Nothing's Changed - Tatamkhulu Afrika - Bitesize

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English
Tatamkhulu Afrika: Nothing's Changed
Context
This is an autobiographical autobiographical : An
autobiography is a text recounting the author's own life. poem.
Tatamkhulu Afrika (19202002) lived in Cape Town's District 6,
which was then a thriving mixedrace innercity community.
People of all colours and beliefs lived together peacefully, and
Afrika said he felt 'at home' there.
In the 1960s, as part of its policy of apartheid [apartheid :
system of racial segregation and repression of nonwhite
people in predemocratic South Africa. Apartheid means
'separate development'. ] the government declared District 6 a
'whitesonly' area, and began to evacuate the population. Over a
period of years, the entire area was razed to the ground. Most of
it has never been built on.
The poem was written just after the official end of apartheid
[apartheid : system of racial segregation and repression of
nonwhite people in predemocratic South Africa. Apartheid
means 'separate development'. ]. It was a time of hope Nelson
Mandela had recently been released from prison, and the ANC
was about to form the government of South Africa.
Tatamkhulu Afrika's life story is complicated, but knowing
something about it will help you to understand the feelings
expressed in this poem.
Tatamkhulu Afrika's life
Tatamkhulu Afrika was brought up in Cape Town, South Africa, as
a white South African.
When he was a teenager, he found out that he was actually
Egyptianborn 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 be classified as coloured.
In 1984, the poet joined the ANC (the African National Congress
the organisation leading the struggle against apartheid).
Arrested in 1987 for terrorism, he was banned from writing or
speaking in public for five years. At this point, he adopted the
name Tatamkhulu Afrika which had previously been his ANC
code name. This enabled him to carry on writing, despite the ban.
Of his own sense of identity, the poet said: "I am completely
African. I am a citizen of Africa I'm a son of Africa that is my
culture. I know I write poems that sound European, because I
was brought up in school to do that, but, if you look at my poems

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Of his own sense of identity, the poet said: "I am completely
African. I am a citizen of Africa I'm a son of Africa that is my
culture. I know I write poems that sound European, because I
was brought up in school to do that, but, if you look at my poems
carefully, you will find that all of them, I think, have an African
flavour.…read more

Page 3

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Down the road,
working man's cafe sells
bunny chows.
Take it with you, eat
it at a plastic table's top,
wipe your fingers on your jeans,
spit a little on the floor:
it's in the bone.
I back from the
glass,
boy again,
leaving small mean O
of small mean mouth.
Hands burn
for a stone, a bomb,
to shiver down the glass.
Nothing's changed.
Vocabulary
Words Description
Port Jackson Trees imported from Australia.…read more

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Picture courtesy of Mike
Barwood
This makes him reflect that despite
the changing political situation, there
are still huge inequalities between
blacks and whites. Even though
South Africa is supposed to have
changed, he knows the new
restaurant is really 'whitesonly'. He
Inequalities between blacks
feels that nothing has really
and whites
changed.
The deep anger he feels makes him
want to destroy the restaurant to
smash the glass with a stone, or a
bomb.…read more

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Although he is recalling a past Picture courtesy of Shane
experience, it is as if the poet is re Thomas
living the experience as he writes.
This is one of the things that makes this poem vivid to read, and
easy to identify with.
The viewpoint in the poem is carefully established. The first
stanza, for example, puts us 'in the poet's shoes'. It is as if we
are walking with the poet across the rough ground.…read more

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Stanza 3 is another long sentence. Notice how the subject
of the stanza isn't actually mentioned until the end. What
effect does that have?
You'll find two very short sentences in this poem look at line 9
and line 48. What effect do these short, sharp sentences
produce?
Attitude, tone and ideas
Much of the meaning of a poem is
conveyed by the attitude it
expresses toward its subject matter.…read more

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Sample question
Read this question carefully. It is similar to the type of question
you will be asked in the exam.
Question
Choose two poems which deal with the experience of
living between two cultures, and show how this experience
is reflected in the language of the poems.
Teacher's note
If you are ready to practise writing a full answer, you should
spend 40 minutes on this, and write about two poems. In the
exam itself, you will only have 30 minutes for this question.…read more

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He feels like smashing the
windows.
Examiner's Note:
l fair summary of what happens in the poem
quotation of some key phrases would have
l sharpened the description
l doesn't take in how the poem is written
l a D grade answer
Answer 2
When he goes back to the district it's all overgrown. He
steps through the rubbish and weeds. It says the weeds
are 'amiable' which means friendly, as if the weeds don't
know what he knows.…read more

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