Thursday, 3 November 2016

Birago Diop is one among the poets of culture. The following poems of his_ Vanity, Breath, etc. are prove of his love for African customs and norms. He was a Senegalese poet of African folktales and folklores who lived between 11 December 1906 and 25 November 1989. Till this day, his name has never been undermined when mentioning the pioneer figures of the N├ęgritude literary movement.

As a faithful steward of African tutelage, Birago Diop understood the implications of paying deaf ears and lip services to the deep rooted ways of the forefathers. In the poem vanity, Birago Diop cried out his regrets for himself and the contemporary Africans who have belittled the African tradition by cherishing and glorifying the alien cultural lifestyle. He didn't forget to mention that those who had downgraded their African root suffered it; leaving the signs of their punishment everywhere:
"Just as our ears were deaf
To their cries, to their wild appeals
They have left on the earth their cries
In the air, on the water, where they have traced their signs
For us blind deaf and unworthy Sons"

This thirty line poem, chopped into multiple stanzas, has an unhappy tone and candidly
speaking, the reoccurring rhetorical questions and repetitions of lines reflect the poet's mood of admonition. With the use of words such as "air" "water" "earth" the poem can be partly considered a poem of nature; but what can be said about the setting? The setting of the poem seems communal (truly really humanlike).

Let's now focus on the themes of Vanity by Birago Diop.
(1) We have the theme of African cultural decadence. The message of the poet shows that African are no longer following the valuable paths of their ancestral living which happens to be the only way African culture can remain intact.

(2) The theme of irreversibility: The title and the chosen words of the poet through his pessimist tone, show that the deed is done and will never be undone. He claimed that even his lamentation will go in vain because their "ears were deaf" and they were also "blind deaf and unworthy Sons".

(3) The theme of death and punishment: In the poem Vanity by Birago Diop, the word "Dead" appeared more than once and in the forth stanza it was used as a symbol to symbolise the ancestors. It shows the importance of ancestral believe in Africa. Dead in the poem, if keenly examined symbolized punishment. Other signs of punishment in the poem are the mentioned act of crying and clamouring seen in the poem which shows the unwholesomeness that exists within the African society.

"If we cry roughly of our torment"
It is very crucial to note that the word "cry" in the above quote is a metonymy used to replace the word "rage".


  • 8 Figures Of Speech In Vanity by Birago Diop

  • 3 Major Poetic Devices In Vanity by Birago Diop

  • Relate Vanity By Birago Diop To Our Contemporary Lives

  • The Use Of Synonyms In Vanity By Birago Diop

  • What Literary Devices Are In Sad Complaining Voices Of Beggars From Vanity By Birago Diop

  • Breaths by Birago Diop

The similarities between Vanity by Birago Diop and Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara
To still mention that Birago Diop and Gabriel Okara are both well recognized African poets will amount to tautology but it cannot be left unsaid that their poems in question, share the same cultural theme which is simply the gradual neglect of African cultural believes and traditions.

Diop put his message across to readers through clamouring and admonition with a pessimistic mood while Okara tabled his own message via comparison by comparing his simple past African background to his complex present European lifestyle.

Another similarities are in terms of structure and style. Both poems are of multiple stanzas, both poems are in free verse, both poems are fortified with imageries (sight and sound), both poems carry symbolisms among other similarities.


Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)


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