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The main concerns discussed in negritude poetry often involve African traditional themes, such as: masks (as part of ceremonies), a mother Africa trope, African folk tales, music (drums) and dancing, and stories among others.
Negritude poetry initially formed as a philosophical movement of resistance against European (mainly British) colonialism. The main areas that supported a return to a pan-African identity were the Francophone (French speaking) areas of Africa, like Senegal, for example.
One of the earliest supporters of the negritude movement was the Senegalese poet, Leopold Senghor. His poem "Prayer to the masks" embodies many African themes like masks, ancestral spirits and dance. It also praises Africa in general.
The poem begins with an invocation to the 'masks', and the poet asks for their guidance.
I salute you in silence!
In your image, hear me!
Now dies the Africa of empires—the dying of a pitiable princess
The masks act as ancestral spirits with whom the poet wishes to greet and seek help from the effects of colonial forces.
The end is celebratory, in the sense that African culture is praised.
He mentions what the colonialists think of them:
They call us men of cotton, coffee, oil.
They call us men of death.'
He responds with:
We are men of dance, whose feet take on new strength from stamping the hard ground.
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