African Poetry

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Does David Diop's poem "Africa" contain hyperbole?

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Hyperbole is a rhetorical device wherein a writer makes a statement or claim which is exaggerated. This could be through the simple medium of suggesting something has been done to a greater extent than it really has for emphasis, such as "I've said it a million times." Alternatively, it could mean using a metaphor or other emphatic statement which is not supposed to be read literally by the reader. In this poem, Diop uses the latter type of hyperbole for effect and emphasis.

The speaker in the poem is expressing the fact that Africa is very dear to him and is indeed part of him, even though he has never actually been there. He uses hyperbole to do this, such as when he states that the "black blood" of Africa "irrigates the fields." Here, what is really meant is that the effort and toil of black Africans are what have kept the fields watered and the crops growing; blood is not literally being used instead of water for the crops. Thus, this is a hyperbolic statement.

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There is no intentional hyperbole in "Africa." One could argue that Diop exaggerates the nature of Africa by suggesting that all of Africa is dark, humiliated, and warrior-like.  But, most would argue that that is not the author's intent.

More concrete, obvious devices from "Africa" are alliteration, apostrophe, parallelism, and paradox.

Alliteration = "beautiful black blood," "faded flowers," and "bit by bit acquires/ The bitter taste"

Apostrophe= the whole poem is an apostrophe. Diop addresses an object (Africa), or if one discusses his personification of the continent, the poet addresses an absent "person" because he is physically distant from his heritage.

Parallelism = notice the three consecutive lines from the middle of the poem ("The blood of your sweat/ The sweat of your work/ The work of your slavery")

Paradox = Diop's last line: "The bitter taste of liberty." It does not seem to make sense that one would have a bitter taste from liberty. But if the reader considers that America, a country built on freedom and liberty, built it on the backs of African slaves, the line makes sense.  Moreover, as more African countries struggle for liberty and independence, they face chaos, disease, coups, and various other difficulties which cause Africans to wonder if freedom is really worth it.

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