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African Poetry: Who We Are

African poetry who we are

Who we are as Africans depend on who you’re asking

That beautiful culture of ours

Where pretty maidens sing during their Dipo

And display gorgeous dance steps at the Agroo

With their sexy appearance brought out to show

And beads, feasting men’s needs

Telling a story of how they’ve grown

Awaiting generational rites to be performed before taking seed

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Our society rejected sins

Because we were governed by superstition and taboos

That was when the forest was greener

The aged grew older

And the youth weren’t dying sooner

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Right now, we’ve accepted the Westerners’ own

Forgetting the customs of our tropical zone

And forced to hate our own

Following foreign ways as we go

A pure evidence that retards our growth

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Today changes everything

Today changes everything our ancestors toiled to build

Making this generation forgo the ways of our ancestors

Ignorant of what our ancestors toiled for

Forcing the indigenes to be Westerners

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Yet they mock us as monkeys in dark dungeons

Our culture is bright.

Going back to the root is right

Appreciating the black identity is nice

Because that’s Who We Are

 

Commentary

The poem begins with a sober introduction of the African woman, captured on the lens of festivals. There, we are familiarised with African beads, dancing to tunes (amidst dangling breasts), feasting of both the eyes and the mouth, etc. Above all, the poem captures the African woman as one who is heavily gifted with purity. “And we are waiting for the generational rites to be performed before taking seed.”

Stanza two of the poem explains why Africans were loyal to the rich traditions of our ancestors. “Our society rejected sins” is a solid point to buttress the fact that we as a people had traditional beliefs we believe in. Whether you’re a traditionalist or Christian, certain tenets of the African society kept us all in check, there was so much sanity in our societies back in the day. The poet captures ‘back in the day’ as the era for agricultural reliance for both the economy, business and for feeding. The stanza ends on the beautiful note that the aged were growing much older and the youth weren’t dying at unripe ages as we see now.

The third and fourth stanzas are lamentations of how everything has changed. The observation is a valid one, reflecting how our country has been torn asunder. “Forced to hate our own; following foreign ways as we go.” Sadly, we as a nation have abandoned almost every detail that makes us Ghanaian. Our food, clothing, language, radio and TV content, dressing, etc. has been infested with the foreigner’s ways. Today, how many of our citizens can use their mother tongue fluently in a conversation? That is what happens when we as a people have seen the corruption of minds and souls as a result of foreign this and foreign that.  “Ignorant of what our ancestors toiled for” is one of the ways the African has forgone our culture and are confidently portrayed as westerners. Today, can we proudly say we know the history of our towns, ancestors, how we got here or where we are heading? I guess not!

In the last stanza, the poet foresees a positive news that no matter our challenges, we are still Africans. We do have good customs, traditions and festivals which are colourful and beautiful. Donald Trump’s recent “shithole” commentary To Whom It May Concern is a reminder that we have to wake up from our slumber. We have to wake up to the realization that “Our culture is bright and going back to our root is right”.

We should start appreciating our own and make it unique because no matter what we do, we are still Africans. Dear reader, please note that whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us if we still believe in who we are.

 

Poem by Muhammed Nkansah Barnes

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