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Kofi Awonoor, a late Ghanaian poet, wrote a post-colonial poem titled “The Weaver Bird.” It uses the weaver bird as a symbol to signify the arrival of colonists in Africa. A deeper meaning is effectively communicated despite the language’s simplicity. It portrays the colonizer’s invasion as well as the plight of the colonized people.
The colonizer established itself on the African continent, leaving them with little, as evidenced by phrases like “And lay its eggs on our only tree” and “ancient temples soiled by the weaver’s dung.” The phrase “excrement” conveys a tone of bitterness and resentment, demonstrating how Africans do not value the Western ways that are being imposed upon them as superior.
About the Poet
To portray Africa during independence, Ghanaian poet and author Kofi Awoonor mixed the lyrical traditions of his own Ewe people with modern and religious symbolism. In addition to publishing under the name Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor, he began writing under the pen name George Awoonor-Williams.
The University of Ghana was where he taught African literature. While attending the Storymoja Hay Festival in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013, Professor Awoonor was among those slain in the attack at the Westgate shopping mall.
The weaver bird built in our house And laid its eggs on our only tree. We did not want to send it away. We watched the building of the nest And supervised the egg-laying.
The poet opens the poem by telling us that the weaver bird builds its nest on the speaker’s tree. We can understand that the weaver bird symbolizes the Europeans while the speaker’s only tree represents the African continent. The first few lines give us an idea about the unexpected arrival of the Europeans to the African continent.
The poem reveals the ignorance of the African people and how hospitable they were to the weaver bird when it first visited them. Africans went as far as risking their only home to accommodate the weaver bird who felt so comfortable building this nest.
They equally supervise the egg-laying process which means that Africans too still watch the establishment of the European establishment without protesting as they did this to only show their hospitality to the weaver bird.
And the weaver returned in the guise of the owner. Preaching salvation to us that owned the house. They say it came from the west Where the storms at sea had felled the gulls And the fishers dried their nets by lantern light. Its sermon is the divination of ourselves And our new horizon limits at its nest.
After the weaver bird felt comfortable, he started claiming ownership of the African lands. The first line of this stanza reminds us of the period in which Europeans in their various explorations were in search of precious resources. It highlights the fact that after these Europeans found what they were looking for on the African continent. They retained the guise of the owner to pre-salvation to the African People.
This means that the Europeans use religion as a tool for the African mind to enslave them as people and take ownership of their lands and resources. The poet then again emphasizes the weaver bird’s tricks in preaching the gospel, introducing the doctrine of salvation to the African people, and also predicting the future of African lives by using messages from its book.
The last line of this stanza shows us the limits of the African’s new horizon, this means that the Africans have experienced a new culture and their new experiences are only limited by the laws and practices put in place by these Europeans. This stanza reveals the duality in the character of the Europeans who disguise themselves as the preachers of the world only to reveal their ulterior motive as time by to colonize mother Africa.
But we cannot join the prayers and answers of the communicants. We look for new homes every day, For new altars we strive to rebuild The old shrines defiled by the weaver's excrement.
Here there is a total rejection of the Europeans will by the African people. The Africans in this stanza are displaying a tone of anger and bitterness towards the ways of the Europeans as they are unable to relate well with their messages of salvation and peace. They deem it hypocritical of the weaver bird to preach two different messages at the same time.
They cannot, therefore, join the prayers and answers of the communicants. Towards the end of the poem, a speaker delves deeper into the dilemma of the current African who is faced with the European religion as well as African traditional religion. The Africans whose one new home has been claimed by the Europeans continue to search for new homes every day.
The final lines of this poem emphasize how the African traditional religion has suffered rejection in modern times because of the influence of the weaver bird. The establishment of schools, churches, and other European institutions are seen to be factors behind the development of the African shrines by the weaver.
Even though the shrines of the Africans have been defiled by the Europeans, they will not relent, they will continue to look for new homes every day and rebuild new altars. The poet in this final line sends a message of hope to Africans. He claims that Africans still have opened their stage for lost shrines and can’t strive to rebuild new altars.