The poem 'Not my business' is about a person who tries to remain detached of the recurring violence caused by the military and does not care about others’ suffering as long as he is not affected. It is a dramatic monologue by the Nigerian Niyi Osundare who uses the narrator to convey his opinion that injustice should push people to unite and fight against together. It is supposed to mirror the Nigerian society but can be applied to any part of the world where people refuse to rise up against injustices.
In this poem, the poet has used a narrator to convey his opinion towards the socio-political environment. The narrator's tone in this poem is selfishly unconcerned about his friends’ and neighbors’ suffering and oppression as long as his life is unaffected, thus reflecting the title 'Not my business'. Ironically, despite his belief that if he does not involve himself in these tragedies he will not be affected, he himself is taken away at the end of the poem. The poet conveys his feelings towards the socio-political environment through Akanni's arrest. They picked Akanni up one morning’. In this opening sentence, the military are deliberately depersonalized through the vague use of the word ‘They’, because a mysterious and potent force is much more ominous and menacing than a known one. Furthermore the narrator’s emotionless and detached tone is obvious from the very start. He converses casually as if he is talking about something inconsequential such as the weather which draws an angry response from the audience reflecting the poet’s own feelings.
The poet presents the narrator’s beliefs as disgusting and repulsive in the refrain in an attempt to dissuade people from becoming like him. The narrator does not care about other people ‘so long as they don’t take the yam from my savoring mouth? ’ The yam symbolizes the narrator’s life and the fact that he doesn’t care about other people’s suffering as long as he can enjoy his life. Also the word ‘savor’ suggests that the narrator is selfish and greedy. The poet does this to discourage people from becoming like the narrator, it is also a call for them to unite and work together to end injustice and oppression.
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Niyi Osundare expresses his views on the socio-political situation through the dismissal of Chinwe. She went to work ‘only to find her job gone, no query, no warning, no probe’. The fact that people are unsafe even in their jobs cements the fear of them (the military) because their menacing tactics extend to more than just violence. Anyone who opposes them or speaks out will be punished. Also, the lack of procedure in dismissing an employee further highlights the oppressive nature of the military as they take people’s rights without even trying to justify themselves.
This is underlined by the repetition of the word ‘no’ three times. Furthermore, the fact that Chinwe’s job is gone further emphasizes the military’s cold and merciless nature as she will have no way of supporting herself again emphasizing that we should unite and fight against tyranny and oppression. The poet conveys his opinions on the socio-political situation through his description of the narrator’s end. The narrator ‘sat down to eat yam, a knock on the door froze my hungry hand; the jeep was waiting on my bewildered lawn, waiting, waiting in its usual silence’.
The ending is ironic as the narrator believed that as long as he stayed detached from everything; his life would not get affected. However, this is not the case which is revealed by the description of the lawn as ‘bewildered’ as an echo of his own surprised feelings that the military have come for him. Furthermore, the repetition of the word ‘waiting’ is used deliberately to create tension and reminds us of the predatory and beast-like jeep in the first stanza. The poem 'Nothing's changed' which is set in post-apartheid South Africa also shows how oppression and injustices can occur.
It was written by Tatamkhulu Afrika as an observation of how, despite Nelson Mandela’s party overthrowing the racist apartheid party, the situation for black South Africans has not changed. The poet uses a narrator in a dramatic monologue to convey his sadness which later turns to anger because of the oppression and injustice blacks are subjected to while whites live a lavish, luxurious life. It is also implied ominously that if change does not occur, violence will spread throughout the country. Tatamkhulu Afrika conveys his opinion towards the socio-political environment through his use of language in the first stanza. Hard stones click', 'weeds' and trodden on' all reveal his anger at how District 6 has become a hostile wasteland. It also shows his anger at the Apartheid government as they destroyed his home and roots. Furthermore, the use of alliteration and aggressive consonants like 'sss' help to convey his fury towards the oppression and injustice that the black race is still suffering from.
The poet further reveals his views on the socio-political environment through his revelation of the narrator's pain and longing for his home. 'District 6. The short sentence helps to emphasize the narrator's longing and disappointment at how his home was destroyed. Also, the fact that the line is end stopped and isolated helps mirror the fact that District 6 itself was isolated from the rest of the city due to its harbouring many people of different races. The poet goes on to show his feelings towards the socio-political development through the narrator’s connection with the land. The repetition of the word ‘my’ and his constant references to his body and organs help reveal the poet’s own feelings.
The fact that the narrator uses the word ‘my’ and keeps repeating it shows that he views the land as more than just a place to eat and sleep, he needs it to survive, it is part of his identity. In addition to this, the description of his eyes as ‘hot, white,’ emphasizes the intensity of his anger and gives the idea that he is almost going mad because of it. Furthermore, the image of his eyes ‘turning inwards’ is quite grotesque and disturbing which shows how terrible his anger is because it is causing him pain and discomfort.
Also, it also shows the transition from his disappointment into anger. Tatamkhulu Afrika conveys his views towards the socio-political environment through his description of the whites’ only inn. The people there are described as ‘squatters’ and the inn itself are ‘new, up market, with incipient Port Jackson trees’. The fact that the whites are described as squatters helps portray them as if they are there illegally and it also helps create the image that they are defouling the land with their racist actions.
Also, the fact that Port Jackson trees, found on the other side of the coast of South Africa, are shipped all the way to this white inn emphasizes the luxury and lavishness that the whites live in contrasting the poor state of District 6 and working men’s cafe. The poet reveals his feelings towards the socio-political environment through the narrator’s tone about the whites’ only inn. He says ‘No sign says it is: but we know where we belong’. The first verse echoes ‘District 6’ of the second stanza ‘no board says it is’ which emphasizes the fact that nothing really has changed about the black people’s situation.
In addition to this, the narrator is being cynical and ironic about how he knows it is a white’s only inn and he will not enter. He bitterly pretends that he will follow the rules and not enter the inn which informs the reader about his resentful and angry attitude towards the situation. The poet also shows his views towards the socio-political development through his description of black eating areas. ‘Down the road, bunny chows. Take it with you eat, wipe your fingers on your jeans it’s in the bone. ’ The narrator is now showing the guard’s implied meaning that blacks should eat from the working man’s cafe and not from this luxurious inn.
It further emphasizes that despite the change in the government, there is still oppression and injustice on the black’s behalf reflecting the title ‘Nothing’s changed’. Furthermore, ‘wipe your fingers on your jeans, it’s in the bone. ’ shows that the whites do not think the blacks are as civilized as they are which is shown as the guard tells the narrator to ‘wipe his fingers on his jeans’ instead of washing or using a tissue. Tatamkhulu Afrika expresses his views on the socio-political environment in the final stanza through the description of the narrator’s feelings. I back away from the glass, boy again, hands burn for a stone, a bomb, to shiver down the glass. The narrator describes his hands as ‘burning’ for a bomb to destroy the inn which shows how intense his anger is and how it is pushing him to violence. Also, the narrator describes himself as ‘a boy again’ as if the situation is exactly the same as when he was a child which further emphasises that nothing has changed for the black situation. To conclude, Niyi Osundare conveys his opinions on the socio-political situation through his descriptions of Akanni’s arrest, Chinwe’s dismissal, the narrator’s arrest and his portrayal of the narrator.
I believe that Niyi Osundare is completely correct in his opinion that people should unite to end injustice and oppression. I think this because if everyone thought only about themselves then they would be easy to capture and control. However, a large group of people are harder to stop and are stronger as a group than as divided entities. Also, to conclude Nothing’s changed, Tatamkhulu Afrika conveys his views on the socio-political environment through his description of: how District 6 became a wasteland, the luxury whites live in and the contrast between white eating areas and black eating areas.
The poet wrote the poem to emphasise that if change does not come soon, violence will spread throughout the country. I disagree with the poet’s opinion that violence should be used to bring about changes. I can empathize with the writer because my own country, Algeria, went through a political election where one party won but it was not accepted so violence tore the country apart. Therefore, I know personally that violence will not solve the problem but will only escalate it and cause the death and suffering of thousands of people.
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