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Commentary of Rabindranath Tagore's Africa

Powerful Essays
Though written in response to Mussolini’s invasion of Algeria in 1935, the poem’s criticism of European colonialism in Africa can be extended to the host of European nations that ran the race to colonial domination. The poem is structured to mirror the evolution of Africa, with the three stanzas respectively dealing with Africa’s creation, colonisation and post-colonialism. This sets up the framework for the contrasting of the three periods, which expose the poet's impression of the hypocrisy of Western imperialism. For Tagore, Western imperialism in Africa has hindered the country's natural progression towards civilisation. This is emphasised through his ample use of anthropomorphism which offers a human dimension to Africa. The employment of pathos in Africa also conveys Tagore's conception of Western colonialism as driven by an ignorant sense of contempt that has ruthlessly robbed the continent of its innocence. The initial stanza introduces Africa from its very creation. Tagore describes the sea ‘[snatching]’ Africa ‘from the breast of Mother Asia’. The aggressive undertone of the verb, ‘snatched’ portrays the turmoil of the birthing process and it conjures an image of a child being seized from his or her nursing mother. The image, which cites one of the most primal human injustices, instantly discomforts readers. The line characterises Africa as an innocent child who is forced to be separated from her mother and whose nurturing has been stilted. This intensifies the effect of 'civilisation's barbarous greed' and exploitation by making it appear as a rape, thereby instigating a sense of outrage in readers. The personification of both the ‘angry sea’ who ‘snatched’ Africa and of ‘Mother Asia’, enlivens these elements of ...

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...s, so as to hone the contrast between Africa's creation, colonisation and post-colonialism periods. In stanza one, Tagore explores the creation of Africa and cleverly establishes a setting so primal and yet so admirable. This is followed by drastic tone changes in the following stanzas which disturbingly make Africa a victim of imperialism, thereby imparting to readers just a morsel of the hardship of African history. The poem also clearly illustrates the hypocrisy of Western imperialism in the final stanza, where Tagore's juxtaposition of images and words amplify this idea. Eventually, we recognise that the only form of redemption for such Western nations is through a plea for forgiveness that will come when they experience their own downfall.

Works Cited
Tagore, Rabindranath (1938), Africa, In R. Tagore, "Patra-Put", Translated by William Radice
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