'Nothing's Changed' by Tatamkhulu Afrika
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'Nothing's Changed' by Tatamkhulu Afrika
Nothing’s changed is a very intense poem, it is showing the black
boy’s feeling towards what he is seeing and experiencing during his
life. The poet tells the reader how he's angry due to the attitude
towards black people. There are many violent and physical emotions in
this poem. He makes the words and phrases come to life, for example
"small round hard stones click" and "cans trodden on, crunch" by using
this technique a physical response is brought into the poem. This
feeling of conflict and physical tension makes the reader feel on
edge. It makes the reader feel like tension is building. The poet
tells the reader how he knows he's in district six by "the soft
labouring" of his lungs and "the skin" about his bones, also "the
anger" in his eyes. Anger and physical tension are very important in
this poem. I believe it is mainly what the poem is about. To make the
feeling of anger and tension build up more. The poet refers to heat a
lot, for example "flaring like a flag." Words like "hot", " white",
"burn" and "flaring" are used throughout the poem to keep the anger
flowing. I feel that this situation is rather like in a boiler, the
pressure and heat is building steadily but it can only take so much.
The poet also tells the reader that he doesn't feel welcome in this
country, despite there are no "sign says it is.”
The poet, in his poem gives a very clear impression that he is looking
at the real world but from the outside or through a window." I press
my nose to the clear panes" shows that he is looking in from the
outside. Glass is a very important symbol in the poem, it represents a
barrier between the black and white people or communities as they are
practically two divisions, the white people think they're superior to
black people. The poet refers to how black people are called "Boys"
and white "Men" this is a very offensive comment which angers
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Tatamkhulu also adding fuel to the tension. The poet writes about how
the "working mans cafe sells” which serves only "bunny chows", cheap,
nature food, The poet also tells us "wipe your fingers on your jeans"
and "Spit a little on the floor" because black people aren't as
important as white people. If those things were done at the high
standard cafe’s of cuisines which is very clean, tidy and very well
looked after and people have pride when they go in it and did any of
those things they'd be thrown out immediately. I believe that this
really irritates the poet because the blacks aren't getting anything
as near as good as the whites.
At the end of the poem the poet says how his "hands burn", as if he
was on fire, burning with rage and anger about what is happening to
his people and to him. The last line of the poem is one of the most
important, because he is trying to tells us the situation between
black and white people, the racism and the discrimination, is still
happening, nothings changed. I felt for the poet having to put up with
that all your life. I can’t believe people can still treat people
badly because they're different. This poem depth to it and I feel that
the poet is willing to fight for his rights why should he have to put
up with the discrimination and racism. This had much more impact on my
feelings because I believe he screaming for help. He shows how
irritated he is and how much anger has built up in him over a long
period of time hence the name "nothings changed" He get the feeling,
that they never will, or it will take a long time for things to change
between the whites and the blacks.
Nothing’s changed is an autobiographical poem written by Tatamkhulu Afrika; a white South African who grew up in Cape Town’s Disrict Six. The apartheid government declared District Six as an area for only white people, and soon after, the area was destroyed. In this poem he returns to District Six to find the black people in the same situation as before, and though apartheid is said to have been abolished they are still discriminated against. He states that in fact, nothing has changed.
When the poet first arrives to District Six in stanza one, he describes the wasteland and overgrown area surrounding him. The first line consists of a sentence with monosyllabic words and each word is therefore stressed; “small round hard stones click”. They are also onomatopoeic words and this adds more effect to the opening sentence of the poem. We are informed that there are cans scattered about amidst “tall, purple-flowering, amiable weeds”. The “trodden on” cans is possibly a metaphor suggesting that the cans are like the black people being trodden on by white people.
Overall the area described seems to be unkempt and neglected; people simply do not care for it anymore as the whites do not care about the black people. Afrika see’s a “new, up-market” restaurant which is “brash with glass”. These two words produce harsh sounds, and the word brash instantly tells us how showy this place is. He peers through the glass and sees that the inside is elegant and expensive; with a “guard at the gatepost” ensuring that only white people enter. Amongst the weeds, Port Jackson trees are starting to grow.
They suggest that this particular area is beginning to create a more sophisticated look, because Port Jackson is a smarter area of Cape Town. The restaurant offers ‘haute cuisine’ which is high class food. The poet maintains his description of the restaurant in the next stanza. He knows what he will see inside, but presses his nose “to the clear panes” to confirm and prove his beliefs. The clear pane window shows class, as everything is superior and expensive with “crushed ice white glass”, a linen tablecloth, and a “single rose” on each table.
The words clear, glass, ice and white are cold words, and this is the second time the poet has used the word “white” in the poem. The poet compares this elegant restaurant to the “working man’s cafe ” nearby. This stanza emphasises the huge inequalities between black and white people and the contrast is used very effectively. The lovely table settings of the expensive and guarded restaurant are vividly compared to an unsophisticated working man’s cafe with cheap furniture and cheap food. The “haute cuisine” is distinctively contrasted to the “bunny chows”.
Like a small, grubby place, without posh toilets or serviettes, you “wipe your fingers on your jeans” and you “spit a little on the floor” because there is no need to try to keep the place tidy and clean, or perhaps because the food does not taste very good. The last line of the stanza, “it’s in the bone” is filled with bitterness and sarcasm. He suggests that these people behave like that instinctively because they are too poor and looked down upon to enter a place where manners are kept and maintain them. With sarcasm there is also the idea maybe if given the chance, they are just as sophisticated and classy as white people.
In the final stanza the poet moves back from the window and feels the same hatred that he in his childhood at the time of the apartheid government. The “small mean O” may be of his expression but also the breath mark that has been left on the glass as he stares with anger and disgust. He is angry because the black people are still treated as if they are inferior to the white people and throughout the other 5 stanzas his fury has built up to this point. He wants to smash the glass and destroy the restaurant, “Hands burn for a stone, and a bomb”.
The reader can imagine how his hands “burn” for revenge and the want to get a bomb to “shiver down the glass”. The last line reiterates the title, that even after all this time, even after the apartheid government has been abolished “Nothing’s changed. ” A Comparison between Nothing’s Changed and Two Scavengers Nothing’s Changed by Tatumkhulu Afrika is about the segregation between black and white people and “Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two beautiful People in a Mercedes” by Laurence Ferlinghetti is about two couples who are different because of their social class and wealth.
They have many similarities but are also different in some ways. They are both very effective poems which are written to state some kind of inequality between people, and they are both globally key issues. Afrika’s poem is set in South Africa, Cape town, and Ferlinghetti’s poem is set in San Francisco in America; one is a third world country and the other is a highly developed country, yet there are still prejudices in both.