The most predominant theme in the two poems is that of sheer desperation. The notion of hope and hopelessness is effectively conveyed, representing the poet’s anger at the absence of democracy and equanimity in society. They struggle to restrain this frustration towards the outrageous political and social racism made against ethnic minorities in the way they have been. However, thematically, the way the oppressed deal with the unjust and prejudiced policies installed into society differs greatly between the poems.
In Nothing’s Changed the poet returns to the wasteland that was once his home, and relives the anger he felt when the area was first destroyed. When confronted with the new hotels and the restaurants, which are surrounded by the poverty and suffering – his deep content forces him to want to destroy the restaurant – “with a stone or a bomb”. This makes him reflect that despite the changing political situation, there are still huge inequalities between blacks and whites. Nothing’s changed.
Therefore, the subdued message in “Nothing’s Changed” is the Whereas, in Not my business a different message is conveyed, as in the beginning stanzas Osundare sits back, grateful he is safe, as those around him are taken away. Eventually, he too is taken away and the reader is left with the distressing and uninspiring ending. The poem runs parallel to a quote which came through from the most devastating human conflict in history, World War Two, Edmund Burke once said that “all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
” This concept is particularly relevant in the poem and reflects the general theme of it, the way Osundare is allowing the government to act, rather than protesting. Similarly, both poems have a memorable last line. Afrika writes “Nothing’s Changed” for his last line and because the last line and the title are the same, a cycle is suggested, that simply nothing’s changed, and never will. It also suggests that he is returning to district six after his campaigning, and finds despite the removal of all the “whites only” signs, the town is still filled with prejudice. In Not my business.
The theme of social division and the poet’s thoughts on them is a clear one throughout all the poems. In Nothing’s Changed, Tatamkhulu Afrika comments on how even though district six has ended its apartheid, people are still prejudiced towards black people, when he writes “whites only inn. No sign says it is: but we know where we belong” Afrika develops a sense of desperation and longing for a place or ideal society. He is desperate for district six before the apartheid, when people of all races and beliefs lived peacefully, as he says “No board says it is: but my feet know”.
He finds himself longing for the past, when he was a member of the African National Congress, fighting against apartheid. The anger of the poet comes through as he reflects on his childhood, “his hands burn for a stone, a bomb, to shiver down the glass” of the Inn, as he did when he was younger. All three poems compare two ways of life. In Nothing’s Changed, Afrika compares his life with the ANC, fighting for equal rights, to his life now, after his ‘victory’, where prejudice still remains.
Furthermore, through consistency and regulation in the structure the poets reflect the relentlessness of government regime and ongoing racial attitudes. Despite the morally unjust and unsubstantiated discrimination which still exists, there are no breaks in the poems and this represents the way racism has become embedded into society and people’s lives, so much so that the poets see no reason to stop the fluency of the poem because of it.
On the other hand, this consistency in the structure could relate to the emotional state of the poet and their reaction to the injustices progressing in the poem. In Nothing’s Changed the structure appears regulated, implying the poet is managing to keep his emotions in check and accept the racism in South Africa. However, within the stanza’s there are irregular line breaks and punctuation giving the poem a sense of choppiness, suggesting there are internal issues which the poet is struggling to control as the poem becomes progressively unfair.
These line breaks and irregularities may, alternatively, symbolise the way that the government claim to have ended the apartheid and it appears over, however there are still underlying issues which exist in society. In addition, the punctuation creates speed and therefore tension, which creates a sense of ambiguity; the regularity of the stanza construction, evoking the concept of detached rationalism, contrasting with the wildly fluctuating line length, suggesting that the poet is struggling to contain his emotion.
This structure successfully encapsulates the interior conflicts existing in South Africa. Whereas, In Not my Business the stanzas appear regular to represent the implacable government regime, inflicted on the oppressed peoples. The repetition of the sentence lengths and stanzas implies that, despite the death and kidnapping, the poet does not see it important enough to break the consistent structure. This poignant message optimises the idea of the whole poem that if there is not a will to protest, evil will go on and ultimately succeed.
Finally, in the last stanza the indented few lines of “what business is it of mine? “, which seem to have been catching up with the poet throughout, are replaced with a full stop representing finality. Finally, the use of linguistic techniques, most predominantly the use symbolism, is most effective in helping the two poets convey the meaningful and differing messages intended. An important image in Nothing’s changed is that of the “glass” which shuts out the speaker in the poem. It is a symbol of the divisions of colour, and class – often the same thing in South Africa.
As he backs away from it at the end of the poem, Afrika sees himself as a “boy again”, who has left the imprint of his “small, mean mouth” on the glass. He wants “a stone, a bomb” to break the glass – he may wish literally to break the window of this inn, but this is clearly meant in a symbolic sense. He wants to break down the system, which separates white and black, rich and poor, in South Africa. In Not my Business the image of the jeep is effective in personifying the government as threatening and monstrous.
The jeep is symbolic of the establishment throughout the poem, it appears a like a predator, as it “stuffed him down the belly” implying they are monstrous and ruthless toward the victims. The government seem like a faceless and impersonal tyrant, who through bribing the people of their “yam” are enforcing a deadly regime that, much like the Nazi one, see’s people taken away randomly, to die. The range and extent of the vocabulary used differs mostly between Not my Business and Nothing Changed. In Nothing’s changed Afrika is very detailed in his description of the wasteland.
The “purple flowering” represents the White population at the beginning of the poem. The purple connotes royalty and class representing their superior position in society. The “flowering” implies growth and development, perhaps, socially, the problems getting worse and the racism is becoming stronger. This juxtaposes the “amiable weeds” which relates to the Blacks position, the way they are out of place and unwanted in society. The Blacks have removed them like an owner of a garden would remove a weed.
Moreover, the images in the poem – of the wasteland itself, the expensive restaurant, and the working man’s cafe – are sharply contrasted to create a sense of division, mirroring the division within the country itself and within the poet’s mind. The stark difference In Nothing’s Changed, Afrika says the Inn is “flaring like a flag” meaning it is glaringly bright. Flaring has another meaning: spreading gradually outwards, which is relevant to Afrika’s feelings, as the Inn’s whites only prejudice is spreading throughout district six.