O Level Poetry – They Walked and Talked – Uche Okeke

1974 The Crescent Moon – Uche Okeke
As part of my ongoing “School Days Over” poetry project; I have been racking my brain trying to remember the names of the poems and poets that we studied for my O Levels (in Zimbabwe). 
I spent so long wishing and wanting and waiting for those exams to be over; even managing to successfully forget everything I had learned as soon as they were over. 
Then…years later… I end up scouring the internet trying to find them all again.
Life’s a funny old thing isn’t it?
(As I try to always be totally honest with you; I feel obligated to tell you that while I do remember the poem, I can’t remember a thing about the poet. So the following has been taken from an internet search. I have actually bought the text book we used so will be able to confirm in a few days!)
Uche Okeke is a Nigeria poet, artist and sculptor and one of the founders of the Nsukka group. Considered the father of the modern Nigerian art tradition; he was instrumental in over turning the British Artistic tradition within the educational system and was a pivotal momentum in determining (with others) the art program at the University of Nigeria.  
Throughout his career, Okeke has been influenced by the stories told by his mother and sister and the region he originated from. He was also greatly inspired to find that his mother was an Uli artist.   
They Walked and Talked
Uche Okeke

They talked and walked,
Walked and talked and talked –
Talkative homing dames;
Mothers, grandmother, all homing,
Returning from a distant mart
Baskets on heads, words on lips-
Gossip or tall tales of folk at home.

They clapped their hands;
They screamed from time to time;
They moved their hands in most expressive ways –
Their hands spoke even louder than their tongues –
As they swept like a great Saharan wind
Along the winding beaten tracks
Before them, silent, deserted.

Not even the discordant croaking of the toad,
Not even the noise of insects here and there,
Not even the songs of birds everywhere,
Were heard above the noise of these homing folk
Who (forgetful of the ancient saying
That even blades of grass are living ears)
Could not restrain their long and wagging tongues.


School Days Over


6 thoughts on “O Level Poetry – They Walked and Talked – Uche Okeke

  1. Hi Inga and Thandokuhle,

    It’s been 20 odd years (eek) since I first read this poem is school and to be honest, I’m very hesitant to pull out themes or a summary for fear I get them all wrong! But gotta spread any poetry love where ever I can, so here goes!

    I do remember that we discussed the structure and rhythms quite a bit. The visual scene is set in the first stanza; the auditory scene in the second and the cultural explored in the third.

    To my mind, it is a reflection of the strong sense of community, of womanfolk, who dominate the landscape around them with their laughter and chatter. And even when perhaps they should be quiet – on the look out or more aware of the world – they remain in company with each other.

  2. I’ll like to look at this poem from a feminist perspective rather…i understood it from another angle. To me it was about the burdens that women carry on their heads but they still have to travel long distances, in their attempt to fend for their families. ‘Screaming’ can be viewed either as an expression of joy or complaint of some sort….they tried to express themselves using almost all e expressions. Not even the sound of nature can be heard from their expressions. Women are seen as gossipers n their motherly trials are ignored

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