What are the characteristics of Postcolonialism that can be found in literature? (For example the poem "Piano and Drums" by Gabriel Okara)

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Postcolonialism is, as the word parts indicate, a period of time after the end of British or French colonialism in various parts of the world. As can be expected, it is characterized by opposition to the colonial conquerors, frequently focusing upon racial relationships and the effects of racial domination; in addition, the literature often indicts white and/or colonial societies. One such example of Postcolonial literature is this vituperative passage written by Elaine Potter Richardson, who changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid. She was educated in British schools in Antigua:

Antigua is a small place, a small island . . . . settled by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Not too long after, it was settled by human rubbish from Europe, who used enslaved but noble and exalted human beings from Africa . . . . to satisfy their desire for wealth and power, to feel better about their own miserable existence, so that they could be less lonely and empty—a European disease.

Despite the progress that is brought to countries under European colonialism, there is usually a resentment toward the Europeans who have conquered and subjugated the native people,leaving them to feel that they have lost their voices in their own land as a result. This conflict of identity is often an issue that postcolonial literature deals with as in Albert Camus's story "The Guest" in which the main character's loyalties are torn between the native culture and the French Colonial government.

In "Piano and Drums" by Gabriel Okara, the speaker expresses the affect of both cultures upon him; he cannot remove himself from the Colonial culture despite his love for his own. The first two stanzas describe a certain primal excitement, "simple paths" of feeling as the speaker is in touch with the land. Then, in the third stanza, he is transposed to a more complex world of "tear-furrowed concerto," the rule of those colonists from "far-away lands/" There are mixed feelings:

....But lost in the labyrinth
of its complexities, it ends in the middle
of a phrase of daggerpoint

And I lost in the morning mist
of an age at a riverside keep
wandering in the mystic rhythm
of jungle drums and the concerto

The "daggerpoint" is connotative of the danger and damage of colonialism that has affected the speaker who feels "lost" and "wandering" in a rhythm of the spirit that includes the duality of the African "jungle drums" and the European piano "concerto."

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