900 Blacks: The Agony of Innocent Souls

What you need to know:

  • Set in Denmark, Beowulf starts with the story of King Hrothgar, who has a feasting or mead hall known as Heorot.

Have you read the classic epic poem Beowulf? It is a heroic poem whose focus is on the never ending battle between good and evil.

Set in Denmark, Beowulf starts with the story of King Hrothgar, who has a feasting or mead hall known as Heorot.

It is the scene of carousal, but the merriment angers Grendel, an evil monster living in a nearby swamp.

Tormented by this monster for 12 years, Heorot sets the stage for the rise of young Beowulf, a prince of the Geats in what is now southern Sweden.

In an epic battle between good and evil, Heorot is rid of its monster by Beowulf’s hand. However, that is when the real story begins.

900 Blacks: The Agony of Innocent Souls by Kenneth Rubangakene is narrative poetry of the same idiom, but not vintage. Since Beowulf is an 8th century classic and Rubangakene’s book is something approaching aspirational.

Instead of Beowulf, we have Okang, described here as a servant-leader, who is every much the would-be liberator in the mould of John Connor, the fictional character in the Terminator movie franchise.

The author plays upon ancient recent themes to unfold a good versus evil narrative, thereby playing to the gallery of a general and generalised interest in such ageless narratives.

Oh yes, we love a good old tale of light overcoming shade. “In this book, you will discover how millions of innocent souls across the globe are suffering due to increased racism, discrimination, sectarianism and bad governance. The young boy “Okang” finds himself trapped, trafficked into the land of “Dudu,” mistreated by the Giants of the land and left to die only to be rescued by the gods and mother goddess of his ancestry—the King of the Sea!” writes the author in the preface.

Just like anybody else, I love to see good triumph over evil. However, there are no grey areas in this war between evil and good.

Thus both sides are decidedly delineated and an upshot of this is the self-righteous tone that runs like a loose thread through the fabric of its narrative.

Since both sides are thrown into sharp relief, the reader is deprived of the nuances which would otherwise arise from a clash between both sides.

Here, the author assumes that one side is lily-white pure and the other side must be vanquished because of the blots on its moral formbook. This is way too simplistic.That said, the story is decently told. However, the poeticisms employed sometimes affect its pacing. So much so that you often feel the poet is more interested in being lyrical than ensuring his narrative is relatable.This is a near-fatal flaw as it promotes rhythm over the realities the author wishes to convey. “Waking up in the central hemisphere was cool at first/But it became terrific as he had to wait for months/For his paper to go through/I mean, out of the land of ‘Dudu’/After a thorough validation by the ‘Giants.’

I will not rob the poetry of the power of its euphemisms by telling you who the Giants are and where Dudu is but suffice to say Okang was headed to the latter.

Title: 900 Blacks: The Agony of Innocent Souls
Author: Kenneth Rubangakene
Published: 2024
Pages: 103
Price: Shs40,000 
Available: Aristoc Bookshop