3 African Poems That Critically Capture Colonization On The Continent

oto: Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution


They say Art reflects life and during some of the intensely violent periods, African poets have produced works of arts that reflect the situation.

Usually, these poems take different angles and tones. While some opt for the satirical take on issues such as colonialism, neo-colonialism and traditional outlooks in life, others focus on their anger, protesting these issues.

It was not strange for these poets to get in trouble with the government and even corporations they chose to criticise. Some have been put to death and others have been injured in one or another.

Even with these consequences and the rampant censorship by the governments, these poets became a voice of the people.

Here are some poems that highlighted colonialism in Africa. 


You Laughed And laughed And Laughed by Gabriel Okara

You laughed at my song,
you laughed at my walk.

Then I danced my magic dance
to the rhythm of talking drums pleading, but you shut your eyes
and laughed and laughed and laughed

And then I opened my mystic
inside wide like the sky,
instead you entered your
car and laughed and laughed and laughed

You laughed at my dance,
you laughed at my inside.
You laughed and laughed and laughed.

But your laughter was ice-block
laughter and it froze your inside froze
your voice froze your ears
froze your eyes and froze your tongue.

And now it’s my turn to laugh;
but my laughter is not
ice-block laughter. For I
know not cars, know not ice-blocks.

My laughter is the fire
of the eye of the sky, the fire
of the earth, the fire of the air,
the fie of the seas and the
rivers fishes animals trees
and it thawed your inside,
thawed your voice, thawed your
ears, thawed your eyes and
thawed your tongue.

So a meek wonder held
your shadow and you whispered;
‘Why so?’
And I answered:
‘Because my fathers and I
are owned by the living
warmth of the earth
through our naked feet.’



Artistic representation of Kabaka Mutesa and his delegation. Photo: Princeton

Stanley Meets Mutesa by David Rubadiri

Such a time of it they had;
The heat of the day
The chill of the night
And the mosquitoes that followed.
Such was the time and
They bound for a kingdom.

The thin weary line of carries
With tattered dirty rags to cover their backs;
The battered bulky chests
That kept on falling off their shaven heads.
Their tempers high and hot
The sun fierce and scorching
With it rose their spirits
With its fall their hopes
As each day sweated their bodies dry and
Flies clung in clumps on their sweat scented backs.
Such was the march
And the hot season just breaking.

Each day a weary pony dropped
Left for the vultures on the plains;
Each afternoon a human skeleton collapsed,
But the march trudged on
Its Khaki leader in front
He the spirit that inspired
He the light of hope.

Then came the afternoon of a hungry march,
A hot and hungry march it was;
The Nile and the Nyanza
Lay like two twins
Azure across the green country side.
The march leapt on chaunting
Like young gazelles to a water hole.
Heart beat faster
Loads felt lighter
As the cool water lapt their sore feet.
No more the dread of hungry hyenas
But only tales of valour when
At Mutesa’s court fires are lit.
No more the burning heat of the day
But song, laughter and dance.

The village looks on behind banana groves,
Children peer behind reed fences.
Such was the welcome
No singing women to chaunt a welcome
Or drums to greet the white ambassador;
Only a few silent nods from aged faces
And one rumbling drum roll
To summon Mutesa’s court to parley
For the country was not sure.

The gate of needs is flung open,
There is silence
But only a moment’s silence-
A silence of assessment.
The tall black king steps forward,
He towers over the thin bearded white man,
Then grabbing his lean white hand
Manages to whisper
“Mtu Mweupe Karibu”
white man you are welcome.
The gate of polished reed closes behind them
And the West is let in.


The Cathedral by Kofi Awoonor

On this dirty patch
a tree once stood
shedding incense on the infant corn:
its boughs stretched across a heaven
brightened by the last fires of a tribe.
They sent surveyors and builders
who cut that tree
planting in its place
A huge senseless cathedral of doom.


Written by How Africa News

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