but known here as Veracious poet
But first a story. Many of you know my complains about poetry. It is not that I couldn’t understand poetry, I think it was my teacher of literature who maybe did not try to make poetry interesting. It felt much harder than plays or novels. Or maybe, I was the problem it could be an attitude thing and I have not been able to cure myself of that attitude. I tell you this because it is important for this post.
I hope my friend will make the anthology available for sale soon or if he decides to be generous to make it available to all and sundry.
The Bananaland is an anthology of poems. I want to start with the epilogue
Man is indeed capable of great feats
But he is an animal, a political animal.
And all the wrestling is with himself
I find this a great ending to an anthology of poems that in the main make me quite sad. Sad because how accurately they describe the situation in Africa and sometimes the world in general.
Having said that, and this I will only say once, I understand the artist can take poetic liberties in his choice of characters and the names he or she gives them, but the choice of ape and banana ring too close to me of a history of racial disrespect, if such exists, where although all humans are great apes, the colonizer, the racist has always seen the African person as more ape than they. There was, I think, in a football match somewhere in Europe where a banana was thrown at an African player for one of the teams which was interpreted as a racial attack. To that extent and that alone, do I have a problem with the choice of apes and bananas in this great anthology, for great it truly is.
In this short anthology, of about 60 poems that can stand on their own, or can be read as a story, one truly sees the African nation state as it is currently. The nation buys weapons in the guise of protecting the citizens from external aggression but the moment there is dissent, these guns are trained on the citizens, whose taxes were used to buy them. I agree with his constant refrain that the ape is truly stupid.
He is right on the mark when he writes elections mean nothing in Bananaland. The elections, are for him, nightmares. And I agree with him. Look at us, we have gown through two farces of elections to have the same thieves in office, whose only goal, as he says is the case in Bananaland is personal enrichment. The citizens be damned.
In Bananaland, they say we have fertile soils, a big workforce but we import bananas. Kenya imports maize from Mexico. That’s not the tragedy. The tragedy is that when farmers have harvested their crop, the national cereals board, the same idiots who will be importing maize, will do almost zilch. The farmers will sell their output at throw away prices. Because they are not in the business to keep making losses, they stop growing maize, then the idiots in government turn around and tell us some percentage of the population is not food secure. You would expect that these idiots would invest in agriculture, encourage people in rural areas to till their farms, provide necessary extension services to improve production, but nah, they steal and as for our country, they steal by borrowing loans which future generations will pay.
The current regime employs fools generally. I can say this without fear of contradiction. I can also say it hates thinkers. As in Bananaland where the author says the thinker is disdained, so it is in many African countries. Moi’s regime exiled, imprisoned, tortured intellectuals. Muigai’s regime has excelled that instead of doing that, it employed school dropouts to be at the helm of driving policy. Even our ancestors would disapprove this. They were not literate but they were knowledgeable. You cannot have an ignoramus lead. Our communities would not have long survived had they been led by idiots. This regime has made idiocy its greatest motto: in stupidity we rule. Somebody should say that in Latin. Mottoes sound almost sexy in Latin.
Two issues VP treats exceptionally well is reason and its place in human progress, and here before Brian asks, I mean with progress a society where freedoms are guaranteed, access to healthcare and decent housing are guaranteed and where the standard of life is acceptable. People are not starving because of poor planning and such like. His treatment of how Christianity has made the African subservient waiting for a heaven, suppressing his reason and initiative speaks to my heart.
He writes, and I almost want to shout with him, on the mountaintops
If one doesn’t like his or her living condition here on
Earth he ought to change it before death knocks
On his door and drags him away into hades.
One needs courage to change one’s circumstances.
That Christianity promises a heaven where there is gold, milk and honey, things which my lecturer would call goods of ostentation means the poor person is contented with their miserable existence here as long as a heaven is guaranteed. I would even propose that miserable fellow hastens their departure by killing themselves. At least they will have done one act of courage in their existence.
I wasn’t sure whom the ants were, but either way, I liked the analogies. And I think, with Mark Twain, we can all say, man while descending from all the higher animals lost all that was great. Only saving grace for humanity is it retained the capacities to do that which the higher animals are capable of but no more.
On taxes, the less said the better!
Corruption, nepotism and all social ills that bedevils us do not need much attention. All I will say is they are well dispensed of by our author.
Equality, justice and truth especially their absence is common in Bananaland. The meaning of these words change depending on what side of the political divide one finds themselves. This is a law in all Bananalands.
I laughed at the requirements of kingship and then I looked at the Kenyan situation and laughed much more. A section of the population believes and strongly so, that for one to be fit to lead, they must be circumcised. One would think this would be the concern of those they choose to have sex with, but no, in Kenya, the prepuce is more important in determining one’s ability to lead. I am sure, the ancestor are proud.
Our politics, he calls
Apemocracy means a rule by political apes.
And he hasn’t been more right.
Since, I took liberties while doing this review to start with the epilogue, I will end with the beginning. He writes
Between ape and banana
There cannot be morality,
Ethics, law or constitution.
There is only one thing and
That is desire or instincts.
I hope, VP, that I have done justice to your great work. I also hope that I have kept my word and as such, the word honour can be applied between us.
Thank you for sending me the book.
It was hilarious, poignant and at the same time easy to read.