Elliot Ziwira @The Bookstore
THE Namibian poet, Julia Ndinelago Amukoshi’s debut transcendental anthology of poetry, “Tales of the Rainbow” (2014), published by Township Productions, stitches together different episodes of African existence; the struggle for independence, the euphoria that comes with freedom, and the yearning desires of the common man in the free Motherland, using a combination of historical events, autobiographical experiences, metaphors, images drawn from nature and other stylistic tropes.
It is a moving tale of how Man relates to himself, his fellow men and his struggles with his environs. Whatever he looks at, either evil or good is only a reflection of him, as the inherent vices and virtues that mark his being, respond differently to the situations that are thrown across his path. Adeptly exploiting the paradoxical nature of life, the poet explores the fluidity and complexity of expectation through juxtaposition of contrasting natural images and symbols. She is all too aware of how death exists in life; hurt boogies with love; pain dwells in healing and hope flirts with hopelessness; but she refuses to despair as everything finds shape in Providence Divine.
Although the setting reflects the Namibian landscape, the poems transcend physical boundaries, racial and ethnical affiliation; to tell a unique African story in a universal way, so that in the end what is only left is the story of Man and his struggles.
The reading of the poems is also made appealing to different types of readers through the poet’s careful use of conversational language, which however is given a rhythmic therapeutic touch which keeps on echoing in the reader’s ears, and engrossing the soul of his or her heart; as he or she wonders how his or her story could be told in such a unique way.
The collapsing of sense boundaries through use of a plethora of visual, aural, tactile and olfactory imagery; disregard of traditional poetic devices, form and contrived language, takes the reader on a whirlwind voyage of suspense and intrigue, for it allows for the exploration of different themes, which include love in all its facets, hope, personal growth, urbanisation, individual and national struggles, the gift of life and God’s bounty, even in the face of adversity and hopelessness.
Notwithstanding her debutante, the poet exudes maturity of both content and style, as she is able to engage the reader’s faculties and engross him or her into her own world, and allow him to locate himself or herself in its sights, through the imploring use of repetition, thematisation and open ended statements.
Yes, there may be a lot of storms in life’s travails and tribulations, as it is wont to; but God will always keep His promise to mankind through His covenant with Noah; the Rainbow. The individual should not always be weighed down by the seemingly insurmountable mountains that crouch menacingly on the horizon of hope and the tempests that roar in the abodes of his aspirations, as life has always been like that and will remain like that, yet others still make it to the top. He has to be inspired by the rainbow with its limitless possibilities and at the same time be wary of its deceitful nature, as it is only a culmination of a storm or a harbinger of one. It is indeed as harmless as a child, as highlighted in the poems, “Take me to a Land”, “Little Sparrow” and “God Bless Thee”; as enchanting and forgiving as love,; and yet as deceitful as the night in “Nights” and as ephemeral as love.
The symbolic significance of the natural images used in the poems, therefore, can be examined through the discernment of the exposure of their two-fold nature. The same elements which bring joy, like the rain, the oceans and the flowers, can also bring melancholy, despondency and grief, but one should never dwell more on negativity as that is baneful.
The rationale of the paradoxical nature of existence obtains in the poem “Nights”. The deceitful nature of man is conveyed through the contrasting shades of the night as illuminated in the following lines: “Nights so . . . intimate, innocent, indecisive/ Nights so cold…confusing, caressing/Nights so . . . horrific, harmonious, hopeful for another tomorrow/Nights so long, lively, lifeless.”
The juxtaposition of contrasting characteristics of the night marks the different aspects of man’s development, and his desire to conquer the world which he scantly understands. He is caught up in the same web of the darkness he creates for himself and others; and it is this that the poet implores him to guard against as she warns: “Be aware of the dark gown/with the ever so silent/Mysterious silver lady.”
In “Situations” the poet looks at the essence of core-existence, as the individual cannot map out his destiny in a vacuum. In all the adverse situations that he or she encounters in the sojourns of life, he or she needs others to lean on, spur him or her on, and reassure him or her of the existence of a silver lining in all dark clouds. The individual has to understand that he or she is only a mere cog in the machinery that drives his fortunes, and not the alpha and omega of the apparatus.
The poem “Gift from the heart” purveys the significance of God’s gift to mankind; the infectious smile. No matter how difficult a situation can be, no matter how burdensome life may turn out to be, one has to wear a smile every time; “a dangerous/seductive/comforting one.” Yes, “a toothless innocent smile” can go a long way in soothing the heart and foisting fruitful relationships, awash with peace, hope and harmony.
Love is also given prominence in the anthology in its oxymoronic nature, as is apt in “Love”. The poem is written in eighteen two lined stanzas with two counterpoised words at the end, and each line starting with the counterpoint “love” for emphasis as illuminated in the following: “Love destroys/Love builds/Love wounds/Love heals/ . . . Love exposes/Love shelters/Love doubts/Love believes.”
Love is powerful in its contrasting forms, as one can never have enough of it, no matter how much is given, neither can he or she stop loving again because of past hurts. Although the poet professes ignorance of the meaning of love in “Love…Nao Sei”, she refuses to wane because of past encounters that went awry. Inasmuch as her love sometimes implodes in unflinching and deceitful hearts, she continues to pour it out to the sweetheart of her past, so as to locate the unknown one in the future, as the present remains barren.
The poems “Soldiers in the Midst of a Battle” and “To the soldiers in Combat” visits the African struggle against colonial oppression, subjugation and displacement which has led to armed confrontation. In the poems, the poet pays tribute to the heroes of the struggle whose piety and bravado brought independence to the Motherland.
Julia Amukoshi admonishes her fellow beings to remain faithful to God, their creator, regardless of what life’s slot machine throws at them. The gift of life itself is cause for celebration as each day that one is given is one that someone else loses. The gift of life is celebrated in the poems “Today”, “This Beautiful Day”, “The joy in Living” and “Violets”.
The bounty of God obtains in “Son of Yahweh”, “Turn to God (Bow Your Head)” “Letter to Heaven”, “God’s Glory” and “Dear God”.
The poet’s failure to answer a plethora of questions strew her way in myriad circumstances, only makes her human,, as she ambits her shortcomings as a mortal being, thus she advocates divine intervention in humanity’s quest to succeed, in spite of all the setbacks.
She implores: “When you don’t know/Who you can turn to/When all goes wrong/Bow your head and pray/. . . When life weakens at times/And notable to heal your wounds/But crack open forgotten scars/Bow your head and pray/. . . When your body shivers with fear/And your spirit sinks into shades/Darkened by doubt and bitter hate/Bow your head and pray.”
If you really feel hollow because of the gargantuan stones that have been thrown your way gentle reader, do not despair engross yourself in the therapeutic poetry that Julia Ndinelago Amukoshi’s pen issues and you will never feel lonely again. It is indeed, a sizzling, evocative and great read.