Arts & Entertainments

Diversified Unity, why Africans should patronise, use made in Africa

A good poem, notes Dylan Thomas, “is a contribution to reality… A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.” This is what Olaniyi Olajide Ayeni has done in his latest collection of poems titled ‘Journey From Freedom’. It not only celebrates the continent, Africa, as a land of beauty with a rich soil, blessed with both human and natural resources, but also it is also aimed at championing the cause for a better continent through his writing prowess.

But, as June Jordan also notes, “Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.” Ayeni, thus, interrogates the effect of the transatlantic slave trade on Africa and its quest towards a brighter future. Comprising 18 short poems of different leagth, ‘Journey From Freedom’ seeks to awaken us to the disturbing reality of the socio-cultural and historical development of the continent. The first poem titled ‘Visitors’ echoes how the whitemen deceived and enslaved Africans, noting that: “They arrived at our shores / With weapons and assured us / Don’t worry These weapons were meant for animals Yet they used it on us / They chained our legs! / Shipped us like shipments.” But in the following poem, he celebrates Africa as “the diamond in dirt / The bright star in dark worlds”.

In ‘Chained’, the poet laments that despite the abolition of slavery over a century ago, and asked, albeit rhetorically, ‘Africa, still in chains?’ He wrote: “Shackles clattering / Minds rumbling / Hearts aching / Ships waving to sea Nothing changed / We no longer have chains on our wrists or ankles / Many have them in their minds. Mindless choices / Mindless thoughts / Socially dependent.” Again, he ends the poem with a clarion call for freedom, saying,” Africa stand / Cut the ties and remove the chains.” For him, there is hope for Africa despite the religious-social-cultural and political challenges.

He thus urges Africans, and indeed, the black race, to be proud for her colour. In ‘Shoulder high, Too Tall’, he says, “Never look down on us / We stand 8 foot tall / You can’t look down on us Mentally strong / Our melanin shows no sign of weakness / Glazed with touring strenght Never look down on us / Africa is the diamond in dirt / The bright star in dark worlds.” He ends it on a promising note, saying, “The world awaits our stance / Our stand / Our rise.”

In the poem, ‘Wars never end’, Ayeni notes further: “The wars are over / They ended long ago. But I can still hear the gun shots / See the gunpowder in the air / I can hear mama’s scream / I can see papa’s blood draining Into cold soil. “The wars are over / They ended long ago / But they never ended in my mind.” ‘Journey From Freedom’ is not all about war, but, as the title suggests, it is about freedom – freedom from the shackles of slavery, freedom from oppression. It is also a celebration of Africa’s rich culture.

For instance, in ‘Diversified Unity’, the poet notes: “We are Africa / Diverse in every respect / Yet unified. We speak in different language / Yet we understand each other. Our fields are flourishing / Our animals multiplying / Our barns overflow with harvest We have wives we give us rest. We are Africa / An envy of continents.” From freedom to the celebration of motherhood, with the poem ‘Mama’.

The poet invites us to appreciate mothers, who, “like a mother hen / Her unwaning love and guidiance / Has guided me to the path I now swerve / Her care / Lantarn loving, mosquito hunter / I call her / She calms my nerves with jokes / Makes us forget we only had one meal today. “She rises early before the sun does / Her back finds the bed long after / The moon has found its space amidst / An assemblege of stars. Tomorrow, when I see mama / I’ll adore her with beautiful pearls / Call her mine and make her smile.” From ‘Palm wine’, which is “Loved by all / Enemy to none / Sorrows forgotten/ Nirvana attained to ‘Brand Africa’, Ayeni awakens us to the beauty of Africa, and her rich cultural heritage.

But wonders why, for instance, in ‘Brand Africa’, “The farmers at Ivory coast cocoa plantations / Never got to have chocolate melt / on their kid’s tongues. Ethopian coffe bean farmer / Never got to have a hot latte / The Beninan cotton picker / Wouldn’t mind to have a warm jacket / Tagged made in Africa. But Africa miner, says, deserves precious diamonds around his neck, and uges Africans to “Patronise Africa, use made in Africa!” In all, ‘Journey From Freedom’ is a must read rich collection of poetry that inspires and refreshes, celebrate and appreciate Africa, “Nature’ nourished child / Healthy across borders / From the flourishing savannahs / To the sahara deserts / Beauty is in the eyes of Africa /Africa is the eyes of Beauty.”

Significantly, he notes in the poem ‘Distant but together – Madagascar’ that “Distance should never / Seperate us / Blue seas should never / Stand in our way.” Ayeni is an author, a professional human resources management consultant, and a poet. As a native speaker and author driven by passion to write about Africa and Africans, the author has successfully written numerous articles for magazines and digital platforms championing the cause for a better continent through his writing prowess. His works has appeared in publications within and outside Nigeria. He currently resides in the United Kingdom from where he has continued to add his voice to the cause for a better Africa through his writings. He finds inspiration in greats writers like Wole Soyinka , Niyi Osundare and Chinua Achebe.

 

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