GCSE Essay Cultural Poems

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GCSE Essay Poems from Different Cultures

In this essay will be the poems, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ by Tatamkhulu Afrika and ‘Two Scavengers in a Truck’ written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Tatamkhulu Afrika is trying to emphasise the pain of black people being disallowed to associate with white people, although the apartheid has been lifted. In the second poem, Two Scavengers in a Truck, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is writing about people that are of different groups once again but in this context he has wrote about garbage men and two beautiful people in a Mercedes. In this case, the subjects are separated, as you don’t associate garbage men with two people who are rich, elegant and dressed in a three-piece linen suit. In this essay, I plan to compare how the two poets explore cultural issues and attitudes in their work.


In the first part of my essay, I am going to write about Tatamkhulu Afrika’s poem, ‘Nothings Changed’, in which he talks about the cultural difficulties of living in District Six, in this particular case, the difficulty of not being allowed to eat in a fancy restaurant and how this represents many aspects of their cultural existence. District Six had been under apartheid although it had now been lifted. Apartheid is a system of racial segregation and repression of non-white people in pre-democratic South Africa. The poem ‘Nothing’s Changed’ is wrote in first person, as it is personal to Tatamkhulu, in the sense that he is from South Africa and was once living in District Six with the apartheid in order. Afrika also writes this poem in first person as he thinks strongly about the topic, as he has been victim to racial abuse.

When Afrika was growing up, he was actually Egyptian born as the child of an Arab father and a Turkish mother. The South African government began to classify every citizen by colour - white, black and coloured. Afrika turned down the chance to be classed as white, and chose instead to become a Muslim and classified as coloured. I think that Afrika did a very noble thing sticking to his religion even though he knew he would be a subject of discrimination.


‘Nothing’s Changed’ sets the scene by describing District Six as a rundown area and not very well looked after, by writing ‘…seeding grasses trust bearded seeds into trouser cuffs, cans trodden on…’ and if you picture it in your mind it sounds and looks like a wasteland. The way Tatamkhulu describes the weeds and the stones under his heels makes all the difference. The words he uses to describe them add to the neutral tone of the opening stanza.


In the second stanza, Afrika is talking about the way in which he knows where he is, ‘District Six. No board says it: but my feet know…’ tells you that he knows it is because nothing has changed since the last time he visited. In this verse, the tone begins to change from description to feelings of anger and hatred. He builds up the tension of anger by using comma’s to separate the sentences. Tatamkhulu Afrika also builds up tension in a hidden and unique way by writing, ‘but my feet know, and my hands, and the skin about my bones, and the soft labouring of my lungs, and the hot, white, inwards turning anger of my eyes’. If you read this carefully, it is describing from his feet to his eyes, as if the anger is building up inside him.


In the third stanza, Tatamkhulu Afrika writes about the restaurant in the middle of District Six. He describes the restaurant as, haute cuisine, meaning that the food is posh and tasty. ‘Brash with glass’ suggests that the restaurant is a little too much and over the top. ‘It squats’ tells you that it has just been put there and doesn’t really suit its position. These adjectives are significant as they add to the mood of anger and sadness that Afrika is feeling. He describes the exterior of the restaurant by writing ‘…it squats in the grass and weeds…’ squats, suggests that it is just sitting there, and in the grass and weeds finishes it off by pointing out that it is very posh but just isn’t meant to be there. ‘…guard at the gatepost…’ tells you that there is someone at the door stopping black people getting in. ‘Guard’ also tells you that it isn’t just a person at the door, it’s a guard giving you the image of a man at the door with a gun and the authority to let in who he pleases. ‘Whites only inn’ tells its own story, the restaurant is for white people only and no black people may enter.

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The next stanza is separate from the others as it only has two lines and says ‘No sign says it is: but we know where we belong’ is following from the third verse ‘white’s only inn’. This couplet is separate to make it stand out that he is not wanted, and neither are any black people, in the restaurant. No sign actually says that black people are not allowed in, but the guard says everything.


In the fourth stanza, Tatamkhulu is describing the interior of the restaurant. He starts the verse as if he was a little child ...

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