What is 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.

What is African Poetry?

Poetry is possibly the oldest genre in Africa. It began with themes, rhythms, histories, rituals, and ideas derived from cultures from various regions of the continent.

It was designed to bring people together and provide a platform for them to share common experiences.

This article will look at African Poetry and Its origins.

Meaning of African Poetry

Simply put, African poetry is poetry about Africans, written by Africans.

It encompasses a wide range of traditions originating in Africa’s 55 countries as well as evolving trends within various literary genres.

It is a large and complex subject, partly because of Africa’s original linguistic diversity, but primarily because of the devastating effects of slavery and colonization, which resulted in Africans across the continent speaking and writing English, Portuguese, and French, as well as Creole or pidgin versions of these European languages.


Understanding African Poetry and its Origins

Prior to colonialism, African poetry was mostly spoken in the languages of the people, resulting in mutual understanding between the audience and the orator.

Oral poetry was typically performed with vigor, gestures, and emotions. It could be found in songs, dirges, elegy, panegyrics, or riddles.

Then came colonialism, and oral poetry took on a new form, being transcribed into written form, and some of these poems lost their flavor and messages.

During this time period, the first generation of poets wrote poems with colonial overtones.

First Generation  Modern African Poets

Some notable names in the canon of first-generation African poetry include:

1. Kofi Awoonor

2. Wole Soyinka

3. Lenrie Peters

4. Chinua Achebe

5. P Clark

6. Sembene Ousmane

7. Ama Ata Aidoo

Most of them also used their languages to convey their messages to the audience. They wrote consistently on oppression, freedom, injustice, and independence from colonialism.

Second Generation Modern African Poets

The second generation was post-colonialism poets. They were a mixture of the first generation and new creatives.

They learned from the first and infused in their poems the struggles, falls off the new government, the vices, and challenges.

Some of them also made good use of their languages to pass out their messages and connect deeply with the readers.

They include:

1. Odia Ofeimun

2. Niyi Osundare

3. Ken Saro Wiwa

4. Jack Mapanje

5. Isidore Okpewho

6. Femi Osofisan

7. Mandla Langa

8. Tanure Ojaide

Third Generation Modern African Poet

The third generation is the combination of the second and new poets who witnessed post-colonialism and the changes it brought.

They wrote poems about the societal values, crises in their respective countries, and the unending falls of their governments.

They used poetry to create a voice for every African trying to survive and thrive in a society facing moral and societal decadence.

They include:

1. Titilope Sonuga

2. Yrsa Datey Ward

3. Ijeoma Umebinyuo

4. Michael Onsando

5. Abubakar Othman

6. Remi Raji

7. Femi Fatoba

8. Ogaga Ifowodo

9. Peter Onwudinjo

10. Bassey Ekpenyong

11. Nsikak Ekikor

12. Joe Ushie

Themes of  African Poetry

African poetry has come from a long history, faced obvious changes, and has been an impactful tool in political/ societal criticism, entertainment, and a way of keeping poetry alive and continuous on the continent.

Poets of the colonialism, post-colonial period included some of these themes in their works:

1. Colonialism

2. Liberation

3. Personal relationships

4. Traditions

5. Rootlessness

6. Religion

7. Mysticism

Now, in the modern age of poetry, poets in Africa are focusing their works on the healing, and purging of their countries and using them to keep the government in check and enlighten the society of the former ills, falls, and successes.

They also use poetry these days to bring to light the influence of western standards on indigenous cultures, its effects, and impacts.

The themes of their works mostly include:

1. Nature

2. Urbanism

3. Moral And Societal Decadence

4. Tributes

5. Hope And Faith

6. Political Criticisms

7. Emotions


Importance of African Poetry

African poetry isn’t just significant because of its connective settings, resonating storylines, and relatable languages. It is also important because of the following:

1. It increases our social and physical consciousness of the happenings in the society

2. It raises awareness and attention to social, political, economic, and cultural crises that affect the African continent

3. To communicate ideas, values, emotions, and beliefs of African traditions.

4. To appreciate life and the gifts of nature.

5. To educate, enlighten and impact the thinking of the societies.

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Nsikak Ekikor.

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