Kofi Awoonor

Start Free Trial

AI Fact-Check

In what poem does Kofi Awoonor write about the significance of water in African societies?

AI Generated Answer

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kofi Awoonor, in his poem "The Sea Eats our Lands", writes about the significance of water in African societies. The poem is a lamentation over the destructive power of the sea, which is seen as a symbol of foreign invasion and colonialism that has eroded the cultural heritage of African societies.

In African societies, water bodies like the sea, rivers, and lakes have held significant cultural and spiritual importance. They are seen as sources of life, providing sustenance through fishing and irrigation for farming. They also serve as pathways for trade and exploration, and are often associated with various deities and spiritual practices.

In "The Sea Eats our Lands", however, Awoonor portrays the sea as a destructive force. This can be seen in the following lines:

Too many mourners troop to the dirges And the new songs are being born In the homes of death In the festival of the sea.

The sea here is seen as causing death and destruction, leading to mourning and dirges. Yet, it is also portrayed as a place where "new songs are being born," perhaps suggesting the resilience and adaptability of African societies in the face of adversity. This dual portrayal of the sea underscores the complex relationship between African societies and water bodies, which are sources of both life and destruction.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Yes, the generated response is correct, with no stipulations as to its accuracy. However, it is also worth noting that Kofi Awoonor uses water as a metaphor for what has happened in African societies in other poems, as well. For example, water is seen as a destructive metaphor in "Lament of the Silent Sisters," where he notes,

The flood was up gurgling through the fields
Birth waters swimming in floods of new blood.

Water is a negative force and likely metaphor for colonialism when it is a gurgling flood that is presumably taking over and ruining the fields and crops. At the same time, water is also the life source when it is "birth waters." However, even in the latter case, water can be negative. He uses the word "flood" twice in these two short lines and floods of blood conveys the death, rather than birth that the water causes. Overall, the word "flood" appears eight times in the poem. In "Had Death Not Had Me in Tears," he conflates water with positive and negative forces again. He writes,

Had death not had me in tears
I would have seen the barges
on life's stream sail.

Life is a stream but the water associated with death, in other words his tears, obscures his ability to see the stream of life sailing on. In "The Sea Eats our Lands," the poet decries the cultural loss that resulted from foreign oppression. The sea takes on human characteristics to identify its destructive power with that of the conquering colonial powers under which the characteristics of home, or African society, were forcibly subsumed to those of the uninvited conqueror. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on