Negritude and culture. Basically, negritude movement is born out

 Negritude was both a literary and ideological
movement led by French speaking black writer’s intellectuals from France
colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. The movement is marked by its rejection
of European colonization and its rule in the African diaspora, pride in ‘blackness’
and traditional African values and culture mixed with an undercurrent of
Marxists ideals.

Negritude was born from
a shared experience of discrimination and oppression and attempt to dispel
stereotype and create a new black of consciousness. The movement drew its
inspiration from Harlem renaissance, which was beginning its decline. The
Harlem Renaissance which was alternatively called the ‘new Negro Renaissance’,
fostered black artists and leaders who prompted a sense of pride and advocacy
in the black community and a refusal to submit to injustices.

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Negritude is the simple
recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of
our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture. Basically, negritude movement
is born out of the context of francophone Africans who were responding to stiff,
dehumanizing, and cultural and religious disorienting policy of French
assimilation-this is a term used to describe the French colonial policy in
Africa.

 The policy was aimed at turning Africa into
‘Frenchmen’ through the process of education. This policy was meant to make the
Africans culturally French. The French proclaimed that Africans could
assimilate French culture and that those who did so could be accepted on terms
of full social equality by all Frenchmen. The social equality was however not
realistic. Importantly, ‘assimilation was not aimed at elevating the African
but at devaluing his culture, and that was why it was thought necessary to
strip him of his true cultural self and put on him  a foreign one which was later to revolt
against’.

The assertion of black
pride by members of the negritude movement was attended by a cry against this
assimilation. In their view, colonization had stripped their culture of not
only their uniqueness but also the means of expressing it, via a transportation
of a foreign language. Writers did use French and other languages in new ways,
using them to express symbolically their connection to traditional African
culture, rituals and symbols.

According to Senghor
negritude defined the best means of expressing the essence of black identity
and he often stressed the existence of a black psychology, this is the
acceptance and the pride in being black. They were also disturbed by the world
wars in which they saw their countrymen not only dying for a cause that was not
theirs but being treated as inferiors on their battlefield. They became
increasingly aware through their study of history of the suffering and
humiliation of black people.First under the bondage of slavery and then under
colonial rule.

Africa

Africa my Africa

Africa of proud warriors
in ancestral savannahs

Africa of whom my
grandmother sings

On the banks of the
distant river

I have never known you

But your blood flows in
my veins

Your beautiful black
blood that irrigates the fields

The blood of your sweat

The sweat of your work

The work of your
slavery

Africa, tell me Africa

Is this your back that
is unbent

This back that never
breaks under the weight of humiliation

This back trembling
with red scars

And saying no to the
whip under the midday sun

But a grave voice
answers me

Impetuous child that
tree, young and strong

That tree over there

Splendidly alone amidst
white and faded flowers

That is your Africa
springing up anew

Springing up patiently,
obstinately

Whose fruit bit by bit
acquires

The bitter taste of
liberty.

In this poem Diop talks
about how the blacks are being mistreated by the whites. In  the poem he talks about being proud of Africa
this was before the colonizers came but this changed when the whites came and
took over the continent in the poem he says “the sweat of your work, the work
of your slavery”, meaning they blacks have been enslaved. He goes ahead and
says in the poem “this back trembling with red scars” this is the humiliation
they get from the whip they are given at their backs when working but are
considered to work slowly. But there is hope this comes when” the movement of
negritude is formed at the end of the poem he talks about salvation when he
says “that is your Africa springing up a new, springing up patiently”. This
means that freedom is coming slowly and that soon they will be free from the
colonizers, he continues by saying “whose fruit bit by bit we acquire the
bitter taste of liberty”. In the end of the poem there is liberation.

These view inspired
many of the basic ideas behind negritude. First, the mystic warmth of African
life, gaining strength from its closeness to nature it’s constant contact with
ancestors, should be constantly placed in proper perspective against
materialism of western culture.

Second African must
look to their own cultural heritage to determine the values and traditions that
are most useful in the modern world. Third, committed writers should use
African subject matter and poetic traditions and should excite a desire for
political freedom. Fourth, negritude itself encompasses the whole of African
cultural, economic, social and political values. Fifth, the values and dignity
of African traditions and people must be asserted.

“we lived in an
atmosphere of rejection and we developed an inferiority complex. I have always
thought that the black man was searching for his identity and it has seemed to
me that if what we want is to establish this identity, then we must a concrete
consciousness of what we are, that is, of the first fact of our lives: that we
are black, that we were black and have a history that contains cultural
elements of a great value, and that negroes were not as you put it, born
yesterday, because there have been beautiful and important black civilization”.

Denunciation of the
ills of colonization, another tenet of negritude movement was thus borne out of
the context of the above quotation. Against slave trade, colonialism,
neocolonialism and above all prejudice towards the black race and black people,
but before the assertion and subsequent establishment of African historical
relevance, her heritage and values, the negroes had to undress themselves of
the shackles and constrictive tendencies of assimilation. “To set our own and
effective revolution, we had to first put off our borrowed dresses those of
assimilation and affirm our being, that is negritude. To be truly ourselves, we
ought to embody the Negro African culture, for our negritude to be effective we
had to shake off the dust,

This movement was a
call to reject assimilation and reclaim their own racial heritage and
qualities. Senghor advocates the emergence of “cultural workers” who will
reveal black specificity to the world by articulating their experiences, their
fortunes and misfortunes. It is only the black that will write about their
history and validate their achievements. This will restore the lost humility,
dignity, integrity and subjectivity of black identity necessary to confront
racism and western imperialism.

Damas in his pigment he
provides an ideological perspective, for him, negritude is a categorical
rejection of an assimilation that negated black spontaneity as well as a defense
for his condition as a black. In his poem “limbe” damas articulate negritude.

Give me black, my black
dolls

 So that I may play with them

The naïve genius of my
instinct in the darkness

Of its laws, once I
have recovered.

My courage and audacity
and

Become myself once more

In this poem damas
criticize racial division, he uses black doll to show that he is African
meaning black in the poem. He says “in the darkness of its laws once I have
recovered my courage and audacity and become myself once more” this points out
that he probably  did something that got
him in trouble and that’s why he got his dolls taken away. He is trying to feel
like himself and feel brave, like he did before this happened.

Negritude was formed by
a united in a revolutionary action seeking the liberation of the blacks from
whites and colonial power, the recognition of the negro-African culture and
civilization. Despite the fact that black power ideology reflected a modernist
sensibility, these elements were soon rendered irrelevant. The period directly
after the black power movement was a time when major new magazines carried
articles with cocky headlines like “what happened to black?” they had at least
made it possible  for black liberation to
be on the national political agenda. In the wake of black movement, after so
many rebels were slaughtered and lost.

In conclusion the
negritude movement had influenced and still influences African literature. This
fact owes to the claim of John and olive that “the spirit of African civilization
animates, consciously or unconsciously, the best negro artist and writers today,
both in Africa and America. In so far as they are aware of African culture and
draw inspiration from it. They rise to international status.