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Having lived from 1932 to 1967, "gender" issues were not addressed as they currently and as they came to later in the twentieth century. Nonetheless, one of his dominant themes was "identity" and the "crises" of identity. Under this large canopy of individuals' and personal thematic concerns, gender issues are certainly incorporated though addressed in different language than later became typical. Here is an example of how personal gender issues might be included under the idea of "identity" issues:
On The New Year
To wait is to linger
With the hope that the flood will flow dry;
To hope is to point an expectant finger
At fate, fate that has long left us to lie
Marooned on the sands
The roots are nowhere
There are no roots here
Probe if you may
From now until doomsday
We have to think of ourselves as forever
Soaring and sinking like dead leaves blown by a gust
[...] (Christopher Okigbo)
Recent critics have strongly emphasized feminist approaches to Okigbo's poetry (see, for instance, the link below). To the extent that his work emphasizes female figures (and it often does), then "gender" seems an important aspect of his work. However, I'm really intrigued by the comment above that "gender" is a western construct. I would be very interested in learning more about this claim.
I have to agree that Okigbo's poetry is not about gender. Instead, his poetry is meant to be heard (given its lyrical quality). At the same time, Okigbo's poems, given that they are supposed to be heard, are meant to be felt. Therefore, I think that his poetry is not about the role of men or women. Instead, it about what the words mean and where they take the listener.
I currently think that it's hard to define gender in the context of Okigbo's poetry, because 'gender' is a western cultural term.
I think Okigbo's references to goddesses in his poetry are only a part and parcel of his mythological references used to infer what he wants to express, and not to give his views about women for example.
I think other themes make up a larger portion of his poetry, like religion and colonialsim.
What does anyone else think? Any ideas?
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