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Exposure to a number of social depressions and political turbulences were the reasons for the enrichment of African literature. African literary scholars who were affected by these sociopolitical tumults wrote for the people to arouse nationalism and patriarchy. Colonialism was a major turning point which charged the African scholars to awaken the African citizens. Colonial and postcolonial literature mostly concern about alienation, identity crisis in a hybrid culture and identity in a rapidly changing environment. The modern period of literature, with experiencing numerous civil wars and the rapid globalization, still focuses on the themes of postcolonial and colonial literature as a reawakening of the African people due to the unstable political situations.
Tsitsi Ella Jaji and Edward Eremugo Luka both address regarding the various impacts on people in a nation with social and cultural uneasiness by the poem “Document for US Citizens Who Have Never Applied for a Visa and Have Had It Up to Here with Those Loud Aliens Who Go On and On about Some Letter” and the literary article “Independence Day”. Both Luka deal with the repercussions of socio-political turbulences. Luka addresses the two long lasted civil wars and the independence of South Sudan while Jaji reflects on being a part of a diaspora. Both works mainly concern the themes of alienation and belonging, identity crisis in a rapidly changing nation.
The titles of both the works have a little hint of irony. ‘Document for US Citizens who have never applied for a visa and have had it up to here with those loud aliens go on and on about some letter’ gives away a clue that the poem is going to be a complaint regarding the issues that foreigners have to face while applying for a visa. The word ‘document’ has a sense of mixed sarcasm and irritation referring to the pile of documents that are required in the process. And the word ‘aliens’ suggests the huge socio-cultural and political gap between the officials and the immigrants which creates a communication barrier between them. ‘Independence Day’ creates its effect of sarcasm from its title by making the reader question whether they have truly gained independence or whether it is just an allusion. The length of the two titles are contrasting and while the title of the poem gives away the message of the poet, the title ‘independence day’ manages to arouse the curiosity of the reader. The title tricks the reader into imagining the common celebratory independence when the message is just the opposite.
Edward Luka approaches the audience through a mode of a journal entry making them understand the feelings, thus causing the reader to empathize with the characters. His use of poetic techniques such as similes, “the sun peeked from behind them, like a mischievous child playing hide and seek with an unwilling father” creates rich imageries in the mind of the reader while adding poetic beauty to the work. “South Sudanese were scattered like the Jews to the far corners of the world” compares the two ethnicities that had faced similar political upheavals and consequences and the writer manages to show a glimpse the South Sudanese socio-political scenario.
The poem ‘Document for US Citizens who have never applied for a visa and have had it up to here with those loud aliens go on and on about some letter’ is a satire on the hard process that everyone who wishes to immigrate to the United States has to go through. Its use of various techniques contributes a lot in order to convey the message o the writer. The poet contrasts the service that is being given by the same government to US citizens and the people who are going through the immigration process. The repetition of “there are no” makes emphasis on the absence of even the basic facilities that US government provides for its citizens and the harsh process that the immigrants are compelled to face in an unfamiliar environment. Rather than listing all the hardships in the protocol, the writer pens all the fundamental requirements that are absent which effectively reaches the reader.
Jaji’s satirical poem has a broader sense beyond the Zimbabwean visa applicants. She focuses on the disregard for the general etiquettes during the process of applying for the US visa in a general notion which applies to everyone outside the US. Fredson states while translating Guébo, that though ‘American Dream’ broadcasts a higher and better future, it contrasts with the ‘reality of the structural inequality’ of US questioning the reliability of the promises given (2017). It subtly refers to the impatience of US citizens and contrasts the amount of patience that is required for the process of applying for US visa. “It is not like going to the bank” contrasts the amount of time it requires and the hardships they go through. The US is known for its satisfactory service to the citizens. Banks provide fundamental things such as ‘kleenex’ for emergencies and ‘candies’ to enjoy until their turn comes. But the foreigners who come to apply for visa gets no such luxuries. Jaji indicates how the US government discriminates the immigrants in the first instance and exposes them to a kind of alienation even before stepping into the country. The poet further contrasts the experiences of applying for US visa and Americans going to a bank. When the Americans have the opportunity to resolve even the ‘absurd’ cases, the visa applicants are denied the same opportunity. The aged are not cared for and the discomforts of applicants are disregarded. She suggests that as a country which preaches equality and friendly service, the process of US embassy is rather ironical.
While Jaji discusses alienation in a foreign land, Luka portrays how socio-political repercussions make a person alienated in his own land. Johnny’s unfamiliarity of his own motherland when he returns after many years makes him alienated from the surrounding. Sudanese people were holding foreign passports, a document that gives a sense of belonging. These people have become foreigners of their native land. This alienation was ‘forced’ by the political oppression. The reception party makes him feel distant by treating him as a celebrity and not like one of their own. He sits on the wrong side of the car. And is not familiar with the new infrastructure and crowded restaurants. Within the five years of his absence, he has become distant from his own country. The mere five years had turned Johnny to a foreigner of his own motherland and all these are due to the socio-political instability that in a way chased him out of his home and turned him into a refugee of some other land where he doesn't belong. He was compelled to take outsiders as his own and his own as outsiders because the ruling parties didn't see eye to eye.
Independence day also touches the fragile theme of memory and belonging. Nadia Lovell states that sense of experience is the primary way of connecting with memory and belonging (1998). Johnny’s absence and the rapid change make him compare the country before his departure and after his arrival. The way Johnny ‘reminisced about his days in Juba and felt a heaviness in his heart’ suggests the deep regret he has about being away from his homeland. His memory of the time in Uganda portrays how the Juba was forced to flee and find refugee across the border. The words ‘forced’ and ‘flee’ strongly emphasize on the political scenarios which made them escape their country. And this caused him to go far from his friends. He could not grow up with ‘Mosquito’ and he did not know when he started to smoke. The construction of new buildings was taking place over the playgrounds. The riverside where they used to take a swim and eat mangoes has now turned into a place filled with hotels. Especially for those who left South Sudan during their childhood, these places served as a thread which ties them to their homeland but the destruction of them was as cutting the only thread which holds them on to the homeland. The new country that is being built is a country that they no longer can relate to.
Jaji brings out this theme of memory and belonging to the contrasting of the cultural aspects. ‘No such thing as a cousin brother’ is an alienated idea to most of the Asian and African countries who live with large families. For those who believe the weddings of cousin brothers are important, how the US authorities disregard them is unbelievable. Even if they had been treated as professionals in the countries where they come from, the US embassy has no regard for their status or their level of education. ‘No one wants to know if you are a doctor.’ imply how one is trapped in an identity crisis in a diaspora. Belonging and identity are two sides of the same coin.
In the same way, Jaji questions the inequality of a country which preaches equality, Luka also questions the independence of South Sudan is real. The change, where he expects it to be, remains the same while other things where he does not expect change rapidly. The airport remains the same in a worse condition while all the special places of his childhood are taken away. Though new buildings are built over the places that are linked to their childhood memories, airports still do not have the ubiquitous facilities. He raises a question asking who has gained independence if the people cannot attend the independence celebrations. Luka shows how globalization has turned the cultural values upside down. Having meals which used to bring families together has now. New constructions taking over the empty spaces and the places where the children use to play suggests how globalization was taking away the freedom of childhood. The cars imported from other countries does not match with their own rules. Luka suggests how under the name development the country loses its identity and have been taken out of their family-oriented lifestyle.
Both Luka and Jaji have well coped up with the modern African literature themes of alienation, memory and belonging to globalization among various socio-political scenarios and had contributed two well-written pieces of work enriching African literature.
Guebo, J. (2017). Think of Lampedusa. (T. Fredson, Trans.) Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Lovell, N. (Ed.). (1998). Locality and Belonging. London: Routledge.