At the bookstore
Namibian poet, Julia Ndinelago Amukoshi’s debut anthology of poetry, “Tales of the Rainbow” (2014), published by Township Productions, is a moving story of how Man relates to himself, his fellows and his struggles with the environment.
The collection stitches up different episodes of existence on the African continent. Using a combination of collective memory, autobiographical experiences, metaphor and natural imagery, among other tropes, the poet retraces struggles for independence; relives the euphoria that comes with freedom and the longing wishes of the common man.
Whatever Man glares at, either evil or good, is a reflection of himself. The vices and virtues inherent in him respond differently depending on the situations that he faces.
Through exploitation of the paradoxical nature of life, Amukoshi examines the fluidity and complexity of expectation. The juxtaposition of contrasting natural images conjures the many challenges that humanity faces in its quest to co-exist with death.
The poet is 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.
Even though Amukoshi’s setting is a reflection of the Namibian landscape, the poems transcend geographical limitations, racial and ethnical affiliation. The anthology universally tells a unique African tale in such a way that what endures is the story of Man and his struggles.
The poet’s conversational language is given a rhythmic therapeutic touch that 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.
It is such adept use of language that appeals to different types of readers.
The poet collapses sense boundaries through use of visual, aural, tactile and olfactory imagery; and disregards traditional poetic devices, form and contrived language, which heightens suspense and intrigue.
The style 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.
Despite her débutante, Amukoshi 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, thus allowing him or her to locate himself or herself in its sites.
She emphatically uses repetition, thematisation and open ended statements.
Life’s travails may be fraught with storms, but God will always keep His promise to mankind through His covenant with Noah; the rainbow, the poet affirms.
There really is no reason to fret over seemingly insurmountable mountains crouching menacingly on the horizon of hope, and the raging tempests roaring in the abodes of one’s aspirations.
Life has always been like that and will remain like that — controversial, yet others still make it to the top.
The individual should draw inspiration from the rainbow with its limitless possibilities, and at the same time be wary of its deceitful nature. The rainbow is only a culmination of a storm or a harbinger of one, Amukoshi cautions.
The rainbow is, indeed, as harmless as a child, as depicted in the poems, “Take me to a Land”, “Little Sparrow” and “God Bless Thee”; as enchanting and forgiving as love; and yet it is as deceitful as the night in “Nights” and as ephemeral as love.
Symbolically, the natural armoury used in the collection can be examined through the discernment of the exposure of their two-fold nature.
The same elements which bring joy, like the rain, oceans and flowers, can also bring melancholy, despondence and grief; but one should never dwell more on negativity as that is retrogressive.
The rationale of the paradoxical nature of existence obtains in the poem “Nights”.
Man’s deceitful nature is conveyed through 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, though he hardly understands it.
The darkness he creates for himself and others, catches up with him as well. 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”, Amukoshi highlights the essence of core-existence, for 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 shaping fruitful relationships, awash with peace, hope and harmony.
Love is also given prominence in the anthology in its oxymoronic nature, in “Love”.
The poem is written in 18 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.”
One can never have enough of love, even in its contrasting forms, no matter how much may be given. The individual cannot stop loving neither, regardless of past hurts.
Although the poet professes ignorance of the meaning of love in “Love. . . Nao Sei”, she refuses to be weighed down by past encounters that went awry.
Sometimes love implodes in unflinching and deceitful hearts, true, but the persona 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, Amukoshi pays tribute to the heroes of the struggle, whose piety and bravado brought independence to the Motherland.
She admonishes the need to remain faithful to God, the creator, regardless of what life’s slot machine throws at humanity. 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 questions strewn her way in myriad circumstances, only makes her human. She is only a mortal being with shortcomings, like everyone else, thus she advocates divine intervention in humanity’s quest to succeed, in spite of all the setbacks.
Amukoshi implores in “Turn to God (Bow Your Head)”:
“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 feel hollow because of the stones thrown your way, do not despair, rather engross yourself in the therapeutic poetry that Julia Ndinelago Amukoshi’s pen issues, and you will never feel lonely again.