What Are the Characteristics of Contemporary Poetry in Africa?

The characteristics of contemporary poetry in Africa are described, by various sources, as having a distinct influence from African current events and recent history, including such themes as postimperialism, cultural upheaval and violence. These are topics present in previous centuries, of course, but many argue that the themes are still very much relevant in modern-day African nations, and the poetry published by the resident authors reflects this.

One columnist from Ghana’s poetry foundation writes that modern African poets see the poet’s voice in his or her society as the medium that expresses the pains, desires and thoughts of the people who commonly go voiceless in history. One poet, Wole Soyinka, has commented explicitly on this view.

African poetry also shows many characteristics of being a form of protest. This is because much of Africa’s modern history has been influenced by neocolonialism, cultural change and clashes between political parties and religious ideologies. Theorists commonly describe modern African poetry as having a postcolonial viewpoint, referring to the period after European nations tried to govern African nations.

Modern African poets often look away from the internal, individual struggle and instead shift the focus to the struggles of African nations still trying to develop after gaining independence from European imperialism. The poets write about the economic struggles of the people, the divisions of classes and the various other conflicts that modern day African nations face.