Brathwaite, Goodison, Adisa, West Indian poetry, South Africa, West Indian representations of Africa


This article examines the ways in which three West Indian poems written between 1979 and 1992 – “Soweto” by Kamau Brathwaite, “Bedspread” by Lorna Goodison and “We Are Formed from Volcanoes” by Opal Palmer Adisa – engage the history of South Africa under apartheid. I argue that while Africa as a place with its own historical destiny is rarely encountered in West Indian literature, the texts that I probe constitute a minor yet important exception to this rule. At the same time, however, it is clear that the three poets and others who have written or sung about Africa and South Africa have done so in ways that reveal their own preoccupations, desires and anxieties as West Indians. That is, the representation of “South Africa” as a “real elsewhere” is always already bound up with its representation as an imagined or invented land, one that has been idealized or in some way essentialized.

Original Citation

Álvarez, David. "‘Dis poem is vex bout apartheid’: Representations of South Africa in Three West Indian Poems." Journal of Commonwealth Literature 44, no. 2 (2009): 107-122.