Lost Beauty

Lost Beauty

By Jwani Mwaikusa

There are only white women
around: Awful fakes of white
females Reflecting an awful
mass of ugliness:
And I want a lady
To mount the rostrum with And
announce to the world: ―Black
is beautiful!

Yes,
I want a black beauty queen
With ebony thighs and huge hips With
skin sweating blackness
And a face dark as the night
And bare breasts bouncing
Vigour and energy.

But my eyes, oh my eyes!
They don‘t see anything black; It‘s only
white skins and masks Flashing
past and slashing, Destroying my
sight so
I can‘t get what I want.

I cry and sing to them
The inbred tune of our people,
I shout to them in the black tongue
But no black sister hears me;
Only white masks I see.

I turn and weep upon myself
And then, only then I realize:
I am not black either.

Summary of Lost Beauty

  • Popularity of “Lost Beauty”: Lost Beauty” by Jwani Mwaikusa, a great Tanzanian professor and poet, is a descriptive poetic rendition. The poem laments the loss of natural African black beauty. It illustrates how Africans mask themselves in modern standards of beauty. The depiction of transformed African society, the use of poetic elements, and beliefs associated with skin color add more to the popularity of the poem.
  • “Lost Beauty” As a Representative of Sadness: The poem highlights the deep sadness of the speaker over the loss of natural African beauty. It begins with a sad note, where the speaker sees the dominance of white beauty in his surroundings. The beautiful white faces of the females seem ugly and unattractive to him because he still adores the unique charm of the skin color. He desires to have a confident African American lady who does not hesitate to demonstrate the unique beauty of African culture. To him, African American women are strong, energetic, and full of life. Unfortunately, the strong ladies of his culture have intentionally transformed themselves, and their transformation destroys the speaker’s sight. Although he tries to remind them of their fundamental cultural values and beliefs, not those ladies pay attention to what he says. The poem ends in despair when the speaker officially announces the permanent loss of ancient African culture by saying that even he is not black now.
  • Major Themes in “Lost Beauty”: The impact of colonialism, loss of traditional values, and the changing nature of humanity are the major themes of the poem. The poem deals with the speaker’s grief; he laments how white people have dismantled the spirit of the African culture. Unfortunately, Africans have intentionally accepted the dominance and supremacy of the prevailing European standards. Their ready acceptance of this new culture has brought ruination to their traditional and conventional cultural practices. Although the majority of the Africans have attached themselves to the advanced world, the speaker is still attached to his values and beliefs. He believes that skin color possesses unique power and strength. Therefore, he wants black women to take a bold stance, and defend their special appearance in the world. Unfortunately, instead of promoting their values, most people suffer from colonial inheritances. They try their best to make themselves look like white people. As a result, the speaker sees no one displaying pure African traits.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Lost Beauty”

literary devices add layers of meaning to a simple poetic piece. Jwani Mwaikusa has also used some literary devices in this poem to express his grief and worry over the loss of his cultural practices. The analysis of the devices used in the poem is as follows..

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “And then, only then I realize” and the sound of /o/ in “To mount the rostrum with And.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration means the use of successive consonant sounds in the initials of the successive words such as /b/ in “bare breasts bouncing.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ in “past and slashing, Destroying my” and the sound of /h/ in “With ebony thighs and huge hips With.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“I shout to them in the black tongue
But no black sister hears me;
Only white masks I see.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Jwani Mwaikusa has used imagery in this poem such as “The inbred tune of our people”, “I shout to them in the black tongue” and “I turn and weep upon myself.
  2. Irony: Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. The speaker has used this device in the last line of the poem where he talks about his transformation such as; “And then, only then I realize:/I am not black either.”
  3. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poem has used black beauty as an extended metaphor to show how the loss of this beauty has affected the lives of those still attached to their roots.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal meanings. Here “awful mass of ugliness” and “Destroying my sight” stand for the speaker’s hatred for white beauty.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Lost Beauty”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem with each comprising an equal number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful while talking about the suffering and unjust transformation of the Africans.

I cry and sing to them
The inbred tune of our people,
I shout to them in the black tongue
But no black sister hears me.”