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Black Woman by Leopold Sedar Senghor | SUMMARY | SETTINGS | THEME

Black Woman by Leopold Sedar Senghor
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Black Woman by Leopold Sedar Senghor; If you’ve found your way to this page, it indicates that you’ve been assigned a task or you’re currently in an exam hall, seeking solutions for the poem titled “BLACK WOMAN” by Leopold Sedar Senghor.

This poem is now part of the reading material for literature students in WAEC, NECO, and JAMB from 2021 to 2025.

We’ve taken the initiative to support students by offering insights, including background information, poetic devices, themes, structure, and a summary about the poet. This is aimed at helping them better comprehend and prepare in advance for their examinations.

“Black Woman” is a compelling poem penned by Leopold Sedar Senghor, a renowned Senegalese poet, philosopher, and politician. The poem serves as a potent expression of African identity, celebrating the richness of African culture and extolling the beauty of black women. Here’s a summary and analysis of this impactful poem:

About Leopold Sedar Senghor The POET

Leopold Senghor was born in Senegal in 1906, he was Educated in Dakar, Senegal, and ‘ Paris, France. Leopold Sedar Senghor (1906–2001), was Educated in Dakar, Senegal, and ‘ Paris, France.

Leopold Sedar Senghor was indeed a prominent writer, as well as a poet, philosopher, and politician.

He hailed from Senegal and played a significant role in the negritude literary and cultural movement. Negritude, a term he helped popularize, was a literary and ideological movement that aimed to celebrate and embrace African identity and culture.

Senghor served as the first President of Senegal after it gained independence from France in 1960. Apart from his political career, he is widely acclaimed for his poetry, which often explores themes of African heritage, identity, and the beauty of black culture.

Some of Leopold Sedar Senghor’s books or notable works include “Chants d’ombre” (Songs of Shadow), “Hosties noires” (Black Hosts), and “Éthiopiques” (Ethiopian). Senghor’s contributions to both literature and politics have left a lasting impact, making him a key figure in African intellectual history.

Black Woman by Leopold Sedar Senghor

Black Woman by Leopold Sedar Senghor

BLACK WOMAN “SETTINGS”

Black Woman” by Leopold Sedar Senghor doesn’t have a specific or concrete setting in terms of time or place. Instead, the poem is more abstract, emphasizing the cultural and spiritual dimensions of the black woman’s identity. The lack of a specific setting allows the poem to be interpreted as a universal celebration of black women, transcending specific geographical or temporal contexts.

The poem focuses on the symbolic and cultural significance of the black woman rather than providing a narrative with a distinct setting.

It draws upon universal themes and archetypes associated with African identity and the portrayal of black women as powerful and nurturing figures. The lack of a specific setting contributes to the poem’s timeless and transcendent quality, emphasizing the enduring importance of celebrating and recognizing the beauty and cultural richness of black women across different contexts and eras

Summary

“Black Woman” celebrates the essence and beauty of African women. Senghor uses vivid imagery and metaphorical language to convey his admiration for the black woman’s physical and spiritual qualities. The poem is a tribute to the strength, resilience, and grace of African women, highlighting their role as nurturers and sustainers of life.

The poem begins by describing the black woman’s physical features, emphasizing her dark skin and contrasting it with the brilliance of her white teeth. Senghor uses colors and natural elements to create a vivid picture of her beauty. He then moves beyond the physical attributes and delves into the deeper, spiritual qualities of the black woman.

Senghor sees the black woman as a symbol of fertility, life, and abundance. He refers to her as the “Black Garden,” suggesting that she is a source of life and sustenance. The poem also explores the theme of love, with the black woman symbolizing both romantic and maternal love.

The rhythm and musicality of the poem reflect Senghor’s interest in incorporating African oral traditions into his writing. The use of repetition, rhythm, and sound contributes to the overall emotional impact of the poem.

BLACK WOMAN “THEMES”

“Black Woman” by Leopold Sedar Senghor explores several central themes, reflecting the poet’s engagement with Negritude and his celebration of African identity. Here are some key themes present in the poem:

  1. Cultural Pride and Identity:
    • The poem is a celebration of African culture and identity. Senghor takes pride in the physical and spiritual beauty of black women, seeing them as embodiments of African heritage. The emphasis on the “Black Garden” and other cultural symbols underscores the importance of embracing and valuing one’s cultural identity.
  2. Beauty and Love:
    • Senghor portrays black women as symbols of beauty, both in physical appearance and in their nurturing roles. The poem celebrates the aesthetics of dark skin, contrasting it with the brightness of white teeth. Additionally, the references to love and the maternal role of the black woman contribute to the theme of love and admiration.
  3. Negritude:
    • As a key figure in the Negritude movement, Senghor’s poem aligns with the broader theme of Negritude. This literary and cultural movement aimed to assert the value and dignity of African culture, challenging negative stereotypes and Eurocentric perspectives. “Black Woman” serves as a manifestation of Negritude, promoting a positive and authentic representation of African identity.
  4. Fertility and Abundance:
    • The black woman is symbolically referred to as the “Black Garden,” signifying fertility, abundance, and the source of life. This theme connects to traditional African beliefs and the recognition of women as nurturers and life-bringers in the cultural and societal context.
  5. Spirituality and Symbolism:
    • The poem incorporates spiritual and symbolic elements. The black woman is not only a physical being but also a symbolic representation of cultural richness and life force. The use of metaphor and symbolism adds depth to the portrayal of the black woman, elevating her to a symbolic status.
  6. Unity and Solidarity:
    • While not explicitly stated, the celebration of the black woman in the poem can be interpreted as a call for unity and solidarity among people of African descent. By celebrating the beauty and cultural significance of black women, Senghor contributes to a sense of collective pride and unity.

BLACK WOMAN “STRUCTURE”

Senghor’s “Black Woman” comprises seven stanzas, totaling 33 lines, and is composed in free verse, devoid of a fixed rhyme scheme. The poem adopts a first-person perspective, delving into various facets of the black woman’s identity and significance.

In the initial stanza, the poet fondly portrays the black woman, extolling the beauty of her ebony complexion. Africa is metaphorically presented as a nurturing maternal figure, bestowing life through childbirth and casting a protective shadow that nourished the poet’s childhood.

The second stanza transforms the black woman into a symbol of love, likening her African body to a ripe fruit. The Savannah, depicted as eagerly embracing the east wind, mirrors the ardent affection directed towards her. Senghor draws parallels between her skin and a finely crafted drum, resonating beneath the fingers of a valiant conqueror. Furthermore, her contralto voice is described as a spiritual melody, echoing the sentiments of the beloved.

Continuing the adoration in the third stanza, the poet compares the black woman’s smooth skin to that of an athlete on the flanks of the princes of Mali. Her elegant movements are likened to a gazelle, with limbs seemingly crafted in paradise. The pearls adorning her skin are likened to stars on a celestial night of celebration.

The concluding stanza portrays the black woman as the embodiment of Africa itself. Senghor expresses a desire to perpetually hold the beauty of the African woman within the walls of his mind. This mental image remains undeterred, even in the face of “jealous fate” (death) that may reduce her to ashes to nourish the roots of life. The innate beauty of the African woman is paralleled with the pristine state of Africa before the intrusion of colonial masters who invaded and colonized the continent.

DICTION

The diction in “Black Woman” by Leopold Sedar Senghor is carefully chosen to convey the poet’s admiration and celebration of black women. Senghor’s use of language is rich in imagery, metaphor, and symbolism. Here are some aspects of the diction in the poem:

Imagery:

Senghor employs vivid and evocative imagery to describe the physical attributes of the black woman. For example, he contrasts the darkness of her skin with the brightness of her white teeth, creating a striking visual contrast. The use of colors and sensory details contributes to the overall aesthetic appeal of the poem.

Simile:

The literary device is used in line 5 “your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle,” the comparison brings to mind the beauty and nobility of an eagle.

Repetition:

line 1 “naked woman, black woman” and. Line 6 “Naked woman, dark woman” is repeated in lines 11 and 16 respectively to emphasize the natural beauty of the African woman.

Personification:

The “black woman” is figuratively used to personify the African continent and Senghor’s country, Senegal. The poet uses the beauty of the color of the African woman’s skin to personify the rich African culture before Western influence and colonization.

Metaphor:

The poem is characterized by metaphorical language. The black woman is metaphorically referred to as the “Black Garden,” symbolizing fertility, abundance, and the source of life. This metaphor adds depth to the description, elevating the black woman to a symbolic and powerful status.

Mood

The mode of the poem is that of Adulation. The poet admires the tremendous beauty of the naked woman, a black woman. He describes everything about the African woman as naturally beautiful.

Senghor sees Africa as the black woman he loves to celebrate. He seeks to adore that state of natural beauty before it is taken away by death.

Tone:

The poet’s tone of appreciation of the natural beauty of the black woman permeates the poem. He praises the African woman not only for her natural smooth dark skin but also for the way and manner she brings up her children.

Symbolism:

Senghor uses symbolic language to represent broader ideas and themes. The black woman, beyond her individual identity, becomes a symbol of African culture, heritage, and the life force. The symbolic use of language contributes to the poem’s thematic richness.

Alliteration

The poet uses alliteration to buttress the beauty of the black woman in lines 1,2,3,6,7,9 etc.

Line 1,6,11 and 16 naked women blackwoman
Line 2 “clothed with your color which is life, with your form which is beauty”
Line 3 “…grown-up; the gentleness…”
Line 7 ” firm-fleshed ripe fruit….. Mouth making lyrical my mouth”
Line 9 “carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom…”

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