Date Assigned: 02/18/2014
Date Due: 02/19/2014

1) What impressions of Africa and African culture do you get from these two poems?
2) In lines 1-9 of "Prayer to Masks," the speaker addresses the masks and asks for their help. What kind of help do you think the speaker wants from the masks?
3) In lines 10-14 of "Prayer to Masks," the speaker describes the decline of European power in Africa, which leads him to conclude that "the Africa of despotism is dying." How do you think the speaker feels about the effects of colonialism on Africa? Support your answer.
4) Think of a culture, either your own or one you admire, that you'd like to be "steeped in." How would you experience the "presence" of this culture, and what effect would it have on you? 
Connotation word portrait
Connotations often make an important contribution to the meaning of a poem. The connotations of the words and phrases Senghor chose for his description of African culture in the two poems convey his attitude toward and feelings about the culture.  
Identify in the poems particular words and phrases that have strong or important connotations, and record these words and phrases in a list. Then, describe the connotative meaning behind the words and phrases. 
For example, "wild perfumes" from line 5 of "And we shall be steeped" could have connotative meaning of unspoiled, exotic, and pleasing. 
"And we shall be steeped . . ."
By Leopold Sedar Senghor 
And we shall be steeped my dear in the presence
   of Africa. 
Furniture from Guinea and Congo,  heavy and
   polished, somber and serene. 
On the walls, pure primordial masks distant and
   yet present. 
Stools of honor for hereditary guests, for the
   Princes of the High Lands. 
Wild perfumes, thick mats of silence 
Cushions of shade and leisure, the noise of
   a wellspring of peace. 
Classic words. In a distance, antiphonal singing
   like Sudanese cloths 
And then, friendly lamp, your kindness to soothe
   this obsessive presence 
White black and red, oh red as the African soil. 
  • Guinea and Congo - countries in western Africa
  • hereditary guests - people who would be welcome because of their noble birthright.
  • Princes of the High Lands - rulers of ancient African empires/
  • antiphonal singing - singing in which two or more groups take turns singing or "responding" to each other.
  • Soudanese - coming from the region of the Sudan, in northern Africa.
  • obsessive presence - a reference to the masks described in line 3. 
"Prayer to Masks"
By Leopold Sedar Senghor 
Masks! Oh Masks! 
Black mask, red mask, you black and white masks, 
Rectangular masks through whom the spirit breathes, 
I greet you in silence! 
And you too, my lioheaded ancestor. 
You guard this place, that is closed to any feminine
   laughter, to any mortal smile. 
You purify the air of eternity, here where I breathe the
   air of my fathers. 
Masks of markless faces, free from dimples and wrinkles. 
You have composed this image, this my face that bends 
   over the altar of white paper. 
In the name of your image, listen to me! 
Now while the Africa of despotism is dying - it is the
   agony of a pitiable princess,
Just like that of Europe to whom she is connected through
   the naval. 
Now turn your immobile eyes towards your children who 
   have been called 
And who sacrifice their lives like the poor man his last
So that hereafter we may cry "here" at the rebirth of the
   world being the leaven that the white flour needs. 
For who else would teach rhythm to the world that has 
   died of machines and cannons? 
For who else should ejaculate the cry of joy, that arouses
   the dead and the wise in a new dawn? 
Say, who else could return the memory of life to men
   with a torn hope? 
They call us cotton heads, and coffee men, and
   oily men.
They call us men of death. 
But we are the men of the dance whose feet only gain 
   power when they beat the hard soil.
  • lionheaded - having a lion as a totem, or guardian, animal. 
  • your image - the speaker himself, who carries on the traditions and values of his ancestors.
  • despotism - government rule based on tyranny or opression.
  • immobile - unmoving.
  • leaven - a substance, like yeast,m that causes bread dough to rise.