“If You Want to Know Me” by Noemia De Sousa
1. The poem “If You Want to Know Me” by Noemia De Sousa makes use of body and wound imagery to create a powerful poem of great effect. The title of the poem carries a world of signification. It is a matter of choice for the reader; he/she can decide whether or not to know Africa and the African better. The world has hitherto turned a blind eye towards the problems faced by Africans. Signs of long years of slavery and torture find expression in the poem as powerful images. Again, one can ‘know’ a person superficially, and one can ‘know’ a person inside out. The poem is not all about knowing a particular person; it is about knowing the soul of Africa. And to understand the soul of Africa, one must first understand the African better.
2. In the poem “If You want to Know Me”, the poet Noemia De Sousa makes use of the history of Africa to produce a telling effect. To know Africa better, one has to first examine a bit of black wood which an unknown Makeonde brother cut and carved with his inspired hands in the distant lands of the North. The ‘black wood’ symbolises both the African and his/her lifelessness. Making a voyage through history, one finds the body of the African “tattooed with wounds seen and unseen from the harsh whipstrokes of slavery”. Signs of long years of slavery can be found on the body of the African.
3. To understand the soul of Africa, one has to
- Listen to the black dockworker’s groans
- Enjoy the Chop’s frenzied dances
- Bear witness to the Changanas’ rebellion, and
- Empathise with the strange sadness which flows from an African song, through the night
4. Yes, “If You want to Know Me”, by Noemia De Sousa can be seen as a revolutionary poem. The poem makes no aesthetic pretensions; it chooses to address issues directly. The concluding lines highlights the revolutionary leanings underlying the poem: “I’m nothing but a shell of flesh where Africa’s revolt congealed its cry pregnant with hope”. Yes the revolt is currently in a dormant state; still there is hope at the very end. The cry, the sigh of Africa was once pregnant with hope, hope of an imminent revolt. Over time, the cry has become congealed. However, through the narrator the cry gets articulated once again. The poet sings, “tortured and magnificent/ proud and mysterious/ Africa from head to foot/ this is what I am”. Africa may be tortured, but it is still magnificent, proud and mysterious. And there lies the hope, the hope of an imminent revolt. ( Use the same answer for Qn No. 6)
Copyright © Manu Mangattu, Assistant Professor, Department of English, SGC Aruvithura
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