Academic journal article Nebula

From the Local to the Global: A Critical Survey of Exile Experience in Recent African Poetry

Academic journal article Nebula

From the Local to the Global: A Critical Survey of Exile Experience in Recent African Poetry

Article excerpt

Abstract

The question of exile in contemporary African literature remains central to the understanding of its people. Of particular interest is the place of poets of the second generation in the depiction of this phenomenon. Although the paradigm of generational configuration is admittedly flexible, this paper seeks, nonetheless, to explore the perception of a few selected poets of the second generation from Anglophone Africa in order to illustrate the multidimensional approach to the engagement of the theme. By so doing, the paper is also concerned with the construction of home through its images, on the one hand, and on the other, the dissection that lies between home and exile in countries of destination in the West. The paper also hopes to explore the frustration that goes with the experience and the dilemmatic situation in which its victims are caught. It will show at the same time how from an initial standpoint of essentially internal sociopolitical and economic factors in regions and countries, things have gradually moved in the past three decades or thereabouts into an exponentially actuated and leveling stage in which globalization--as seen in its present fashion--has accelerated the spate of African citizens' vulnerability to exile, especially to the West.

Exile and African Poetry in Perspective

Considered in the orthodox sense for the purpose of convenient discursive departure, exile, that result of dislocation from one's native land, occupies a conspicuous place in poetic exploration in particular and literary expression in general. This is perhaps so because human history all the world over is characterized by elements and moments of dislocation at one point or the other. The veracity of this assertion is underscored by such assertion as George Lamming's (1960: 24) when he pronounces "The exile ... a universal figure ... and to be in exile is to be alive." But perhaps there must be an admission of an extremely allegorical twist to Lamming's apprehension of the concept as the context from which the assertion draws inspiration revolves around the capacity of overwhelming political spheres of influence to engender estrangement. More literally, therefore, exile must be viewed as a human condition which is defined by dispersal or drift usually against the wish of an individual or community.

The fact of humanity's vulnerability to exile is evident in the various circumstances and incidents by which it is necessitated. The circumstances and incidents range from war to famine to political crisis and in some cases, a dissident stance. It thus becomes understandable why the literary contents of peoples' cultural traditions, whether oral or written, are replete with engagements of dislocation. But it is to Jewish mythology and literature both in the distant and contemporary context one may turn in the assessment of the panoptic import of exile which usually verges into the derivative and problematized experience of diaspora. The triumphs and tribulations of exile are indeed expressed and evident in the representation of Jewish people in the biblical time as nomadic. The simplicity of this view is however blurred in the Pauline hermeneutics which inverts the literal understanding of Jewish identity by introducing an allegorical twist by which as many as are converted to the Christian faith--a theology that is complicitous with the civilizing alibi of western colonialism--automatically become Jews (Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin 1995: 332). Nevertheless, the all-embracing, spiritualizing liberalism of this Pauline philosophy is thoroughly compromised by the historical persecutions to which genealogical Jews have often been subjected especially in the western world, so much so that, the word Jew is a metaphor for the dreaded, rootless and rejected "Other" against whom all measures of exclusion must be executed (Gorge Mosse 1995: 196). But the condition of exile also appropriates a far larger horizon than the above as in the modern world, there is also a way it defines intellectuals (Edward Said 1994). …

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