SAMPLE CRITICAL ANALYSIS – SA POETRY
‘To Whom It May Concern’ (1973) by Sipho Sepamla
‘To Whom It May Concern’ was written by Sipho Sepamla in the 70's during Apartheid in South Africa. Sepamla was known for his resistance poetry which aimed to call fellow Africans together in a spirit of resistance against oppression. The poem, in a somewhat sarcastic tone, describes and comments on the experience of discrimination a black person would have been subject to living under the Apartheid regime. This essay will analyse the idea of identity in relation to subjection, discrimination, and oppression evident in the poem.
The poem has no rhyme scheme and is written in free verse – it thus has no formal structure. This is a typical characteristic of African poetry which tends to favour experimentation in form. Moreover, the poem is written in a style that resembles a legal or formal letter. It details how the subject in the poem, the 'bearer', has to live according to the provisions of the discriminatory laws of apartheid South Africa. The poem is playful in the way it appears to function as a 'pass book', imitating the legal language and requirements thereof. The subject's movements in and around his locale have to be approved of and monitored by the government, which reinforces that he is not a free citizen. This idea of the restriction of movement would have fallen under the Urban Natives Act and later on under the Group Areas Act. Furthermore, the subject in the poem is not valued as an individual and this idea is also reflected in his simply being referred to as a 'bearer' or 'a Bantu' in the first few lines of the poem. In line 2 of the poem, we are informed that he is '[b]are of everything but particulars', demonstrating his reduction to a simple set of facts on a piece of paper. It also highlights the fact that he owns very little and is most-likely a victim of poverty. His identity is also reduced to a mere definition in his being referred to as a...