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The poem ‘Not My Business’ is written by a Nigerian poet Niyi Osundare. This poem is a dramatic monologue and uses a fictional narrator to reflect upon how the Nigerian society is affected by the political and military misuse of power and authority in addition to the people’s rejection to revolt against injustice. The poet uses the narrator’s ignorant and selfish personality to display the abuse of power not only in Nigeria but also around the globe.
The title ‘Not My Business’ is short and simple to communicate the idea that South Africa’s socio-political status has not changed since the end of apartheid.
The tone is very direct and shows the narrator to be ignorant and selfish. In addition to this, the structure of the poem emphasises his detachment with the people; the lines in which the narrator talks about himself are kept separate by the poet to stress his feeling of superiority over others. However, the narrator suffers the same fate at the end of the poem.
The first stanza consists of Akanni being kidnapped. ‘They picked up Akanni one morning’. The poet uses the kidnapping to emphasise how the government’s attitude towards the public is like. The use of ‘they’ is an obvious indication of the military to the audience but is kept vague to engage the reader’s mind to the poem. Furthermore the poet uses ‘stuffed him down the belly’ to make the reader feel as though the government are like predators waiting to leap at anyone who opposes them.
Osundare also uses this stanza to elaborate on the soldiers’ relentlessness towards the people, ‘beat him soft like clay.’ He uses this line to show the cruelty and injustice laid upon the people, because of the abuse of power and violence used to discourage individuals who resist them. The word ‘clay’ helps to describe the methods of torture used to punish attempts at what the government calls transgression.
The poet goes on to show the ignorance of some of the people, ‘What business of mine is it so long they don’t take the yam from my savouring mouth.’ The narrator’s selfishness is shown by the mention of ‘yam’ which represents his food, comfortable home and self-occupied lifestyle, despite mentioning what happened to Akanni. Also, the poet uses the narrator’s eccentric personality to reach out to people who share a similar attitude. Additionally, the word ‘savouring’ helps to illustrate the greediness and materialism of the narrator in the reader’s mind.
The second stanza begins by showing the mysteriousness of the military, ‘They came one night’. This implies that the army can come at anytime and the people are never safe. The narrator further goes on to show the brutality of the military, ‘booted the whole house awake’, which suggests that the army has injected fear in the minds of people. An abrupt feeling is formed with the use of ‘booted’ creating a sudden sentiment of fear.
Furthermore vague terminology is used by the narrator to describe what happened to Danladi. ‘Then off to a lengthy absence.’ This emphasises the narrator’s desire to distance himself from reality. The poet uses the phrase ‘lengthy absence’ to show the narrator’s unwillingness to acknowledge that a threat is eminent from the government. Therefore the narrator regardless, lives with the atrocities that surround his society.
In the third stanza Chinwe is fired from her job. ‘Her job was gone.’ The poet once again shows the government can strike at anytime any day. Osundare uses the repetition of ‘no’ to emphasise that Chinwe was sacked without legitimate reason. He does this further with ‘a stainless record’. This shows the influence and injustice of the government in the society as well due to the incident occurring in spite of Chinwe’s innocence. The refrain is used to make the reader feel that the narrator doesn’t have any remorse or guilt for not caring about the other people around him.
The last stanza involves the narrator himself being taken away, ‘And then one evening as I sat down to eat my yam a knock on the door froze my hungry hand.’ The narrator’s tone is fearful and surprised. His ‘hungry hand’ shows his selfishness and greed. The poet uses alliteration to put emphasis on this.
Furthermore, the repetition of ‘waiting’ creates tension in the reader’s mind and stresses the helplessness of the narrator when his own words come back to haunt him. It also coincides with the second stanza where the jeep is also ‘waiting’ for danladi. Lastly, the structure of the stanza shows the irony of the narrator’s situation, that he also suffers the same fate as his neighbours.
The poem District 6 is written after apartheid by Tatamkhulu Afrika who is a white South African poet and is a dramatic monologue. Afrika amplifies his anger at the situation of South Africa by using a black South African narrator to show that discrimination is still widely active. The narrator feels the post-apartheid period should have been different. Throughout the poem the poet voices his disappointment with the racism and discrimination. The poet’s attitude consists of anger and frustration which is reflected and emphasised at the end of the poem where the narrator want to resort to violence.
District 6 is shown to now be a run-down levelled place, ‘Small round hard stones’. This quote displays to a certain extent how District 6 has not changed since the apartheid government destroyed the area. In addition, the poet uses the consonance in ‘small round hard’ to depict the hostile and unpleasant environment. Furthermore, he uses a bitter tone, ‘seeding grasses thrust bearded seeds’. This is shown by ‘thrust’ which carries an aggressive attitude making the statement resentful. This is emphasised by the continuous repetition of ‘sss’ sounds used in this stanza.
The narrator continues to stress District 6’s destruction, ‘trodden on, crunch in tall, purple-flowering amiable weeds’. He repeats the same idea twice using ‘trodden on’ and ‘crunch’ for emphasis showing the unchanged situation of district 6.
The poet further uses the narrator to show a sense of belonging to District 6 in the second stanza, ‘my feet…my hands…my lungs…my eyes.’ Throughout the stanza the narrator emphasises his recognition and ownership of District 6 as if he grew up there. His defiant tone suggests that he is demanding back what is his and continues to do this with the repetition of ‘my’. At the end of the stanza anger is shown which shows his connection with District 6.
The poet goes on to emphasise his anger at the contrast between races. ‘Brash with glass, name flaring like a flag, it squats’. He uses an aggressive tone to display his fury at the existence of a structure with thrives on racism. The rhyming ‘ss’ sounds at the end of ‘brash’ and ‘glass’ help to fuel the effect of anger in the reader’s mind. Also, the narrator shows how active and unopposed racism thrives through, ‘name flaring like a flag’. This shows the freedom of racism specifically because the inn is located in District 6 due to its significance in South African history. Furthermore, a mocking tone is used for emphasis with ‘it squats’, suggesting the white are occupying the inn illegally.
Tatamkhulu relates to the title in the fourth stanza, ‘No sign says it is, but we know where we belong.’ The narrator conveys a mocking tone which echoes the idea and base of the poem, coming from the title ‘Nothing’s Changed’, that the situation of District 6 has been constant due to whites still occupying it since apartheid. The stanza is used to remind the reader of the cause of the destruction of District 6 which happened due to racism and discrimination.
Furthermore, the poet uses the narrator to how his exclusion and separation from the white society, ‘I press my nose to the clear panes.’ This shows the narrator’s curiosity, but also suggests the existence of an invisible barrier, ‘clear panes’, between him and the whites.
In addition, the narrator anticipates and emphasises the lavish lifestyle, ‘know before, I see them, there will be crushed ice white glass, linen falls, the single rose.’ The poet creates an atmosphere of luxury and beauty in the reader’s imagination. The use of ‘single rose’ at the end of the stanza suggests an upper-class influence. The reader is made to feel anger and disposition to antagonism towards the unfairness and discrimination directed from the white society.
The next stanza leans towards the inequality still overshadowing the non-white society, ‘working man cafe sells bunny shows, take it with you, eat it at a plastic table’s top.’ The blacks are shown to be a lower class which contrasts to the upper-class whites in the previous stanza, despite the end of apartheid. The narrator also uses ‘plastic top’ to show the difference and neediness between blacks and whites.
The last stanza reverts to the main picture of the poem, ‘boy again…hands burn, for a stone, a bomb to shiver down the glass’. The use of ‘boy again’ suggests that nothing has changed since the narrator was a boy and the word ‘shiver’ reflects the frustration in the narrator’s mind. Furthermore, the use of ‘stone…bomb’ helps the reader to understand the possible causes of violence throughout South Africa to be like calls of anger against racism.
To conclude, the poem ‘Not My Business’ was written because the Nigerian public has no motivation to rebel and fight against injustice or tyranny enforced by the government. The narrator is shown as an example of what will happen to the people if they refuse to repel the injustice laid upon others and that they will eventually succumb to the same fate if they continue to be ignorant.
In the second poem, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ summarises that South Africa has not yet managed to overcome its issues of racism, injustice and inequality despite being in the post-apartheid era. The poem acts as a plea to all South Africans to come together and unite to create a civilised society with equal rights.
In my opinion, both poems share the idea that the people should unite and act against injustice and oppression, though in different ways; the message is universal: Unity will bring peace and harmony amongst the people.
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