The Grieved Lands of African (Background, Setting, Summary and Themes)

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The grieved lands of Africa
In the tearful woes of ancient and modern slave
In the degrading sweat of impure dance
Of other seas
The grieved lands of Africa
In the infamous sensation of the stunning perfume of the flower
Crushed in the forest
By the wickedness of iron and fire (modernization)
The grieved lands

The grieved lands of Africa
In the dream soon undone in jinglings of gaolers’ keys
And in the stifled laughter and victorious voice of laments
And in the unconscious brilliance of hidden sensations
Of the grieved lands of Africa

In themselves and with us alive
They bubble up in dreams
Decked with dances by baobabs over balances
By the antelope
In the perpetual alliance of everything that lives

They shout out the sound of life
Shout it
Even the corpses thrown up by the Atlantic
In putrid offering of incoherence
And death and in the clearness
Of rivers

They live
The grieved land of Africa
In the harmonious sound of consciences
Contained in the honest blood of men
In the strong desire of men
In the sincerity
In the pure and simple rightness of the stars’
They live
The grieved lands of Africa
Because we are living
And are imperishable particles
Of the grieved lands of Africa.
Disclaimer : This post is to help student read at ease for their examinations or proper appreciation of the poem, there is no intention at any point to be violent or redirecting to racism, tribalism of any sort, it is intended to enlighten and educate as it depicts what has transpired in the past.
Background of the poem
African land is seen as the main focus of the poem and it has go in long way ever from the start point of thing. African land is said to be aggrieved because of the impact of the over four hundred years of slavery the continent has witnessed, the subjection to slavery and servitude, the trans-Atlantic passage and many more as been traumatic even to the grand children reading about it, during that period millions of Africans were exported to different part of the world ranging from Europe to Americas ( both North and South) which include, US, Mexico and so on. Anywhere in the world where there are blacks, other than Africa herself, it could be concluded that they were originally there by force and other means of oppression but thank God for UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Right) of 1948 which is a branch of UNO (United Nation Organisation) general assembly which has taken it upon itself to strengthen human right among very many human in every walks of life. One thing this gives insight to is that they are not willing but are moved there by force, although all transpired in the part, races are now more civilised.
Futhermore, as if slavery was not enough,  Africa also experienced subjugation of foreign culture domination on there own lesser culture for adventure purpose, this is that, they not only suffer four hundred of slave trade but also subjugation and domination of their resources by Adventurist who are mostly capitalist in most well developed nation, this bring about the ideology behind colonialism and imperialism( The exploitation of foreign countries for economic reasons.
European colonizers ruled over Africa land for many years, although most African countries secure their independence by negotiations, some other including Angola- Agostinho Neto’s country-secured theirs through war.
Setting of the poem
The poem is set in Africa, said to be aggrieved. As you can see in the Background, one will conclude that Africa had been subjected to centuries of different kind of woes, sorrow, pain, anguish and tumoil in the hand of the European colonizers. They dealt with Africans in a very strict way and asif they were mere merchandise — usable, expendable and exportable. This African has really been made to suffer “the tearful woes of ancient and modern slave“. The colonizers and those who transport them for slavery pupose made them to experience “the degrading sweat of impure dance/of other seas” as they were exported in their millions in ships.
The Poet (Agostinho Neto) also picture out a visual imagery of what the forest do to 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 gaoler/jailer’s key”. They experienced “stifled laughter and victorious voice of lament” . However, the only thing the Africans believed in was hope even till this days and it really did kept their dreams alive: “Alive / in themselves with us alive“. All the same, Africans “bubble up in dream/decked with dances by baobabs over balances
Disclaimer : This post is to help student read at ease for their examinations or proper appreciation of the poem, there is no intention at any point to be violent or redirecting to racism, tribalism of any sort, it is intended to enlighten and educate as it depicts what has transpired in the past.
Subject Matter/Summary
The poem mainly focuses on the ‘grieved lands of Africa ‘, this is to remember the very many years of anguish and pain in the hand of colonizers, the Europeans majorly, he wrote that “tearful woes of ancient and modern slaves” . It recalls the tears of “impure dance” as the sea-going vehicles that transported African 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 25 -28 the “corpses thrown up by the atlantic” do not discourage the African consciousness. These are corpses of those slave that are being transport through Atlantic for the pupose of slavery. Not even the ” putrid offering of incoherence/ and death” would make Africans fail to overcome their years of distress and pain.
The poet also make us see how sorrowful the land called 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 imperialist point view who comes to foreign lands (Africa in this situation) to steal aways the wealth or other mineral resources for their own good, then after leave the land of Africa “the grieved land“. The reference to “lands” is an indication that the injustice to African was not at one spot but this is 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.”
The last stanza of the poem shows how enduring the land in itself is and of how it tenacity has sustained it over the years, the line 37-42 has it that “they live” this line is very emphatic. The grieved lands of Africa are not dying; they live “because we are living”. African are “imperishable particles/of the grieved lands of Africa.”
Themes derived from the poem

(A) Slavery:

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The poem chronicles the sufferings, agonies, dilemmas and hostilities that the African slaves are subjected to. The Trans Atlantic slave trade in Angola during the colonial era was one of the longest living memories. The poet bemoans and bewails the slave trade right from the first line “In the tearful woes of ancient and modern slave”. “The tearful wors” is a reflection of more than three hundred years during the colonial era in which Angola was part of that horrendous trade. The first stanza elucidates the fact that the predicament of the black man can be traced to ancient times when he was enslaved, not by innate faults of his, but apparently because of the capricious nature of his captors. Also lines 24-26 “even the corpses thrown up by the Atlantic in putrid offering of incoherence and death/ and in the clearness of rivers”. These lines paint the horrible experience and precarious existence of slaves as the discipline given to African slaves ranges from beating, starving or killing and consequently thrown into the ocean. The hard labour of slaves was used to feed the European commercial interests. Hence, the mental torture and the traumatic experience of African slaves are captured in stanza one with the following: “tearful woes”. “degrading sweat” and “impure dance”.

(B) Harrowing and Exploitative Colonial Experience:

The poem focuses on the destabilization of socio-cultural values and destruction of the African world as a result of the foreign incursion into Angola, for example, lines 7-10 show the debilitating impact of the advent of colonizers on the African way of life. The “flower” (line 7) that is “crushed (line 8) in the “forest” (line 8) is certainly the destruction of the African continent while the wickedness of “iron and fire” (line 9) that serves as instruments which commit the ruthless actions of destruction represent the Western colonizers. Also, lines 12-13 graphically paint the distress nature of incarceration of Africans during the colonial era. “In the dream soon undone in jinglings of gaolers’ keys/ And in the stifled laughter and victorious voice of laments”. The jailers jingling keys are another symbolic instrument to kill the good dreams of Africans. In other words, despite the mission of civilization, the foreigners engage in political and economic subjugation of Angolans. Instead of civilization, what ensue are slavery, economie disruption, killing and oppression of Africans and cultural alienation.

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(C) “Grieved Lands“:

The personification here is to demonstrate how African lives. lands, assets, cultures and properties are vandalized by the Portuguese who colonized Angola. The Portuguese built a new port in Benguela in 1616 to expand Portugal’s access to Angolan slaves as line one indicates: “In the tearful woes of ancient and modern slave”- The poet was imprisoned repeatedly for his political activism. The eloquent testimony of wasting innocent lives of Angolan is in line 30 “contained in the honest blood of men”. Actually it is not the lands that are in sorrow, “Grieved Lands” but the entire population of Angolan under the colonial rule as a result of conditions of deprivation, of desperate waste of both human and mineral resources.

(D) Message of Hope:

In the concluding stanza, the poet passes the message of hope for African continent. It is generally believed that Africans will conquer all odds and survive the predicament of colonialism as in lines 35-37. “Because we are living/And are imperishable particules/ Of the grieved lands of Africa”.

Other Themes include
1. Servitude – Ancient and Modern
2. Hope in Anguish
3. Tenacity in living
4. Africa as a grieved land

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