SENTINEL POETRY #16          MARCH 2004          ISSN 1479-425X

"...there is a certain poignancy and urgency to poetry, which addresses an urgent issue urgently and satisfactorily…it is not called the Queen of forms for nothing."
- Ede 

By Nnorom Azuonye

Nnorom Azuonye (NA): Your earlier writings appeared in the name of Godwin Ede. Has the change to Amatoritsero come simply as preference or is it a cultural statement?

Amatoritsero Ede (AE): Yes, I wrote under the name Godwin Ede. Amatoritsero is my middle name. Living in Germany exposed me to organised white racism against the Africans (by some sections of society - the so called skinheads, a.k.a neo-nazi). I decided to take up my middle name and reject the Christian one, since racist Germany pretends to be a nation under the rule of the spirit of Christ but kills Christ afresh every day a skinhead attacks a 'nigger' and sometimes kills him on the streets of Germany. The example of Adriano is particularly gruesome. He was an African from Angola, I believe, who had lived and worked in the former GDR and was married to a German woman. They had three children I think, two or three. He was hunted down on the streets in Desau in the east of Germany and murdered to the racist German nursery rhyme, 'drei klein Negerlein'. It means three little 'niggerrets', if you like. No one raised a finger to help. The German public simply melted away. The nascent nazism succeeding German re-unification culminated in raids by German youth on Turks, Jews, Africans and any one who looks visibly like an 'Ausleander' (alien or extra-terrestrial more like).  So he was sacrificed brutally in the streets, killed like a goat.

          I had to drop that name, Godwin, as a personal protest against oppression and the internal terrorism I lived under in Germany. Godwin, is a marker of a colonial Christian enslaving and oppressive past, Amatoritsero is a symbolic gesture at self-recovery.

          Besides I did not want there to be any doubt due to mistaken identity, that I was African, that I was a 'nigger'. Some misinformed Germans used to want to germanise my name to 'Gottfried Ede'. Then when they meet me they are disappointed.  The old name is still part of my history no doubt, but it shall always be in brackets.

          While I was infuriated at the 'Babylon System' in Germany, I must say there were a lot of German brothers, both white and black, who made life bearable there. Nevertheless, the experience was so traumatic and disheartening that my second collection has to do mostly with it, and is titled "Hitler's Children", referring, of course, to the right-wing. In a way I can relate to Lola Shoneyin's jibes in her work against the traditional Nigerian male. You begin to understand how oppressed black womanhood might feel if you are a black man and have lived in the metropolis. Postcolonial discourse meets feminism on a ground of oppression. The Nigerian woman, in the postcolonial power arrangement, are marginalised by local patriarchies, and suffer under the power regimes of sons and husbands - which is not to say they do not have various agencies of resistance. African women after independence are in the grip of local patriarchies. But the equation is balanced in that African men after colonialism are marginalised in the metropolis under the power regime of a metropolitan patriarchy. So the 'Third World Woman' of feminist discourse signals a Third World Man' in metropolitan postcolonial discourse because African men are powerless and feminised in the metropolis.

NA: Your comments echo the curse of the African writer, who in the continent must write about oppressive regimes that foster social, political, and economic breakdown, but in the Diaspora or exile, must write about immigrant experiences of disillusionment, racist discrimination and attacks among others. Why do you choose poetry as the medium to voice these concerns?

AE: I did not choose poetry really, rather poetry chose me. But to answer you more directly, I think there is a certain poignancy and urgency to poetry, which addresses an urgent issue urgently and satisfactorily. Poetry is more cathartic than the prose narrative. Well, it is not called the Queen of forms for nothing.  Of course we know you don't make money with poetry. It is a labour of love. And I would disagree with ...I am not sure now if it is ...W.H. Auden who thought poetry makes nothing happen. The Black Consciousness Movement in Apartheid South Africa had poetry as one of its inspiring instruments. Apartheid did fall. Continue>>>

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