which war, which raged for thirty months from July 6, 1967 to January 12, 1970, witnessed great animosities, hostilities as well as atrocities. The theater of this violence was mainly enacted in Igboland, the main enclave of the secessionist Biafra. However, the Biafran war brought a new dimension to the employment of war songs in conflict. Some scholars are of the opinion that but for the effective use of oratory, songs and propaganda, the Biafran state would not have lasted as long as it did. Before this time, however, the phenomenon of war was not new for the people. Among the Igbo there were occasional inter-communal wars evidenced in their oral poetry and songs. Such songs were then referred to as valour or war songs.

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African Poetry
JAL No.5

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Edward Brathwaite's The Arrivants and the Trope of Cultural Foetal Searching   by Ayo Kehinde

One major strand that runs through the poetry of Edward Brathwaite is the quest for identity, an attempt to come to terms with a past that was overwhelming in itself “and still remains overwhelming in its undesirable intrusion into the present” (Egudu 8). Brathwaite's main artistic preoccupation is to achieve 'wholeness' through poetic reconstruction. For him, therefore, “the eye must be free/seeing --an attempt to retrieve his world through his poetic vision” (Dash 122). In fact, the importance of Africa in West Indian writings cannot be overestimated, either as providing alternative metaphors of cultural difference or as a fully developed Negritude.
The trope of Africa is a recurrent feature of West Indian literature.
Given this unified African heritage and shared commonality of the African historical experience, African and West Indian writers appear to consciously examine their African heritage in the literatures of both areas. Brathwaite's sense of awareness --most importantly of his historical position and situation in society-- finds utmost expression in his brooding, slow but progressive attempt to achieve 'wholeness' out of the debris of his past. His Ghanaian experience, no doubt, had opened his eyes to this possibility.

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Theory in Praxis: Matrifocal Feminism and The Lianja Epic         by Sharla Dudley

 

IN HER influential work, Feminism Without Borders, Chandra Talpade Mohanty discusses the divergent feminisms of Western and Third World origin. Mohanty describes U.S.-based feminism as class-centric and academic, located within a protocapitalist norm which avoids or ignores the need for collectivity. This feminism lacks the solidarity that Mohanty seeks, the “mutuality, accountability, and the recognition of common interests as the basis for relationships among diverse communities” (7). Mohanty's political solidarity and theory in praxis proposes that women pursue a collective empowerment based on understanding and appreciation rather than difference and pity. Similarly, there are preexistent alternatives to Western patriarchy and cultural imperialism being discussed by African scholars such as the contributors to the online journal, JENDA; these contributions demonstrate Mohanty's transnational feminist theory in praxis. Scholars in fields of study such as sociology and anthropology develop and utilize their perspective to increase understanding of African communities. Essentially, this recent movement reclaims feminism in a mother-centered African context, and so we may refer to this emergent school of thought as matrifocal1 feminism. The sociological foundation of matrifocal feminism offers a theoretical method for considering female characterization in African classical literature. This paper applies theories of matrifocal feminism to an analysis of The Lianja Epic, an African oral text. This application of theory is used as a means of investigating the characterization and political power of female figures in the narrative, and determining the cultural and literary contribution of the text to the discussion of transnational feminist community.
Matrifocal feminism and its “co-mothering” community offer a possible alternative and means for political solidarity. Oyèrónké Oyěwùmí rejects the globalization of the term sisterhood as a post-colonial form of Western imperialism (“Introduction,” African Women and Feminism). She points out that the term does not carry the same political or social meanings in an African context. In the place of this “sisterhood,” she prefers co-mothering:

 

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