Mar 15, 2013

The Africa Passage

By Hiba Fatima

The given passage seems to be an excerpt from a travelogue. The writer attempts to break the stereotypes that Europeans have created about Africa. They see Africans as "disease-stricken people", as "hordes of walking skeletons", but the writer presents Africa in a new light. He admires the resilience of the Africans, and convinces the readers to do so too.

The writer talks about the harshness of the African weather, compared with the gentle "politesse" of the European weather. The writer deliberately does this so that later, he can impress the readers with the resilience of the Africans who survive the "pounding" heat.

The Sun is personified as an evil, intimidating predator who "leaps" and "ambushes the night". The Sun is also alluded to Cyclops, a mythical giant who would eat men. The writer believes that the Sun is no less than a violent, contemptuous monster, as evident by the alliteration in line 6. The Sun, the "ready made ball of solid", "catapults directly", like a weapon. This creates a mood of fear.

The writer then wistfully compares the African sunrise to the European sunrise. Here, longer sentences create a dreamy tone. The repetition of "no" and "none" in the second paragraph show that the writer's tone is harsh as he establishes a contrast between the African and European dawn. The latter is personified as the perfect English lady of calm demeanour, while the former has "no appreciation of the subtleties of temperature". This poses a question to the Europeans- will you be able to survive the fierce African climate?
The cruelty of the Sun is further developed upon in the third and fourth paragraphs.The emphatic use of "No." in line 17 establishes a sense of finality and conveys that the writer has accepted the fierceness of the African Sun. The simile in line 18 shows just how frightening it is. It is also merciless and relentless, "it will suck the ground dry of water, dew or damp to deny the tree". This alliteration emphasizes the power and dominance of the Sun. The readers sympathize with the Africans,who are deprived even of shade as the Sun "eliminates" it.

A transition takes place in the fifth paragraph. The writer talks about, how, in spite of the fierceness of the Sun, the Africans, rather than succumbing to the heat, have been moulded by it. The repetition of the word "still" emphasizes the African's strength. Their survival seems all the more impressive to the reader after the writer has deliberately created an inflated exaggeration of the Sun. The brevity of sentences, such as in line 25, convey the writer's awe towards them.

The writer breaks the stereotype that Africans are like "hordes of walking skeletons" in the sixth paragraph. He contrasts the European and African lifestyles by comparing each of their gaits. He praises the "poise" of the Africans and criticizes the clumsiness of the Europeans by piling up adjectives in line 33. The gait of the African women is then specified upon. They walk in a seductive and hypnotic manner, with their "hips propelling them forward". They are alluded to beautiful black Statues of Liberty, to show their charm and independence. The writer uses the similes "ballerinas" and "models" to convey the delicacy of the African women. The list in lines 36 to 37 shows the writer's awe as the women carry these "improbable weights" with ease.

The lone man who stands tall and proud symbolises all the Africans who survive the "impotent" Sun with grace and beauty. The writer lists the diverse topography of Africa, then refers to it as the "most beautiful place in our world".

Finally, the writer clears the misconceptions people have about Africa, creating a mood of admiration. He blames the readers for looking at Africa from "the dark side" of their mind and neglecting all the positive aspects of the continent listed in lines 52 to 54. In the final line of the passage, Africa is called the "luminous continent", which harkens back to the Sun that is now a complement to the Africans.

Directed Writing: 
The currents of the Indonesian Sea do not nibble gently at the coast. No, not today. Today, the Sea is volatile. The waves, dark and heavy, leap forward and crash against the shore. They devour and destroy anything and everything in their path. The Sea is a vacuum, a black hole, or, simply put, the Bermuda Triangle of Jakarta.
Yet still, a serenity cloaks the city. An olive-skinned fisherman articulately throws a bait into the waters that kiss his feet. Multitudes of people meander rhythmically through the streets of Jakarta. Swaying. Beaming. Smiling.

No, Jakarta is not the city that crumbles under the weight of the Indonesian Sea every year. It is the city of colour. It is the city of beauty. It is the city of kindness. 


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