Jack Mapanje's Response to Censorship and Oppression

Pages: 3 (1012 words) Published: May 5, 2013
Assess Jack Mapanje’s response to censorship and oppression.

Jack Mapanje is a Malawian poet and author who was born in 1944. He was the head of English at the University of Malawi before being imprisoned in 1987, allegedly for his collection ‘ Of Chameleons and God’s’ which criticized the administration of President Hastings Banda. He was released in 1991 and emigrated to the UK where he worked as a teacher.  The poem "The Song of Chickens" (4) protests against a master who protects his chickens from hawks only to prey on them himself. Mapanje says he wrote this poem in 1970 following the visit of South African president John Vorster to Malawi. In 1967, while most African countries boycotted South Africa because of its apartheid policies and practices, Banda established diplomatic relations and signed trade agreements with South Africa. Not only did Banda host Vorster in Malawi; he also reciprocated the visit in 1971. In the first stanza of the poem, the chickens ask their master why, after putting on a fight to protect them from predators—using bows and arrows and catapults, his hands "steaming with hawk blood" (4)—he has tuned to prey on them himself. They question him: "Why do you talk with knives now, / Your hands teaming with eggshells / And hot blood from your own chickens? / Is it to impress your visitors?" (4). The master who once used bows and now uses knives shows the improvement of technology and symbolizes the passing of time. The use of the word eggshells shows that Banda took advantage of his people who were helpless and can also be interpreted to mean that he was taking advantage of the youth in his country, ensuring that he had a strong hold on the future of the country through its youth. The poem can be read as criticism of Banda. It criticizes him for his lavish entertainment of the visiting South African president. It asks him why, after calling himself a Savior and Nkhoswe of his people, he has turned into a beast that preys on his...
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