First Day After the War MAZISI KUNENE

First Day After the War

We heard the songs of a wedding party.

We saw a soft light

Coiling round the young blades of grass

At first we hesitated, then we saw her footprints,

Her face emerged, then her eyes of freedom!

She woke us up with a smile saying,

'What day is this that comes so suddenly?'

We said, 'It is the first day after the war.'

Then without waiting we ran to the open space

Ululating to the mountains and the pathways

Calling people from all the circles of the earth.

We shook up the old man demanding a festival.

We asked for all the first fruits of the season

We held hands with a stranger

We shouted across the waterfalls

People came from all lands

It was the first day of peace.

We saw our Ancestors traveling tall on the horizon.

Mazisi Kunene, who has died aged 76, was one of Africa's greatest poets, inspired by the history of the Zulu people, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the oral tradition of African literature. He was as cosmopolitan as he was nationalistic, espousing an African literary and cultural ethos along with Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo and Wole Soyinka. He also worked for the ANC in London during the apartheid years and taught African poetry in the United States.

The Guardian obituary, 17 October 2006

Kunene's works were originally written in Zulu. He believed that true African literature must be written in African languages. The problem about writing in a foreign language, he said, is that one is not in control of it and its psychology. He regarded the affirmation of an African aesthetic, especially with regard to poetics, as an important dimension of the freedom of African people - on the continent and in the diasporas - from the degrading stereotypes and literary pretensions of the west. Kunene stressed that his literary goal was the retelling of African history in a way he believed would make it relevant and authentic to the non-African.
Born in Durban, South Africa, he spent his childhood in Amahlongwa on the Kwa-Zulu Natal south coast, where he had his early education. His father, Mdabuli Albert Kunene, came from the Royal Swazi clan and his mother, Eva, was a gospel singer. As a boy, he struggled to reconcile the history of his Zulu nation with the oppressed state of black people in South Africa under apartheid. He said he often cried, saying to himself "My gosh, imagine these were once great people."

We heard the songs of a wedding party.

this is an extended metaphor – celebration of “marriage”

Wedding metaphor – our country is a new bride and innocent as she is reborn – it is a new chapter – wedding is union between two people at a new level not experienced before

We saw a soft light

symbol of hope/optimism

Coiling round the young blades of grass

literal: new grass; figurative: young men and youth at the beginning and birth

At first, we hesitated, then we saw her footprints,

realisation; literal-imprints & figurative-impact made

Her face emerged, then her eyes of freedom!

She woke us up with a smile saying,

woke them from apartheid darkness/sleep

‘What day is this that comes suddenly?’

it feels sudden after such a long wait

We said, ‘It is the first day after the war’.

apartheid was war – now free

Then without waiting we ran to the open space

free to vent their emotions

Ululating to the mountains and the pathways

Calling people from all circles of the earth.

inclusive – everyone together!

We shook up the old man demanding a festival

shook up – unsettled

old man – older generation who may be in disbelief, or cynics.

We asked for all the first fruits of the season.

"F" alliteration is soft

Repetitive form of line structure – overwhelming joy prompting an unrestrained physical response. Impulsive responses from people showing unity.

We held hands with a stranger

We shouted across the waterfalls

People came from all the lands

everyone came – emphasises unity from all the fields – lands means fields not necessarily countries

It was the first day of peace.

repetition of “first day” to emphasise the newness of their happiness

We saw our Ancestors travelling tall on the horizon.

renewed stature of ancestors – look at the ancestor worship, they have not given up on them and they are there – amadlozi – spiritual blessing, also those killed during apartheid and death was worth it

Created By
B Borain
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Credits:

Created with images by DEZALB - "south africa drum zulu" • Eric Hunsperger - "Mararlal_Camel_Derby_2016-29" • cocoate.com - "African Wedding" • Afrikit - "africa african face afar tribe" • RonPorter - "zulu youths war dance animal skin skirts" • South African Tourism - "Xhosa Bride, Lesedi Cultural Village, Gauteng, South Africa" • WDnetStudio - "grass field the background" • C_Ki - "sand footprint tracks in the sand" • Leroy_Skalstad - "children girl h" • Unsplash - "rural country outdoors" • Woody H1 - "A New Day" • Pezibear - "landscape mountains mountain peaks" • Leroy_Skalstad - "people homeless male" • Couleur - "grapes fruit vine" • AlexVan - "hands friendship hold" • enor - "Waterfall"

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