- Post 04 April 2006
- Last Updated on 17 October 2009
- By Anike
The inside of The Paradox by Francesca Yétúndé Pereira as seen by Oloju Guest
I have never been a fan of politics but artistic things have always caught my fancy, having had my own fair share of wanna-be-Maya Angelou days. So when I came across this poem by a Nigerian born daughter of Brazilian repatriates; The Paradox, I knew I had to share it. I thought to share it in it’s crudeness but the realization that not everyone would care to try to decipher a poem reared its oblong head. After all, of what use is speaking in tongues if no one is available to interpret? I chose to share my interpretation of the poem instead. The Paradox addresses the imposition of the customs of the whites during the colonization of
Disclaimer: This is borne out of someone else’s work, The Paradox.
“The Paradox” takes the form of a crucifix, indicating that the poem has a religious, very likely Christian, pattern to it. To reiterate this, the first stanza reads: “The cross, the icon / The disciples fought” (lines 1-2). The cross, just like the crucifix form the poem has, symbolizes the Christian faith. The icon symbolizes an idol god or deity. Placing these two on the same line indicates that the author may be attempting to compare the Christian faith and a non-Christian faith. The second line talks about some disciples fighting. Who are these disciples? It’s obvious that the author is referring to a group of Christians against a group of non-Christians. The concluding lines of this stanza shed more light into what the author may be trying to say: “The whiteman claims / His god supreme / And blackman muses” (lines 4-6). It is clear, at this point, that the Christians referred to are a group of white men and that the idolaters are a group of black men. The last conclusion that can be drawn from this stanza is that the white men are not just stating but trying to impose on the black men their belief that their god is superior to theirs; hence, the black men contemplate worshipping the white men’s god.
The fourth stanza supports the notion that
…. The world is constant in its chaos.
The world is crumbling and all gods are silent. Evil begets
Good begets evil. Watching. Wenching Eves, empty headed apes
Demanding, exacting. Their folly drowning in spirits flowing. (lines 16-19)
In the first line of this stanza,
The fifth stanza plays with concepts from the holy book of the Christendom: the Bible.
I find the paradoxical form of the sixth stanza intriguing. It reads:
The age old tree without, magnificent, proudly stands
Its yellowing leaves waft to and fro against the deep
Blue sky. The mind persists in calmness, and frenzy
Beats a wild resounding drum within the tortured heart. (lines 29- 32)
Here the speaker refers to a tree that had developed several years back, and a tree grows from seed till the end of its lifespan. Could the tree be referring to an aged human life that has grown beyond innocence? The prior stanza did make reference to the infant, so this idea is plausible.
To the end, the
The fevered drum still blind beats wildly fiercely on.
No crumbs fall from the orgies of the rich. Eves and apes
With licentious smell trampling the earth.
Under their feet the bones of infants. Disciples still
Fighting. Each god is mighty. The world is crumbling. And gods are silent.(48-53)
We see the word drum again. A drum is an instrument that produces sounds or pulses. The sounds produced by this instrument are also referred to as drums. What does the poet mean when she uses the word drum? The first place she used drum is on line 32, which reads: “Beats a wild resounding drum within the tortured heart” (line 32). In this context, she is referring to the sound made by the instrument. She calls it “wild resounding drum” (line 32) and implies that it is trapped within a “tortured heart” (line 32). It is safe to conclude that the “tortured heart” is the nation,
In line 49, she uses the term orgies with the rich. This indicates that there is some sort of secrecy behind the whole religious fight. The rites associated with their god profits the innocent Nigerian nothing. They trample over the hapless: “Under their feet the bones of infants…”(line 51). They pursued their political ambition at the expense of innocent Nigerians. I can relate this to the invasion of the non-heroic, albeit historical, Lord Lugard, the British colonial master of Nigeria (1914-1960) and his vicious Nigerian allies that sold their birth rights to Lord Lugard upon being promised crumbs.
With this invasion came their enforced Christianity, the same religion that preached love, but their hate knew no bounds.
With a brilliant infusion of paradox in her poem, “The Paradox”, Francesca Yétúndé Pereira reveals the cross of living in a colony controlled by apes and, if I may add, their often black counterparts: chimpanzees. She ends by stating that “The world is crumbling. And gods are silent”(line 53). The innocent citizens perish at the mercy of greedy self-imposed leaders pursuing their own political ambition, but neither of their politicking has been able to result in a policy that has benefited the nation.