Belligerent Utopianism in The Poetry of Idris Amali and Romanus Egudu

Author

Odia, C. E.


Abstract

Postcolonial utopianism thrives on belligerent poetic art in articulating the resentment and anger of the people towards hegemonic powers which hinder the emancipatory strides to freedom while at the same time, pushing for the attainment of an ideal society. This paper explores the interface between postcolonial utopian dynamics and the artistic portrayal of violent activism. Put differently, it hopes to show how the revolutionary vision of recent Nigerian poets are expressed in utopian conscious poems. Through textual analytic praxis and postcolonial utopian theoretical approach, the researcher identifies the following findings: Firstly, that revolution is key to utopian imagination, secondly, that the poets employ diverse poetic images to depict the need for freedom and finally, that provocative language is used to sensitise the people to engage in violence and combat their enslavers. The paper concludes that the poets (Idris Amali and Romanus Egudu) use two strategies of revolution, such as social mobilization and direct physical engagement while depending on belligerent art such as provocative language, defiant imagery and tone of revolt to convey their vision of utopian society.


Keywords

Postcolonial Utopianism, Belligerence, Art, Social Mobilization, Direct physical engagement and Revolution.


Introduction

Recent Nigerian poetry exhibits the character and temper of belligerent utopian consciousness. Belligerent utopianism refers to an ideal society established through a revolution or some form of violence. In poetry of belligerent utopianism there abounds defiant words, combative imagery, angry tone and provocative language which urge and provoke the people to engage in revolt against any system which constrains the attainment of a new social reality. In a nutshell, belligerent utopian poetry anchors on social change through militancy. Therefore, the poems are written to incite, denounce and evoke the sense of bellicosity in order to actualise an ideal social order. For this reason, the poets enrich their poems with hostile poetics contrived to annoy, mobilise and rouse the people to direct physical engagement with retrogressive forces militating against the attainment of a better society. Belligerent utopianism combines the memory of the past and the vision of the present with all its imperfections to anticipate the building of a better society. This brand of utopianism is triggered by revolt or violent activism. It has as its utilitarian value, the rebuilding of a dystopian state or society. This paper seeks to establish, among other things, that the general principle guiding the labeling or categorization of utopianism is essentially linked to the method of achieving utopia or building a better society. Hence, when the poets propose belligerence or revolution as a method of building a utopian society, it is called belligerent utopianism or utopianism of combat.


Content

This paper focuses on the poems of two poets carefully selected to reflect the regional diversity of Nigeria. These poets include Idris Amali from the North and Romanus Egudu from the South. The analysis of the poems derive from the poetry collections of the above poets, namely Amali's Efeega: War of Arts and Egudu's Prayer of the Powerless which are henceforth abbreviated as EWAand POPrespectively. The theory underpinning this essay is postcolonial utopianism. Jacqueline Dutton writes that utopianism involves “social ideals within an explicitly utopian vision for improving the life of indigenous people” (249). This implies that utopianism entails articulating social ideals which are meant for improving society. Accordingly, writers who engage in utopianism are providing ideals or dreams with the aim of inspiring members of society to seeing beyond the pain, frustration and disappointment of the present to embracing the reality of utopian change. Thus the dreams are the ideals which when imbibed will bring about new social order. Tom Moylan introduces the subversive dimension to utopianism. According to the researcher, an alternative utopian vision began to be muted in the middle of the 1800s. This period coincided with the inclusion of revolution in utopian studies. Thus utopianism in Moylan's view “tended to adopt a stance more concerned with teaching and exposing the reader to the still unrealised potential of the human project of consciously being in the world…” (6). The purpose of the revolutionary element in the utopian literature is to articulate a coherent portraiture of the deficiencies in human world and to point the reader to how the alternative socio-political agenda can be realized. Hence, Moylan adds that political education is pivotal to this endeavour: “the heuristic utopia offered a strength of vision that sought to subvert or at least reform the modern economic and political arrangement from within” (6). This method takes the form of social mobilization for mass action. The duty of the writer in the utopian cosmology is to teach the masses the necessity of utopian change. Moylan seems to posit that subversion is vital to the attainment of the utopian goal of building an ideal society. Bill Ashcroft has...


Conclusion

The basic interest of this paper remains to express the dynamics of belligerent utopianism in the poems of Amali and Egudu. Although their poetic imagination may have diverse purpose and orientation, they however focus on the same idea, that is, the idea of a better society achievable through violent activism. Their poems instigate the readers to embrace a new set of values through deliberate social mobilization. Poem after poem, these two poets employ provocative imagery and defiant tone to call for direct physical engagement with those who hinder the people from attaining a utopian country. The main point that postcolonial utopian poets make with their poems is that once the people can be mobilized revolution or utopian change can be achieved. The artistic use of aggressive language and the creation of mental pictures that suggest violence engender social mobilization and direct physical engagement which are methods of achieving utopian change. The vision of a better future anchored on a re-shaped society after revolution demonstrates that utopian change is possible when the people take action and accept responsibility. The adaptation of utopianism to the Nigerian context through the study of Nigerian poetry expands the frontiers of postcolonial utopian studies.


References

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