An African Thunderstorm

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An African Thunderstorm by David Rubadiri


“An African Thunderstorm” is a poem written by David Rubadiri. He was born in Malawi in 1930.

The poet uses a thunderstorm to explain the history of how the West moved to Africa and colonised it. 

in this article, we shall look at :

  • The poem
  • Explanation of the poem
  • Form and Structure
  • Theme
  • Literary Devices
  • Tone and Mood
  • Some questions and answers on the poem 

    An African Thunderstorm

By David Rubadiri

Explanation of the Poem

The first stanza let’s the reader know that something is coming from the west. It almost sounds like a warning.

The poet uses a “plague of locusts” to describe a large number of colonialists rushing into Africa from different places.

They ran after everything they saw like a madman chasing nothing. He compares the action of the colonialists to how a mad person behaves.

A mad person takes action without thinking of the effects on him and others.

The colonialists were preparing for something soon after their arrival. “Like sinister dark wings”, something unpleasant was about to pour down.

The poet uses “trees” to represent people who remained idle and gave way for the colonialists to continue their activities. They did not want to suffer in the hands of their colonial masters.

In spite of the coming danger, why are the children happy?

The children reflect those who joined and helped the colonialists to carry out their activities.

There is an Akan proverb which states that, ” before an animal will bite you, it must be from your own clothes.

Women are used to represent innocent individuals who suffered the anger of the colonialists.

Those who stood against the western forces were maltreated, punished and left to suffer. 

The last stanza reveals the final pouring down of the elements hidden in the cloud.

The storm was intense. There was rumbling, trembling and cracking. It describes the actions taken by the colonialists as scary and awful.

Clothes waving like tattered flags and the exposing of dangling breast reveals that the African was vulnerable and unprotected. The nature and the way of life of the African was brought into disrepute.

Things that made the African society unique was despised and replaced with foreign ideas.

The colonialists took continuous actions. Since there was nothing stopping them, they were free to do whatever pleased them.

Religiously, politically and morally, the African society was changed forever!

Themes of the poem

1. The arrival of Europeans into Africa and the colonization of Africans.

2. Destruction of the cultural and personal identity of the African and introduction of European ones.

African cultural elements like African Traditional Religion, polygamy and the extended family systems were replaced with Christianity, monogamy and the nuclear family systems.

3. The constant attacks on those who stand to speak against injustice. They were humbled and despised.

Form and Structure of the poem

  • The poem has 4 stanzas and 32 lines.
  • Each of the stanzas tells a different idea. The first stanza tells the arrival of the colonialists. The second stanza tells their preparation and plans. The third talks about what happened in the course of their actions. And the fourth tells the consequences of their actions.
  • Most of the lines are not punctuated. This is because most of the lines run into each other. A reader can read without interruptions. 

Some literary devices in the poem

  • The wind whistles
  • Toss and turn
  • Turning sharply here and there like a plague of locusts.
  • Tossing up things on its tail like a madman chasing nothing.
  • Gathering to perch on hills like sinister dark wings.
  • Clothes wave like tattered flags.
  • Pregnant clouds
  • Whirling
  • Rumble, tremble and crack
  • The wind whistles by
  • Trees bend to let it pass
  • A plague of locusts: It creates a mental picture of the large number of Europeans rushing into Africa.
  • Sinister dark wings: it creates an image of an evil or dark force.
  • To expose dangling breasts: this creates an imagery of shame and disregard.
  • Tattered flags: it shows a sad and gloomy image.
  • Trees: it symbolises those who refused to confront the Europeans so as to avoid trouble.
  • Women: It symbolises individuals who suffered for challenging the colonialists.
  • Children: they represent the people who helped the foreigners to exploit Africa.

Tone and mood of the poem

The poet uses different moods and tones in different lines and stanzas in the poem. They are as follows:

  • Destruction
  • Havoc
  • Chaos
  • Helplessness
  • Scary
  • Sad
  • Pathetic

Some questions and answers on the poem

1. What is the theme of an “African Thunderstorm?”

Ans: Colonialism and its effects on the African society.

2. Who wrote the poem?

Ans: David Rubadiri

3. Identify two literary devices in the poem.

Ans: Simile and Personification

4. What is the dominant literary device in “rumble tremble and crack”?

Ans: Onomatopoeia

5. How many lines and stanzas are found in the poem?

Ans: Four stanzas and 32 lines

6. Describe the to tone of the persona in the poem.

Ans: Someone being in a hurry to escape danger.

7. What is the literary importance of diction in the poem?

Ans: the diction helps the poet to give a vivid description of the thunderstorm and its effect.

8. What picture does “tattered flags” paint in the mind of the reader?

Ans: sadness and helplessness

9. Describe the role of children in the poem.

Ans: Their role is to make the reader aware that some particular Africans were happy about arrival of the colonialists because they benefited greatly.

10. What is the setting of the poem?

Ans: In Africa during the time of colonialism.

11. To which of your senses does the imagery appeal to most?

Ans: Sense of sight.

12. Examine the use of repetition in the poem.

Ans: The two lines of repetition are, “the wind whistles by” and “trees bend to let it pass.”

The use of this emphasis shows that the poet is not happy about the silence of those who refused to speak for the innocent.


George is interested in self-education, knowledge building and self expression through writing!

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