Maya Angelou

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What are some ways to visually represent the themes and techniques in Maya Angelou's poem "Africa"?

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Since you are focusing on visuals, I suggest you have someone read the poem aloud while you doodle with colored pencils, markers, or crayons (or a computer paint program).  It is kind of like a quickwrite with color.  After this, look at what colors and images you have drawn.  You can do this without the brainstorming, of course, but this way allows you to almost subconsciously pick up images.  Then you can apply the colors, your interpretation of the mood, and the images.

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For a visual display on a poster, you may wish to use the outline of the continent as that of a body of a black woman who has "lain" down. Envisioning the personification of the continent onto this body will provide depictions of the images of the first stanza.  For instance, Angelou describes the Nile as the tears that come from the eyes of Africa; her hair is "deserts," so depicting the hair as sandy with the undulating waves of the sand that has been blown by the desert winds will provide another depiction. 

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The most prevalent theme in "Africa" is that of enslavement. Throughout the poem the author provides images that support this theme:

"two Niles her tears" expresses Africa's great sorrow. (I believe Africa is personified as a woman: the "mother land.") "Brigands" offers the image of slave traders who "took her young daughters / sold her strong sons / churched her with Jesus / bled her with guns."

The second theme I see is of emancipation:

"Now she is rising..." and "now she is striding." These images give a sense of freedom—unshackled movement.

The final theme seems to be remembrance...a respect for the beauty and history of Africa. The land is described as...

"sugarcane sweet / deserts her hair / golden her feet / mountains her breasts..."

We can imagine how the land looked before the slavetraders arrived.

Remembrance is echoed again in:

"remember her pain / remember the losses / her screams loud and vain / remember her rishes / her history slain..."

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