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VARIOUS TEXTS: TWO POEMS FROM SOUTH AFRICA

The two poems on this page come from South Africa, the last country in Africa run by a white minority government. Both are by opponents of apartheid.
The poem on the left is by James Matthews (1929- ), who is well known for his poems and stories. It comes from a 1974 collection that was banned by the South African government. The poem on the right is by Zindzi Mandela (1960-), who is perhaps best known as the daughter of Nelson Mandela, a popular black African leader who was arrested two years after Zindzi was born - and had to remain in prison while she grew up and became a woman. In spite of many international protests, Mr Mandela was still in prison in 1980.


how do you
feel
when you read of a
Black
child found dead on a
garbage
heap because the dogs
beat
him to his daily
feed
do you wonder about his
mother
whether she is still
alive
and where was it he
slept
before he came to the
garbage
heap to die
tell me, white
mother
how do you
feel
A tree was chopped down
and the fruit was scattered

I cried
because I had lost a family
the trunk, my father
the branches, his support
so much

the fruit, the wife and children
who meant so much to him
tasty
loving as they should be
all on the ground
some out of his reach

in the ground
the roots, happiness
cut off from him.


Assignments:
1. Why do you think the questions in the first poem are put to a "white" (l. 20) ? And why to a mother?
2. Zindzi Mandela's poem has no doubt got a special meaning for Zindzi personally. Can you explain why? What other situations could it also refer to ?
3. How would you describe the "feeling" or atmosphere of each poem, e. g. happy/sad, optimistic/pessimistic, serious/funny?



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