Looking Back while Moving Forward: The Case of Concrete Poetry and Sankofa

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This article considers the intersection between African oral tradition and electronic literature by exploring the potential of Sankofa to interact with concrete poetry in an electronic space. Sankofa is an example of the Adinkra, a set of symbols that were originally created and used by the Akan in West Africa. These symbols have literary value which this article looks at in ways similar to concrete poetry; examining Sankofa as concrete poetry in an electronic context enables a simultaneous dovetailing with as well as convergence from oral and print based modes of engaging with the text: aspects of oral tradition influence this exploration. 

Sankofa unlike most other Adinkra symbols has two variations as well as a strong connection to an oral folktale. Other elements of orality such as performance and narrative combine with these features to allow for an analysis of Sankofa through the lens of concrete poetry, both in terms of its Adinkra variation and its folktale rendition. In reverse, the unique implications of this analysis extend the visual-heavy features of concrete poetry due to the ways in which Sankofa impacts conventional understandings of orality, aurality, and the visual in concrete poetry.

Pull Quotes: 

Adinkra gives us a better approach to thinking about the visual aspects of electronic literature rather than textual approaches

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Jill Walker Rettberg