Introduction

David Diop, a French-African poet, captures the essence of Africa in his poem “Africa,” portraying both the country’s beauty prior to colonization and its sorrow throughout that period as it underwent a painful change. The poem offers optimism for a post-colonial Africa that will blossom wonderfully like a flower after being finally released from the oppressive, rusted shackles.

About The Poet

French novelist and researcher David Diop is an expert in literature from Francophone Africa and the eighteenth century. His studies at the University of Pau in southwest France concentrate on how travellers from the 18th century portrayed Africa in their travelogues and artwork.

Theme Of The Poem

David Diop’s poetry, “Africa,” is seen as a form of protest against the repressive French colonial power. He was sympathetic to all of his fellow men and women striving for freedom and backed the African revolutionary movements. In this poem, he addresses his feelings on Africa’s freedom and liberty.

Lines 1-3

Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings

Diop displays his adoration for Africa in the poem’s opening four lines. He is aware of his ancestry and learned about his country’s golden history through the stories his grandma used to tell. He also admires the courage of tribal fighters who boldly participated in warfare in the savannahs to resist the invasion of armed colonists. Even though they lacked normal armaments, they still retaliated in order to defend their territory.

Lines 4-10

On the banks of the distant river
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery

Diop was born and raised in the nation on the banks of the faraway river.  Despite growing up in France and never having visited Africa, the speaker is aware that he has African “blood” coursing through his body. The “blood” is what Diop uses to represent his genuine African identity. Diop refers to Africa as a person, speaking for all colonized Africans who laboured painstakingly to irrigate fields for their European rulers. Tribes and their culture were subdued by the colonists and their superiority complexes. All Africans who work hard under the hot sun, slave away nonstop, and serve under European slavers have the same blood that pours through the poet’s veins.

Lines 11-15

Africa, tell me Africa
Is this your back that is unbent
This back that never breaks under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying no to the whip under the midday sun

The speaker poses a sarcastic question to his motherland. He asks if the awful torture she endured left her back unbent. The poet implies the slaves in this sentence as bearing the load of “humiliation” for the rest of their lives on their backs by saying that they have “red scars.” They were tortured, yet their back is still “unbent.” They possess the bravery to reject the “whip” that symbolizes the cruel colonists.

Lines 16-23

But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
springing up patiently, obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
The bitter taste of liberty.

A voice reaches out to the speaker as he recalls how colonialism hurt Africa. She describes the Africa he is seeking for as a tree which is “young and strong,” standing “among white and faded flowers.” In order to contrast with the radiance of his own culture, the phrase “white and faded flowers” depicts the invaders’ civilization. Africa saw steady and positive growth. Its fruits gradually acquired “the bitter taste of liberty.” The tree’s fruits signify Africans who will gradually develop a feeling of nationality, black pride, and liberty. When that moment comes, they will stand up to claim what is rightfully theirs.