POLITICAL RHYTHM IN THE POETRY OF JACK MAPANJE THE CHATTERING WAGTAIL OF MIKUYU PRISON AND OF CHAMELEONS AND GODS: THE SOUTH AFRICAN EXPERIENCE
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Literature in South Africa during the time of Jack Mapanje was protest literature. It has it roots in the unique political situation of the country.
The political Rhythm in South Africa is a policy of discrimination, which is also know as Apartheid and deceptively called a policy of separate development by the whites in South Africa.
By this policy of colour segregation, the white population is accorded a supreme position over the blacks and the coloured in all aspects of life are relegalled to the background. And this, is done with a full backing of the law of South Africa then.
The crux of it all is that the blacks even in their majority are totally helpless and powerless against the machinery of apartheid by the white minority that has entrenched it in South Africa.
Looking at the incarceration of these various writer and viewing things from their angle, Lovesey (1995) stats that:
It is important to re – state that imprisonment of African writers, often almost by definition politically engaged, is the incarceration of the creative national spirit seeking to define on celebrate national freedom. Silencing the national voice dehumanizes and recolonizes the antion.
The situation brought pain and toture to the blacks, since they were handicapped to carryout their wishes even on their own native land.
Black writers during this period, then saw it as a challenge to writer about the ills being caused by the white imperialist who invaded their country (South Africa) and the sufferings the blacks were experiencing.
This act of the black writers brought him in collision with the ruling whites. And from existing literature on poetry; its definition all over it is imperative to note that the various definitions of poetry are structured, patterned and modified based on tradition, culture, ideological beliefs and influence. This fact informs the political under tone in the poetry of Jack Mapanje.
In the words of Charles Bodunde: (1999), for instance:
Sometimes, the political activities of the modern African poets brings him into collision with those in position of power. The incarceration of writers is a familiar experience in Africa, especially where the political form assumes a totalitarian structure.
The South Africa experience is captioned in Bodunde’s above observation.Plator’s conception of imitation “implies a perception of literature as a reflection of the society”.
From the foregoing, it is obvious to the ordinary person the kind of pains torture and torments that the South Africa people face was borne out of the racial discrimination apparent in the African continent at that times. This racial discrimination is known as the system of apartheid where the white minorities see themselves as being superior to the black majority who are the original owners of the land. The system (Apartheid) predominantly resides within the Southern African region of the African continent the political condition is inspirational, motivational and brings to the fore the sufferings of the blacks in the hand of the white imperialist. The poems written by the poets during the period of incarceration shows the appalling brutal conditions that the poets and the citizens were subjected to. The tone of anger, compassion, depression, loneliness, hopelessness and pains were reflected in Jack Mapanje’s The chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prisonand OfChameleons and Godswhich vividly reflects all these degrading and dehumanizing aspects of segregation.
Jack Mapanje was the head of English Department University of Malawi, South Africa. The brutality of the government was shown when the dictatorial and authoritarian President, President Hastings Kamuzu Banda ordered his arrest, which led to his being imprisoned for four years. He was accused of “teaching subversion in the class”. His collection The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison, shows his reaction to the banning of his last collection Of Chameleons and Gods and his subsequent imprisonment in the famed Mikuyu Prison.
His collections brings to the fore the horrifying and brutal experiences suffered by the masses during apartheid.
Taking a critical look at the situation in Africa at this point when the collections were written, Africa and Africans were under the dictates and subjections of colonial imperial and neo colonial authority.
Also, some countries that have gained independence from the colonialist were being ruled by dictators and oppressors who plunged their countries into abject poverty and victimization of the citizens were rampant. This led to the protest in several quarters, which eventually led to he incarceration of many freedom fighters. This is mostly prevalent in the regions of Southern and Easter Africa.
To emancipate themselves, the people had to resolve to revolution’s of various forms, which include rioting sabotage and propaganda. The most effective and efficient weapon used during this period was writing the spontaneous and intrinstic strength arising from the collections in view (The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison and of Chameleons and Gods) is a highly determing factor which contributed to the success and eventually effects of the works on the ruling and executive class as well as the citizenry. These works have stood the test of time and is still relevant to our present day society where oppression and torture still regions supreme in some regions of Africa.
1.2 BIOGRAPHY OF JACK MAPANJE
The Malawian poet, Jack Mapanje was born in 1944, in Kadunga village, Magochi district on March 25 to be precise. He has a B. A and Diploma in Education from the University of Malawi an M. Phil in English and Education from the Institute of EducationLondon and a Ph.D in Linguistics from UniversityCollegeLondon in 1983. He is a poet and theoretical linguist. This is shown in his first poetry collection titled Of Chameleons and Gods publishes by Heinemann Books UK in 1981. The collection was banned and withdrawn from bookshops, libraries and all institutions of learning in Malawi in June 1985 for its political content. He was arrested and imprisoned without trial or charge by the Malawian government in 1987. In the mid 1988, the Present of Malawi- Dr. – Hastings Kamuzu Banda accused him of “teaching subversion in the classroom”. His period of detention was spent in Mikuyu maximum detention centre near Zomba. Although many writers, linguists and human rights activists including Harold Pinter, Wole Soyinka, Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky and others campaigned for his release, he was not freed until 1991. He was awarded the Rotterdam poetry prize in June 1998 before his release from detention. The Nigerian writer as well as the noble price winner in literature, Wole Soyinka, collected the prize on his behalf. The poems in his second collection The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison published in the African writers series in 1973 were composed while he was imprisoned, as well as most of his third collection of poetry, Skipping without Ropespublished in 1988. The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison (1993) damns the Malawian regime that incarcerated him. The collection highlights his initial reaction to the banning of his last volume in Malawi and there after his imprisonment in Mikuyu Prison. It also includes poems written since his release and exile from his native land.
As a respected theoretical linguist, he is the chairman of the linguist association of SADCC universities. He has also edited two anthologies with introductions; Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing (2002) based on degree course he taught at the University of Leeds, 1993 – 1996 and the poetry of David Rubadiri titled:
An African Thunder storm and other poems (2004).
Jack Mapanje lives in York and he is currently teaching creative writing and literature of incarceration in the school of English, university of Newcastle – upon – tyne. His latest book is The Last of the Sweet Bananas: New and selected poems (2004).
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY
Jack Mapanje in “The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison and Of Chameleon of Gods in made us to see the experience of Africans during apartheid.
The purpose of this research works is to explore the experiences of mystery, frustration, suffering, anger, condemnation oppression and loneliness the writers and other freedom fighters faced in their courageous act to raped the activities and atrocities of the government repel the activities and atrocities of the government of the day in their country.
This sub element listed above are the roots of the germinating free of political oppression which is discussed in the two collection of poems by Jack Mapanje of South Africa.
The aim of this study is to expose the incidences and events in the plot construction and from this extend the political undertone and rhythm that are beaten in the use of language, carefully schematized to give a picture of the actual situations of humiliation, and physical affliction on the South African citizenry man in South Africa is deprived of his human right even before his physical and conscious self.
The political rhythm in the two selected poems of mapanje The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison and Of Chameleons and Gods, are also better observed and exposed through the characterization technique implanted in the lines of either to supposed characters in the rhetoric lines used by mapanje.
This project is aimed at the exposition of the facets of politics and economic downtrodden using South Africa and the poetry of Jack Mapanje as case studies.
This sub elements listed above are the roots of the germinating free of political oppression which is discussed in the two collection of poems by Jack Mapanje of South Africa.
The aim of this study is to expose the incidences and events in the plot construction and from this extract the political undertone and rhythm that are beaten in the use of language, carefully schematized to give a picture of the actual situations of humilization, and physical afflication of the South Africa citizenry man in South Africa is deprived of his human rights even before his physical and conscious self.
The political rhythm in the two selected poems of Mapanje The Chattering Wagtial of Mikuyu Prison and Of Chameleons and Gods, are also better observed and exposed thought eh characterization technique implanted in the lines of either to supposed characters in the rhetoric lines used by Mapanje.
This project is aimed at the exposition of the facets of politics and economic downtrodden using South Africa and the poetry of Jack Mapanje as case studies experience. It is the hope of the researcher that this work will be supplementary aid to researches on South Africa poetry and on divergent researches based on the poetry of Jack Mapanje.
Many scholars have written on Jack Mapanje’s The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison and Of Chameleon and Gods. My point of departure is different from previous existing research on Mapanje because it will be examining and investigating the effect of misery, frustration and suffering its negative effect or consequences on the less privileged and writers and a focus on South Africa Apartheid period and also some other African countries with a focus on the work of Jack Mapanjes The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison and Of Chameleon Gods.
No literature review known to me has dealt with majority of the political rhythms identified in the lines of Jack Mapanjes South AfricaThe Chattering Wagtial of Mikuyu Prison and Of Chameleon and Gods. This experience, the reason why the research of this kind is justifiably necessary for better application of poetic analysis especially, the South Africa experiences. It is the hope of the researcher that this work will be supplementary aid to researches on South Africa poetry and on divergent researches based on the poetry of Jack Mapanje.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of this research covers the frontier South Africa region during apartheid the scope of this research also covers the political stagnation in other countriesapart from South Africa with emphasis on the artistic whole, which include language, tone, content and forms as well as style. In Jack Mapanje “The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison and Of Chameleons and God.
Emphasis will be placed on the sensitive areas that affects the South Africa populace in terms of their environmental conditions and economic dilapidation as a result of political mismanagement greed, incapability, and human subjugation. This aspect of political rhythm serve as the scope of the study expanciated upon in chapter three of this thesis.
1.6 ORGANIZATION OF CHARTERS
This research work will be divided into four chapters. Chapter one will include the introduction, purpose of the study, justification, scope of the study.
Chapter two is the review of literature of critical works, the authors and his works.
Chapter three shall contain the analysis of Jack Mapanje’s The Chattering Wagtail of Mikuyu Prison and Of Chameleon and God.
The last chapter, chapter four will contain the summary and conclusion of the whole work.
Charles Bodunde, “Poetry as a poplar Medium: A survey of Poetic Traditions Across Periods and Regions” in the English Language and Literature in English: An Introductory Handbook, ed. Efurosibine Adegbija (Ilorin: The Department of Modern European Languages, (1999), P. 263.