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African poetry

African poetry begins with African themes, rhythms, rituals, and ideas, growing out of the culture of the continent and of different regions within that continent. The history of Africa has also been a history of colonialism, and the European powers that controlled large expanses of territory during the colonial era also left behind cultural influences which would become part of the artistic expression of African poets and other African artists. Artistic expression in any given age always develops from works, styles, and themes produced in earlier eras. The further back into history we go, the more difficult it may be to ascertain the source of a given culture and the art it produces. Contemporary African poetry, though, has roots both in ancient African expression and more recent European expression. This can be seen in the poetry of Wole Soyinka of Nigeria and Okot p'Bitek, and a key theme is the survivability of the human being in the face of forces greater than him or herself. Such a view can be linked to the way these tribes and nations survived the era of colonialism and so outlasted the European powers greater than themselves. It can be linked to the way the people have survived various nationalistic movements and civil wars which, however destructive, never completely wiped out the earning of the people for freedom and self-determination. It can be linked cosmically to the plight of man in a world buffeted about by the gods. It is a vast theme that can be manifested in many ways.

The idea of the individual standing against forces greater than himself comes from Soyinka himself in his writings about African drama. For both theater and poetry, Soyinka sees a merging of African and European influences. As Soyinka notes, African writing differs from that of Europe in terms of the different modes of thinking. There is a cast of Western thought which is a habit of compartmentalizing. There is an African sense of ritu...

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African poetry. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:57, July 01, 2022, from