JENNIFER JOHNSON: FOOTPRINTS ON AFRICA AND BEYOND
99 Torriano Avenue
ISBN 1 905082 18 5
email Hearing Eye
visit the website of Hearing Eye
Web design by
This page last updated: 10th December 2007.
|JENNIFER JOHNSON: FOOTPRINTS ON AFRICA AND BEYOND|
A catalogue of dark shadows, of imperial and colonial wrongdoings and their consequences; it's mostly written in a tight and incisive style.
The striking cover picture shows the white cut-out continent of Africa superimposed over a pair of shadowlike black footprints; a clear reference to the old colonial days.
The poems are shadows from a past which refuses to go away. It's a far cry from the days of the fashionable Rudyard Kipling and his ilk. What Africa must have today is love, understanding and some helping hands. That's the message this book drives home, again and again.
Sudanese-born Jennifer Johnson frequently uses ambiguity to make her points and to make the reader pause mid-poem and think. In the 6th line of BACK TO MY OWN COUNTRY, there's a good example of this technique:
We fled to England, my father's country, when I was four. My mother carried me as soldiers were shooting all round us. On the plane she gave me my doll and a comb to untangle its hair. I shook with her terror.Three poems set in Zambia contain strong images. ZAMBIA ALONG ENGLISH LINES is a 3-page poem. Here's the 2nd verse:
Lusaka Airport: a cleaner polishes rows of phones, dead as the nearby stuffed antelope.and when that woman gets home, back to her home town, what then? Domestic violence, hunger, corruption, dilapidation, shortages of everything from toilet paper to light bulbs. ZAMBIAN TOWNSHIP begins appropriately:
Windows broken, jagged teeth, children searching for old corn cobs: the hunger of this town.POST-COLONIAL ZAMBIA, another 3-page poem, completes the Zambia set:
I lost five stone in weight and my protection against diseaseis a startling understatement.
Other poems range through Tanzania, Ghana and Sudan. And it's the old familiar story; the struggle for survival on the Dark Continent: a continent where hunger, disease and lack of basic resources are daily problems; problems that are euphemistically termed challenges.
We are all Africans under the skin whether we like it or not and we would do well to remember that fact as we plunder the continent where the heart of David Livingstone is buried.
FOOTPRINTS ON AFRICA AND BEYOND with its uncomfortable questions, painful word-pictures, lack of answers, sometimes stings the conscience like a Sudanese hailstorm.
One for the armchair aid-worker's rucksack.
|reviewer: Gwilym Williams.|