In the recent past, a hot debate has emanated on colonialism and post colonialism and what they stand for. It is an area that has attracted so many writers with a lot of criticism based on different opinions. Before colonialism, most countries were occupied by the original natives of the land. With the coming of colonialism and imperialism, everything suddenly changed and the imperialists soon took charge of what once was the property of the natives. In Australia for instance, the natives were the aborigines who were displaced by the European settlers especially the British. This happened during the primary stages of colonization. This period of colonialism was associated with remarkable racial segregation. The most affected was the black race where most blacks all over the world were treated with cold shoulders and in almost all the cases; the whites were not allowed to mingle with the blacks at all. This humiliated the blacks and made them feel betrayed and alienated on their own land. It was then followed by the struggle for independence all over the world, something that led to decolonization of most once colonized countries. It is from here that most of the ‘commonwealth literature’ emerged (McLeod, 2000). Famous writers came on the limelight with their own ideologies and some have attracted a lot of criticism from modern writers. After decolonization, the colonialists still imposed their policies on what were once their colonies but this time round in a different way. Through literature, most critics took centre stage through their works in order to fight what they thought was not right. Through the commonwealth literature, colonial writers imparted a belief in their readers most of which were the colonized that it was right for some people to rule over others and those being ruled should humbly submit to the authority above them. This was another form ‘colonization of the mind’ that colonialists were applying to ensure their sovereignty. Colonialism is deemed to have brought about cultural hybridity, ethnicity and location. (McLeod, 2000)
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From her work, it is very true that Judith Wright was both an environmentalist and a social activist. The writer uses her childhood and lifetime experiences to vividly point out on various contemporary but fundamental issues affecting the society. For instance in her poem, ‘Two Dreamtimes’ Judith Wright points out on post colonialism and racial segregation which in her view were ‘eating up’ the society and was a hindrance to development. Also, she is keen to highlight cultural alienation versus modernity as another key issue of major concern. On the other hand, Sujata Bhatt uses her multicultural experience to clearly air her criticisms on matters she thinks are of concern. In her poem, ‘A different history,’ Sujata Bhatt succeeds in bringing to understanding vital concerns like culture, oppression and post-colonialism. With all the traces of a bard and postcolonial uniqueness, she demonstrates her passion for the local traditions and linguistic communication. In this poem, Sujata Bhatt shows the significance of culture and language to any particular individual and how they help define someone. In her dual multicultural milieu, she freely uses language as a tool to further her ideologies through writing that is drawn from her vast experience after having lived in three continents. (McLeod, 2000)
Looking at the poem, ‘Two dreamtimes,’ there is an aspect racial segregation that is very evident in the first two stanzas, “You were one of the dark children I wasn’t allowed to play with-riverbank campers, the wrong color, (I couldn’t turn you white).” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 2) White children were not allowed to mingle with the black children. This was a form of oppression that the writer brings to light in her work. The stanza also states that black was a wrong color. This literally means that blacks were treated with a lot of contempt by the whites who looked upon them as an inferior race. This was extended even to their children who were warned never to associate with the black children. The writer’s criticism of this vice is depicted when she refers the black as, ‘riverbank campers, the wrong color’ and finally says, ‘(I couldn’t turn you white).’ Here, the writer is being sarcastic of the descriptions given to the blacks by her parents.
Scramble for property that belonged to the natives was a common phenomenon as evident in the poem, “late I began to know they hadn’t told me the land I loved was taken out of your hands.” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 3). When the colonialists arrived in ‘their colonies,’ the white settlers grabbed all that belonged to the natives including land and went ahead to sell most of it for their own lavish interests (Ashok Bery and Patricia Murray, 2000). This left the natives with nothing but a state of hopelessness while the white settlers continued extravagantly enjoying what was not theirs. This is shown when the persona in the poem says, “The sullen looks of the men who sold them for rum to forget the selling the hard rational white faces with eyes that forget the past.” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 4). The writer uses irony when she says that the white settlers traded the land they had grabbed from the natives for rum. This brings out the contemptuous attitude of the writer towards the imperialists. Her criticism is furthered when she negatively describes the whites and assigns innocence to the blacks in her description.
There is an aspect of cultural degradation that was as a result of colonization. The oppression the natives were subjected to caused them to remain hopeless and their traditions and practices faded away with time. There was no time since even what used to be their own had been snatched away fro the leaving them as piteous beings struggling for existence leave alone survival. From the poem it is said, “Over the rum your voice sang the tales of an old people, their dreaming buried, the place forgotten. We too have lost our dreaming.” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 8). The once happy and beautiful culture was lost and people were mixed in the multi-culture without any identity. This led to a feeling of withdrawal among the colonized.
Slave trade was also associated with colonization where the colonized were sold to slave traders at a relatively cheaper price. The oppressed were sold to work on large capitalist farms and in building up some of the infrastructure for the colonial government that was primarily interested in amassing wealth and gaining sovereignty in terms of infrastructural development (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, 1998). The writer uses irony in her description of how human beings were priced. The persona in the poem says, “And you and I are bought and sold.” The writer goes ahead to highlight how the Aborigines are oppressed by the colonial laws when she openly critics these tyrannical laws as, ‘Raped by rum and an alien law, progress and economics.’ (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 17). The use of the word ‘raped’ shows how these laws and regulations were evil and also reveals the writer’s negative attitude towards.
Economically, the colonized were exploited in that everything that belonged to them was valued at a relatively cheaper price. At the world market, prices are set by these developed countries and the oppressed citizens from the once colonized countries do not get rewards they deserve from the sale of their products. This is evident in, “Are you and I and a once-loved land peopled by tribes and trees; doomed by traders and stock exchanges, bought by faceless strangers.” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza, 18). Also, publishers reject to publish articles written by the writers from the colonized countries. There was no freedom of expression as everything was controlled by the colonial masters (Ashok Bery and Patricia Murray, 2000). This is shown in the poem, “And you and I are bought and sold, our songs and stories too though quoted low in a falling market (publishers shake their heads at poets).” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 19). After decolonization, the former colonial masters still influenced the people’s mind through the commonwealth literature that emphasized much on submission to the authority. The writer is kind of warning people never to trust such writers because it might lead ‘colonization of their minds.’ She says, “Trust none – not even poets.” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 19). In other words she was questioning the credibility of the commonwealth literature and raising doubts. This was a feature of post colonial era where literature was used as another avenue of tethering the once colonized minds (John Kasaipwalova, 2007).
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There is violation of human rights especially against women who are viewed as weak beings that deserve no right. Women were double colonized by the colonial rule and also by the entire society. This is shown in the poem, “Telling sad tales of women (black or white at a different price) meant much and little to us.” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 20). This explicitly illustrate that all these exploits were offensive but no one had the right and courage to stand and fight against them. People were so oppressed that they had given up in life and just took life as circumstances dictated to them (‘R.K. Narayan, 1993).
In comparison to the poem by Sujata Bhatt, ‘A different history’ the two authors tend to share common views and both tend to critic the outcomes of colonialism and post-colonialism. They both accentuate the importance of culture but are disparagative of colonialism and post-colonialism consequences (Elmer Andrews, 1995). Concerning culture, Sujata Bhatt says uses the first stanza to create a culturally entrusted society where the set norms are respected by everyone. She says, “Here, the gods roam free every tree is sacred and it is a sin to be rude to a book.”(A different history, stanza 1). Judith Wright on the other hand talks of cultural dilapidation as a result of colonialism when she says; “Over the rum your voice sang the tales of an old people, their dreaming buried, the place forgotten. We too have lost our dreaming.” (Two Dreamtimes, stanza 19).
The two poems also criticize both colonization and post-colonialism effects through the use of language techniques. Sujata Bhatt employs the use of rhetoric questions to forward her criticism. This helps infuse critical thinking in the reader’s mind and hence make him or her think alongside the writer throughout the poem. For example she says, “Whose language has not been the oppressor’s tongue?” (A different history, stanza 2). This statement engages anyone reading it to pause and think broadly concerning the subject matter. Conversely, Judith Wright capitalises on the uses of satire, sarcasm and irony to surface her criticism. She also uses imagery when she says, “We the robbers robbed in turn.” She directly refers to the white settlers as robbers and thus, she succeeds in delivering her denigration.
In my own view, Judith’s work is a picture of what is happening in the modern post-colonial era. Despite getting freedom from colonialism, there is still indirect oppression in terms of leadership, trade and resource exploitation imposed by the once colonial masters on their former colonies (Greg Garrard, 2004). These countries still receive unfair terms of trade in the world market and do not really benefit from their products and services (Childs, Peter. Williams, Patrick, 1997).
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