Monday, November 18, 2013

ModPo 2013 #72 Infinitely Divisible: On Morris' "Africa(n)"

Image of true size of Africa from 

Watch Tracie Morris' performance of "Africa(n)" here.

This is one example of a piece that needs to be heard to be appreciated. I loved this poem. It made me look into my whole history of colonization as well. These wounds run deep. I can imagine the conflict in identity of African-Americans because they look back at a time of slavery. In my case, I look back at centuries of masters and "benevolent" shapers intent on drawing us in their image and likeness.

The first thing I thought of after hearing Morris was Stein, the difference between repetition and insistence. Do we really listen?

I like how we go back to the conflicting relationship with English and Claude McKay. English is a whole world in itself. And the races that claim it as a language are always conflicted, it seems. That includes people like me who live and breathe in English but are outsiders as well.

I like how Morris points to "We are Africa," Africa being the cradle of humanity. And yet "we" is also so fractured...and like Humpty Dumpty, it can never be put together again. Infinitely divisible. Like a living organism.

I notice how America is full of double-consciousness. Simply look at African-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Filipino-Americans, Mexican-Americans...and so on. I also look at myself, having grown up in a very Westernized, in fact, a very Americanized education. I might as well be a Filipino-American (or is it American-Filipino?), given the language that I speak and my mixed culture. But I always look on the other side as well. Language is not "owned" by any one civilization. Language is always about the shared, the communal. It is not meant to exclude...rather to include, to bring an understanding. That was why I appreciated the discussion of not only the meta-poetic quality of "Africa(n)" but also the meta-pedagogic quality of ModPo. Language is collaboration. Learning is exchange (and not authority addressing the governed). It gives a different quality to my being of "two minds." It is not only about the conflict of identity but rather the fact that I am "joined in media res, in the middle of things." To be in between is not a bad thing at all. It is to be in the position to explore borders.

The multi-vocal challenges the single and "ordained" way. In this world as we live it now in 2013, there are no easy one-size-fits-all solutions. Multiplicity is a reality we deal with every day. This multiplicity reminds us that we need to engage and not simply follow, obey, comply.

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