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Question: Critically analyse the poem ''Johannesburg'' by Lesego Rampolokeng Johannesburg my city Paved with judas gold Deceptions and lies Dreams come here to die Traffic flows in the sick 5 Vein of life as we tick With the eternal time bomb Of our own extinction We walk of uncertainty Swaggering to disguise 10 Our staggering heart-treads We’re all recession whipped Into the repression machine Mirrored in the glass towers The green pastures of wealth 15 Are vaults of death Nothing is secure Neither politics nor prayer Can guarantee the future Jo’burg my city 20 Here our birth is a lie We just rush to die Without living Just existing To keep the money belt spinning 25 Only the wise come out winning & the rest Feet first As pawns of evil hand or ogre eye Or else 30 On the fringe Of our own insanity by looking at the imagery
"Johannesburg" by Lesego Rampolokeng is a powerful and evocative poem that reflects on the harsh realities of life in the city of Johannesburg. The poem uses striking imagery and conveys emotional depth to effectively capture the essence of a complex urban environment. The opening lines of the poem introduce the city as a deceptive and treacherous place in which dreams come to die. This is exemplified by the image of Judas gold, a reference to the biblical figure who betrayed Jesus for monetary gain, which in turn represents the city's deceptive nature. The phrase "dreams come here to die" paints a vivid picture of despair and disillusionment, suggesting that the city crushes the dreams and aspirations of those who come seeking a better life. The imagery used to describe the traffic in the city in lines 5-8 functions to convey a sense of chaos and disorder. The speaker likens the city's traffic to a "sick vein of life," creating a metaphorical connection between the city's hectic streets and the arteries that supply blood to human bodies. The mention of an "eternal time bomb" in these lines further highlights the constant danger and uncertain nature of life in Johannesburg. Lines 9-13 use imagery to portray a sense of powerlessness and loss of control among the city's inhabitants. The phrase "swaggering to disguise our staggering heart-treads" showcases a dichotomy between appearances and reality; while people may portray an image of strength and confidence, they are ultimately struggling to survive. The metaphor of being "recession whipped" strengthens this image, as it implies that external forces, such as financial hardships, create a perpetual cycle of suffering. Lines 14-18 paint a bleak picture of the disparity between the wealthy and the impoverished in the city by comparing the high-rise glass towers to "vaults of death." This imagery starkly contrasts the "green pastures of wealth" with the harsh realities of life for those who do not possess such riches. The notion that "nothing is secure" highlights the ongoing instability and uncertainty of life in Johannesburg. The speaker's relationship with the city becomes clearer in lines 19-27, where the inevitability of death is outlined. The phrase "our birth is a lie" signifies that life in Johannesburg is filled with unfulfilled promises, ironically asserting that the city's inhabitants are born only to die. The incessant drive to survive and maintain the "money belt spinning" illustrates the materialistic pursuit that dominates the lives of those living in the city. In the concluding lines of the poem, the speaker emphasizes the underlying theme of disempowerment and oppression. The mention of "pawns of evil hand or ogre eye" suggests that individuals in the city are controlled by unseen and malevolent forces. Lastly, the "fringe of our own insanity" either implies that the struggles of living in Johannesburg can bring a person to the brink of madness or underlines the way society accepts and perpetuates the injustices and chaos of the city. In conclusion, the poem employs vivid imagery and emotive language to powerfully convey the complexity, disillusionment, and desolation of life in Johannesburg. The striking depictions of mundane elements, such as traffic and cityscape, merge with darker themes of death, despair, and inequality to create a moving and provocative exploration of an urban environment beset by struggles and hardships.
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