Contemporary African Poetry: A Postcolonial Reading of Iquo Eke's Symphony of Becoming and Ifeanyi Nwaeboh's Stampede of Voiceless Ants.

AuthorOkiche, Ifediora
PositionCritical essay


Several contemporary African poets have examined various problems inherent in postcolonial African countries including Nigeria, they have also been able to correct some of the negative comments attributed to postcolonial Nigeria through their depiction of positive traditional and cultural aesthetics. Iquo Diana Abasi Eke was born in Uyo, Nigeria. She has performed her poetry on various platforms across Nigeria, usually to the accompaniment of folklore, embellished with traditional drums, flute and strings while Ifeanyi Nwaeboh is a multi-talented Nigerian prodigy, poet, academic and playwright. Modern African poets are faced with the challenge of exposing societal ills and injustices through their poetry. Eke and Nwaeboh's thematic concerns are topical and adhere to the ideological vision of Chinweizu, Jemie and Madubuike. In their critical essay entitled Towards the Decolonization of African Literature, Chinweizu et al asserts that:

A writer does have a minimum professional responsibility to make his work relevant... to his society and its concerns. He may do this by treating the burning issues of the day... or... by treating themes germane to his community's fundamental and long range interest (152). In their poetry, we observe that their fears, hopes, aspirations and frustrations in the post-colony are elaborately illuminated. They make use of elements that characterize typical African poetry which include oral tradition, myth and symbols. Nwaeboh advocates the right of the downtrodden in his society. His works therefore can be categorized as African literature written in English. Although an emerging poet from Igbo extraction, he believes that a writer should champion the fight against various forms of exploitation, Nwaeboh critic societal ills prevalent in his country. Nwaeboh's Stampede of Voiceless Ants unravels the socio-political realities in postcolonial Nigeria. Eke's Symphony of Becoming brings to light negative events in her society which she tries to correct through her poetry. Both Nwaeboh and Eke recount their numerous experiences in postcolonial Nigeria and are among the new voices that have emerged in the 21st century. The thematic preoccupations in Nwaeboh and Eke's poetry share similar distinctive features, the former is from the South-South while the latter from the South-East of Nigeria, through their poems, we are able to observe the ills that has befallen postcolonial Nigeria. Their poems are embellished with lucid figurative expressions that are rich in aesthetic beauty and elucidate topical thematic concerns. Their works seem not to have received serious critical attention especially by critics, hence the need for this paper.

According to Chinyere Nwahunanya,

The issues raised in postcolonial criticism includes the dilemmas of developing a national identity in the wakes of colonial rule, the ways in which writers (poets) from colonized countries attempt to articulate and celebrate their cultural identities and reclaim them from colonizers, how knowledge of subordinate people is produced and used (33). From the forgoing, it is pertinent to note that some of the major thematic preoccupations in postcolonial literary works are national identity, culture related issues, struggle for independence/ the aftermath of independence and emigration. Postcolonial theory therefore seeks to actualize the concept of various forms of resistance towards reclaiming a people's glorious past. In the analysis of Eke's Symphony of Becoming and Nweaboh's Stampede of Voiceless Ant one comes to terms with the hybridized nature of their works and how these poets have been able to blend Western and African cultural elements in their poetry. Using the tenets of post-colonialist literary criticism, this paper will critically analyze Iquo Eke's Symphony of Becoming and Ifeanyi Nweaboh's Stampede of Voiceless Ant.

Postcolonial Criticism of Iquo Eke's Symphony of Becoming

Symphony of Becoming is Iquo Eke's first published collection of poems. Her performance poetry is richly embedded in African oral tradition and culture. One finds verse collections embellished with aesthetic and utilitarian beauty, which is also educative and entertaining. Iquo Eke might have been influenced by African oral traditional of her people; oral poetry predates written form of poetry. Nkem Okoh rightly remarks that "virtually every occasion necessitates singing (poetry) and, for the composer, provides suitable material for the composition of new songs. Because songs permeate every aspect of African life and culture" (159-160). In Symphony of Becoming Eke's thematic concerns in the post-colony encompass different ethnic and racial boundaries. As a result of the hybridity of African literature in postcolonial Africa, one cannot but come to terms with the reality of culture contact between Europeans and Africans. Modern African literature (poetry) can be referred to as contact literature. By this, I mean the cross-fertilization of diverse cultures as a result of the colossal impact of colonialism in Nigeria and the African continent. This has significantly affected the nature of literary production across Africa and contemporary Nigerian poets of the fourth generation. Nelson . O. Fashina asserts that:

African literature displays the linguistic, gnomic and cultural symbols as well as oral verbalization aesthetics and convolution both of cosmic, ethereal and terrestrial space, which make it to maintain a unique identity even in its relative hybrid status (64). Eke's collection of poems showcases her as an emerging voice who has mastered her craft. In her poem, "I Set Sail", the persona celebrates her womanhood and her distinctive features which portray her as a...

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