Owusu-An African Poem

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This poem is a dirge sung by the landlady of a deceased man called Owusu to mourn his death.

Owusu was an education officer who passed away in 1952 in a car accident. In the poem, the woman mourns bitterly to convey her loss since Owusu had been her help and support.

The poem Owusu


The theme of this poem is the feelings of grief and agony associated with losing a loved one.

Another theme is the existence of a strong relationship between the dead and the living.

Line by line Commentary and Analysis

Analysis of line 1 and 2

These lines start with two strong words, valiant and Owusu. Valiant is used to describe one who doesn’t give up easily.

Also, Owusu is an Akan name which coincidentally means a courageous individual or a strong willed person. The woman who sings this dirge combines these words to describe a confident individual who is seen as having an unwavering spirit.

The use of the word, “stranger”, means the deceased individual, Owusu, was not a native of the town but somehow, the citizen of the town depended on him. Similarly, regardless of his “stranger” status, he rose to the occasion when performing his societal duties.

Analysis of line 3 to 5

The narrator uses father as a symbol of a provider. Not only does Owusu provide for the citizenry but herself and her children too. Such heavy words!

Owusu was perhaps a kind-hearted man who gave away freely to those in need. The repetition of the words father and depend shows the protective and caring nature of the deceased.

Analysis of line 6 and 7

“When father sees me” indicates that the woman has no doubt that Owusu is dead but not gone; he is conscious and still amongst the living. This cultural belief is prevalent amongst the Akans where they believe in the existence of the dead and that they can even be called upon for help in times of need.

“Old torn mat” and “a horde of flies” creates an unpleasant sight in the mind of the reader. These descriptive words paints a picture of poverty, lack and disgrace. Similarly, in the absence of Owusu, this woman will face a miserable life because her father and helper is no more.

Again, this loss feels very personal to the woman because she indicates that she “wholly” depended on him. Owusu may not have been a family member but according to her words, Owusu was a trustworthy figure in her life.

Analysis of line 8 to 10

When you confer with an individual, it means that you hold this individual’s opinions and views in high esteem. This line further establishes her unwavering respect and admiration for Owusu.

The line, “My children and I will look to you” establishes that Owusu’s life style was one worth emulating. He was probably like a role model to her children.

Analysis of line 11 to 13

in these lines, her praises offered to the deceased is even stronger and at its peak.

In fact, her creative use of expressions such as “Killer of hunger” summarises Owusu’s generosity towards her. She even continues to call him a “saviour.” Probably, Owusu comes to her aid and rescues her in times of trouble.

Analysis of line 14

This line emphasises that perhaps, Owusu is not one who discriminates. His kindness may may not be limited to only the ones he knows but accessible to all who come across his path.

in another sense, Owusu may actually be an individual who likes to going out of his comfortable zone to try new things and venture into new areas and challenges in life, thereby establishing his fearless personality.


The poem has three stanzas and no indication of rhymes. The first two stanzas mostly describes Owusu’s kindness and support towards a woman and her children while the third stanza describes the good deeds performed by Owusu towards the whole community.

Some Literary devices

Metaphor : “Valiant Owusu” and “My Saviour”is used as a metaphor as the speaker compares Owusu to a bold or a courageous warrior and a rescuer respectively. “Father” is also used metaphorically.

Personification : “Killer of hunger” is a personified statement since hunger is non living and cannot be killed.

Hyperbole : “Father on whom I wholly depend” is an exaggerated statement since it is very unlikely the woman depended completely on him.

Repetition : The word “Father” is repeated six times in the poem to create emphasis. It sums up the relationship between the woman and Owusu.

Imagery : “Old torn mat” and “horde of flies” creates a mental image of poverty and disgust.


This poem expresses the feelings of loss of a woman who mourns a deceased man who had been a very important figure in her life.

She uses good positive attributes and words of praises to describe the relationship between herself and the deceased.

Thanks for reading ! I would love to hear your thoughts and views in the comment section below.


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

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