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African poetry

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Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D.
The core of what African poetry is about is the primacy of beauty.

Whereas poetic emphasis for the ancient Greeks and much of the Western world has always been the “significance of the Form,” the artistic essence of Poetry for Africans has always been its Subjective aspects (related to God). This basic focus of Africans originated in Nature. Before Primitive (the first) Africans created the first words of the first language, they invented “Natural” Poetry—meaning it sounded the way it was originally created. For example, Primitive Africans first made Click, Whistle, and imitative (the bird’s “cau, cau, cau”) unspoken voice sounds that conformed to the beautiful rhythms of nature. Furthermore, they resorted to using mental imagery patterns (of the concrete and the particular) to begin organizing their psyche (Egyptian for “soul”) with the very basic structures of perception and experience. Such mental imagery production is a first and natural display of the human mind before it develops the ability to do abstract thinking. In pursuit of these ends Africans began assessing a given poem for its cognitive aspects because although it tended to suspend the aesthetic appreciation, it would eventually lead to a deeper understanding and a more intense experiencing of works of a similar nature. Over the millennia the beginnings of socialization brought the necessity for symbolic words. Out of this arose categories of speaking styles which served to validate ritual and belief as well as to promote conformity as part of the sense of community. Poets were encouraged to discover things that abound in differences and similarities.

To make poetry attractive, the village Groit or poet linked whatever touched the heart with the mystical. To stir blazing emotions they added metaphors, simile, and symbols as part of an elaborate exploitation of language. Groits typically sort ways to perfect their expression of the inexpressible in a manner acceptable to the elders. The objective was not only to grab and hold the attention of the villagers but to also do the same for the spirits and gods. For emphasis, the Groit would repetitiously use the essence of the verse so that it would penetrate into the audience. Essential to Very Ancient Africans was for a given poetic work to have a double purpose—an allegory—as a means of creating a “group spirit” or “group mind.” Sometimes it served to combine self-expression with the emotions, passions, and feelings of villagers; sometimes to show a story within a story; and sometimes as a symbol requiring imagination. Such Allegories also spread into tales, music, dancing, sculpture, and painting.  Cult poetry was sung during rituals for the divinities and as an aid in the practice of medicine.

Performance poetry extended into sacred dance, worship rituals, ceremonial possessions, religious drama, theater, and storytelling. The presentation style stimulated a “call” response from the audience (Bailey, Echoes p132; Afrocentric English)—a feature which remains today.

Early Swahili poems tell of many concerns and emotions of mankind—love causes pain; death takes proud rulers and warriors; the sadness of the fall of kingdoms; and the relation between the wisdom of men and the word of God (Jefferson, Roots of Time p85). Occupational poetry has always been a form of lyric poetry dealing with farming, fishing, and hunting in realms of human relations, family lineages, distinguished individuals, animals, and plants (Gordon, Africa p308). Ziryab, an Afro-Persian, made an enormous contribution to the evolution of Spanish Andalusian poetry, music, and singing in 822. The modern poet Senghor (Senegal) uses a creativity that sets the imaginary into motion by means of a flourishing of the imaginary as it moves through myth, images, and colors to meditations on time (Wiredu, Africa p555).

Special poetry—“meanings in rhythm”—is in the allegories of African fables, myths, and togetherness.

website:  www.jablifeskills.com

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0 # FRANCO CORNEL ZEMBA 2014-11-22 05:05
I agree with this article,the article has explained alot about the origin of our poetry,in fact we had our natural poems with a certian beuty,and still we need to go back to our roots to retain tha beuty of africa works of arts
0 # Brain Maina 2014-06-16 03:43
I am grateful for this article, it informs effectively with African state of affairs, it helps to thirsty the curiousity.
0 # ETIENNE NUMVIYUMUKZA 2013-05-25 00:55
According to our instinct , we ,Africans we had a particular origin and nature of poetry.African Poets used have made many poems which refer to the noble men such as :Kings and Queens,Prince and Princess as well as their gods.
0 # michelle Rangas 2012-11-13 03:50
very good Thnkz u 2 the many exanpLe that youve got given :)

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