African Poetry: The Grieved Lands of Africa by Agostinho Neto Summary, Setting, Author’s
Background, Themes, Language and Style for JAMB, WAEC and NECO
Literature Students 2021 – 2025 Syllabus.
It is no longer news that the above selected poetry is among the
selected texts for literature students in the WAEC, NECO and JAMB Syllabus for 2021 – 2025.
Well we have decided to help students by providing some insights such as
background, poetic devices, themes, structure and about the poet summary to aid them
understand and prepare ahead of their examination.
ABOUT THE POET
Agostinho Neto was born in 1922 in the Angola town of kamikaze. He had his early education at Luanda secondary school. Thereafter, proceed to the University of Cumbria, where he obtained his medical degree, Agostinho’s bitter experience with the Portuguese colonial administration in Angola hardened his hatred of European colonialism in Africa generally.
Agostinho is the first democratically elected president of independent Angola, a former colony of Portugal. This was made possible through his activities in the movement of liberation of Angola (MPLA). He was indeed a true freedom fighter. Neto’s poems can be classified as protest poetry, based on his strong opposition to racial injustice, colonial aggression, and total misrule.
BACKGROUND OF THE POEM
Agostinho’s “The Grieved Lands of Africa” addresses the traumatic impact of servitude in African after over four hundred years of human slavery during which many Africans were exported to different parts of the world ranging from the UK (Britain, Scotland, Whales, Northern Ireland) to Americas (both North and South) which include, US, Mexico and so on.
The poem also explores the subjugation of foreign culture alongside its outrageous experiences of domination and exploitation of African resources by Adventurists for over a hundred years of colonization in which many got independence through negotiations but some like Angola; the poet country got theirs through war.
The poem is set in Africa as implied from its title as an aggrieved land. Africa had been subjected to centuries of different kinds of suffering, sorrow, pain, anguish, and turmoil in the hand of her European colonizers. The outrageous dealing with Africans as mere usable, expendable, and exportable are disheartening. “the degrading sweat of impure dance/of other seas” as they were exported in their millions in ships”
The Poet deployed imagery of the forest to explore the anguish it brings upon them as they were “crushed in the forest/by the wickedness of the iron and fire (modernization).
Some Africans like Neto, endured imprisonment as they regularly heard “the mingling key of the jailer/jailer’s key”. They experienced “stifled laughter and victorious voice of lament”. However, the only thing the Africans believed in was hope even these days and it did keep their dreams alive: “Alive / in themselves with us alive”. All the same, Africans “bubble up in dream/decked with dances by baobabs over balances”.
“The Grieved Lands of Africa” is a lamentation poem that explores the glaring injustice and the inhumanity against humanity perpetrated by the colonial administration in Africa. The poem focuses on the ‘grieved lands of Africa” as it is set to serve as a remembrance of the many years of anguish and pain in the hand of colonizers, the Europeans majorly, seen in line 2: “tearful woes of ancient and modern slaves”.This recalls the tears of Africans as they are transported as slaves bubbled up and down on the high seas. The times did not end with slavery but even within Africa during the time of colonialism.
In line 17-14, the poet tells of how Africa remain alive even in the face of all these challenges. It speaks of the courageous and fervent spirit of the Africans, In line 25 -28 “
Even the corpses thrown up by the Atlantic” does not discourage the Africans.
The poet also makes us see how sorrowful the land makes Africa was in line 6-16, where the poet motif of “the grieved lands of the African continent suffered from the “infamous sensation/of the stunning perfume of flower/crushed in the forest/by the wicked if iron and fire (modernization)”. The so-called modernization in this stance should be seen from an imperialist point of view who comes to a foreign land to steal away the wealth or other mineral resources for their good, then leave the land Africa in
However, the reference to “lands” is an indication that the injustice to African was not at one spot but this s all over the continent, using imprisonment- “the jingling of the jailers key” and comes after the “stifled laughter and victorious voice of Laments” as well as “the unconscious brilliance of hidden sensation”just all deriving from “the grieved land of Africa.”
In the last stanza of the poem, the poet shows how enduring the land in itself is and how its tenacity has sustained it over the years, the line 37-42 has it that “they live” this line is very emphatic. The grieved land of Africa is not dying; they live “because we are living”. African is “imperishable particles/of the grieved lands of Africa.”
a. The Theme of Grieve Lands.
In Agostinho’s” The Grieved Lands of African” grieve flows from its title through every stanza of the poem. it won’t be an exaggeration to say it is the major theme of the poem. The poet grieves over the” ancient and modern slave” experiences in the lands of Africa. He laments the untold sufferings, loss of lives, assets, and the cultural heritage of the peoples of Africa sacrificed on the bloody altar of western colonialism. The “stunning perfume. flower” in line 8 symbolizes the African continent that Was “crushed” by the “wickedness of iron and fire” of the colonial masters.
Here, Neto uses a historical paradigm to trace the origin of grieve in the lands of Africa.
He recalls the unbearable pains of slavery in the past, which has witnessed “a change of guard” from the African slave masters to the present western taskmasters of colonization. He protests the cause of grieve in the African sweety, he sees a future of agitation for fairness in the unity of purpose to put an end to the grieve.
b. The Theme of Servitude – Ancient and Modern
Apart from the dominant theme of grieve in the poem. we also experience the theme of servitude in the poem
Undoubtedly, the seemly oppression, injustice, and slavery perpetuated by the major western powers under the gUise of bringing Christianity and CIVilization to the African continent are portrayed in the poem. Africans were subjected to the most inhuman treatment not even meant for animals by the colonial masters.
c. The Theme of Hope in Adversity
The poet, nonetheless tells of the persistent spirit of the African even when faced with a lot of adversity. “The stifled laughter “in line 14, and” the unconscious brilliance of hidden sensation” in line 15.
All of these are indications that the subjugated hardship will last only for a while.
Neto’s “The Grieved Lands of Africa” is a poem written seven stanzas, 42 lines. The first stanza is simply an introduction of the poem that tickles the heart of the reader. Africans are seen as the unfortunate victims of “grieved lands” as the poet goes down the memory lane, by tracing the predicament of the black man. He narrowed it down to the period of slavery in Africa when Africans were enslaved due to no fault of theirs. He recalls the degrading inhuman treatment in the hands of their captors. He draws a contrast between the “ancient and modern slave” of colonization. In stanza two up to the fourth stanza, the poet continues to lament “the Grieved lands.” He uses the imagery of a “flower” that is “crushed” in the “forest” jungle, to enable the reader to visualize how the African continent was taken over by the “wickedness of iron and fire.” It explains the destruction visited on Africa by the western colonizers, in the name of Christianity, and civilization. In stanza five to seven, Neto talks about the untimely death of African slaves, who died on their way to Europe due to severe beating or exhaustion from starvation or simply murdered and were thrown into the Atlantic Ocean.
Finally, although the lands of Africa grieve as a result of the inhuman treatment of the western colonial masters, the harmonious sound of conscience” found in “the honest blood of men” mixed with” strong desire” and “sincerity” to exist “in the pure and simply rightness of the stars.” They live. Many were determined to overcome all unbearable sufferings to survive the western colonization towards independence and some attained independence through war.
LANGUAGE AND STYLE
Neto made use of appropriate words to narrate how Africans became the victims of “the Grieved lands.” This simplified it for readers to understand the anguish experienced in the hand of the Colonial Masters. The poet’s use of words was carefully crafted to expose how the ancient slavery of Africans, and the modern slavery of Africans by western colonial masters, made the black man grieve under unbearable inhuman existence.
The mood of the poet can be described as been emotionally grieve about “the tearful woes of an ancient and modern slave” perpetuated “by the wickedness of iron and fire.”
The reader is made to feel Neto’s grieve about the sordid experiences of the black man before and during the period of colonization.
The tone of the poet reveals his anger and agony. His voice is that of requiem against the intolerable condition of “the grieve lands” in Africa. Neto’s protest is directed at the racial prejudice and the worst inhuman treatment by the western colonial masters.
Inline two “in the tearful woes of an ancient and modern slave” shows the contrast between ancient slavery in Africa by Africans, and modern slavery resulting from western colonization.
The use of repeated consonant sounds in lines 14 and 20 are examples of alliteration.
“…..victorious voice of laments” line 14
“Decked with dances by baobabs overbalance” line 20
The representation of the Africa continent in line 7 as a beautiful “flower” and “forest” which are “crushed.” is symbolical. And The wickedness of iron and fire” that is responsible for the senseless destruction is symbolized by western colonialism.
The ” honest blood of men ” and the “strong desire of men” symbolized the determination and fortitude of the black man in “The grieve lands of Africa” to survive.
The title of the poem, “grieve lands” is an allusion to the inhuman treatment meted out to the African slaves, the racial discrimination, and a litany of “tearful woes” suffered by the oppressed Africans in thein lands.
“The grieved lands of Africa ” is repeated in lines: 1,6,12,16,30,39 and 41. Also, “they live” is repeated in lines 28 n 8, and 35.
The repeated lines of “grieve lands of Africa is n example of personification. The ” lands” are given the human quality of grieving.
The use of this literary device makes the poem easy to understand. Neto uses the metaphor of “tearful woes” to describe the unbearable sufferings in “the grieved lands of Africa.” Similarly, “The degrading sweat of impure dance, of the other seas” is used to describe the merriment of dancing by the western colonial masters amidst the grieve in the lands of Africa.
This is the use of expressions that creates a mental picture of what is being described in the minds of the readers. The repeated line of: “The Grieved lands of Africa” creates a clear picture of the untold sufferings and struggles of Africans.