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1.1 Background to the study

For generations, African beliefs and practices have been located in the intersection between the natural world and the supernatural world.  Despite the impacts of colonialism and even in the contemporary test of modernization, the complex interplay between these worlds has not been reduced.  The interaction between religion and indeed traditional beliefs, as a facet of culture has been long a subject matter in anthropology.

This relationship brings these aspects of African beliefs as in witchcraft, healing, re-incarnation, superhuman or extra-ordinary prowess among others, together in such a complex manner. This therefore has made it difficult to attempt to understand the dynamics of African belief in the supernatural. Evidently, the existing ethnographic instances of African communities in different parts of the continent have a somewhat near, if not a total semblance.

According to Aja, metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that studies the ultimate structure and constitution of reality—i.e., of that which is real, insofar as it is real. The term, which means literally “what comes after physics,” was used to refer to the treatise by Aristotle on what he himself called “first philosophy.”

In the history of Western philosophy, metaphysics has been understood in various ways: as an inquiry into what basic categories of things there are (e.g., the mental and the physical); as the study of reality, as opposed to appearance; as the study of the world as a whole; and as a theory of first principles. Some basic problems in the history of metaphysics are the problem of universals—i.e., the problem of the nature of universals and their relation to so-called particulars; the existence of God; the mind-body problem; and the problem of the nature of material, or external, objects

Akpan and Etta assert that in order to comprehend the interaction between these numerous cultural concepts, it is necessary to understand the general cosmological view of the African as evidenced in the world.  In this stage art world, just like anyone else on the continent, it is believed that humans have the ability to control both the natural and supernatural worlds and thus become the centres around which natural and supernatural forces interact.

These interactions are evidenced in witchcraftcy, sorcery, talisman and others, as they move along symbolic interpretation given. The belief in the impersonal (mystical) power is dominant and pervasive in traditional African religious thought. The whole of creation, nature and all things and objects are consumed with this impersonal power.

This impersonal power is what Edwin Smith called mysterious tremendous which entails the dreadful, fearful, and overwhelming aspect of the numinous appears, and as the mysterium fascinosum  (“mystery that attracts”), by which humans are irresistibly drawn to the glory, beauty, adorable quality, and the blessing, redeeming, and salvation-bringing power, This same power has been given various names, such as, mana, life force, vital force, life essence and dynamism.


Ansah opine that in African beliefs, the source of this impersonal or (mystical) mysterious power is not always known, but it is usually attributed to the activities of higher “mysterious” powers, whether personal or impersonal that either generates or deposits such powers in things or objects. The potency, efficacy and the durability of such “inhabited” impersonal powers varies from object to object. Some objects are said to be inherently more power induced or “imputed” than others, that is, they are more naturally endowed with powers than others are.

The manifestation and the use of the impersonal powers are related to the practices of medicine men and women, diviners and seers who use natural objects, plants and animals for medicine, magic, charms and amulets. Some specialists’ belief that mysterious powers imbedded in things or objects can be extracted for specific uses.

However Anyanwu is of the opinion that mystical and mysterious powers can be transmitted through certain object media or by pure spiritual means. Mystical powers can be sent to specific destinations for an intended good or evil. Mystical powers can be contagious by contact with objects carrying or mediating such powers. Traditional African concepts of reality and destiny are deeply rooted in the spirit world. The activities and the actions of the spirit beings govern all social and spiritual phenomena.

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The spirit world can be divided into two broad categories: non-human spirits and the spirits of the dead. Non-human spirits are regarded in hierarchical order in accordance with their kind and importance, depending upon their power and the role they play in the ontological order in the spirit world (Oji,17).

First in the hierarchy is the Creator, then the deities, object-embodied spirits, ancestors’ spirits and other miscellaneous spirits that are non-human, comprising both good and harmless spirits and evil spirits. Man stands between this array of spiritual hosts in the spirit world and the world of nature (Ikenga-Metuh, 125-144)

Among the Africans, for instance, witches are regarded as opponents to the natural order of harmonious community life.  As such, any unnatural misfortunes that befall a community raises suspicious of witchcraft.  The suspected witch is hunted out and may be killed by members of the community.

Similarly, a supernatural talisman that weird enormous prowess could embark on a ruthless revenge mission in response to a grievous injury or harm caused to him.  Deeply rooted in the cultural expressions of African cosmology and understanding of the essence and appreciation of the concept of African supernatural belief as reflected in selected African plays is quite pertinent.  This can be done through a dissection of the literary works and reflection on the notable poets for such an appreciation.

Asouzu opine that African poetry is basically a search for indigenous African philosophies, art, cultural identity, theological and religious beliefs, roots of nature, and thoughts distinct from the world as a whole. These African writers focuses on real and crucial issues arising from the banks of Africa like the freedom struggle, corruption, oppression of women by men, leadership, famine, diseases, migrations and many more.

They also focus and emphasize on the beauty of an African woman and the importance of an African religious belief. Initially, African poetry was meant to be performed orally and not to be read. Because of this, oral literature has always been limited to time, it is live and involves audience participation and therefore, publicly owned. Christopher Okigbo was an African poet who was basically brought up by an African family which practiced the African tradition. He was born in 1932 in Ojoto Village in the eastern part of Nigeria.

He came from a family with strong religious and cultural beliefs. His family was Roman Catholic Church (Christians) by denomination. His father was a leader at a catholic school but his grandfather had been saving as a shrine priest of the river goddess known as Idoto.

The experience of these two family members raised number conundrums regarding his identity and cultural heritage. Okigbo’s religious and spiritual experience is vivid throughout his poems in Labyrinth. This research wok attempts to discuss the metaphysical experience in ‘Overture’ and ‘sacrifice’, Christopher Okigbo’s poems in Labyrinth. Definitions of key terms will be highlighted with respect to the question.


 “Metaphysics is the study of existence or being in general” Isaac and Allan, (805). Traditionally, metaphysics refers to the branch of philosophy that attempts to understand the fundamental nature of all realities whether visible or invisible. Aristotle used this term to refer to some of his works which was in form of theological philosophy but today it is used to mean the same as ‘spiritual’ though ‘spiritual’ refers to a realm of spirits while ‘metaphysical’ is a general term which includes the spirits or something highly abstract, over theoretical.

On the other hand, metaphysical poets are generally described as those poets who do not follow the conventions of Elizabethan period but instead they use metaphysical conceit as a tool for enriching their poems breaking rules of rhyming, iambic pentameter, rhythm and general rules raised during Elizabethan period. It is on this back drop that this work seeks to examine African metaphysics in selected poems in Christopher Okigbo’s Labyrinth and J.P Clark’s A Decade Of Tongues

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Over the years, interaction between natural and supernatural world has post a problem to the Africans especially during this era of Africa modernization by the whites who happen to colonized us. The problem in our society is sometimes label to the forces that are conflicting which have the ability to change the course of actions in our society and Africa at large as it is portray in the selected poems.

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They are individuals around whom these two worlds interact and they have the ability to impose meaning through culture on these worlds.  The implication is that forces in both the natural and supernatural worlds are in themselves neutral.  To understand this interaction is imperative as some studies undertaken to believe this evolved from the angles of history or anthropology.

This is not enough as it failed to mirror the interplay of the forces of supernatural, to this end, the study of selected African poems has become imperative which will give more insight into understanding to the concept and essence of supernatural belief (metaphysics) to African worldview as explained in the selected poems for this study.


1.3 Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to examine African metaphysics: a study of selected poems in Christopher Okigbo’s Labyrinth and J.P Clark’s A Decade Of Tongues

1.4 Objectives of the Study

This study intends to achieve the following specific objectives:

  1. Examine the nature of African metaphysics in the selected poems
  2. The existing techniques or approaches used by the two poets Okigbo and J.P Clark to portray African metaphysics

Iii Ex-ray the component of African metaphysics and how it affects our daily lives using Christopher Okigbo’s Labyrinth and J.P Clark’s A Decade of Tongues

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study is of significance in many ways: it will contribute to an understanding of cultural perspective of the supernatural, as rooted in the African belief system. Also, this study will be of immense benefits to scholars in the field of literature; Moreover, this sturdy will spark up further studies and research into the African belief system which supernatural is a high point of such African belief systems.  It will also helps to keeps Africans connected to their root because we will learn how to manage the two worlds to avoid conflict between them through the careful study of the selected plays.

1.6 Research Methodology

The researcher made use of Literary and Artistic methodology. The Literary methodology is applicable to literary work as it focuses on written and printed literary and archival sources, especially books, journals, theses, reports, literary works such as plays, novel and poems. In this regard, data would be collected from the theatrical literary works in focus, namely Christopher Okigbo’s Labyrinth and J.P Clark’s A Decade Of Tongues. This also involves an analyses of the two literary works mentioned above.

1.7 Scope and Limitation

This study focuses on African metaphysics: a study of selected poems in Christopher Okigbo’s Labyrinth and J.P Clark’s A Decade Of Tongues. The analyses of the two poems are done to reflect how much influence the African metaphysics and worldview has on African traditional and contemporary societies. The research work is limited to the two selected poems for this study as the primary source and other related material from the internet, library as secondary source of information for the work.

1.8 Theoretical Frame Works

The essence of Platonism lies in a distinction between two worlds—the familiar world of everyday life, which is the object of the senses, and an unseen world of true realities, which can be the object of the intellect. Ordinary people recognize the existence of the former and ignore that of the latter; they fail to appreciate the extent to which their beliefs both about fact and about values are arbitrarily assumed and involve internal contradictions.

The philosopher is in a position to show them how insubstantial is the foundation on which they take their stand. The philosopher can demonstrate how little thought there is in popular conceptions of good and evil and can show that the very concept of sense knowledge involves difficulties, because knowledge presupposes a stable object and the objects of sense are constantly changing.

Chiedozie claim, that however, are those philosophers can do more than this? Because of the presence in them of something like a divine spark, they can, after suitable preparation, fix their intellectual gaze on the realities of the unseen world and, in the light of them, know both what is true and how to behave.

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They will not attain this result easily—to get to it will involve not only immense intellectual effort, including the repeated challenging of assumptions, but also turning their backs on everything in life that is merely sensual or animal. Yet, despite this, the end is attainable in principle, and those who arrive at it will exercise the most important part of themselves in the best way that is open to them.

That this type of view has an immediate appeal to persons of a certain kind goes without saying. There is ample evidence in poetry and elsewhere of the frequently experienced sense of the unreality of familiar things and the presence behind them of another order altogether.

Platonism may be said to build on “intuitions” of this kind; as metaphysics, its job is to give them intellectual expression, to transfer them from the level of sentiment to that of theory. It is important, however, to notice that Platonism is not just the intellectualizing of a mood. It is an attempt to solve specific problems in a specific way.

In Plato’s own case, the problems were set by loss of confidence in traditional morality and the emergence of the doctrine that “man is the measure of all things which is the basis to which this work seeks to establish fact about African metaphysics: a study of selected poems in Christopher Okigbo’s Labyrinth and J.P Clark’s A Decade Of Tongues.


1.9 Bio-Data of Authors

1.9.1 Bio-Data of John Pepper Clark

John Pepper Clark was born on April 6, 1935. A native of Kiagbodo in Nigeria, he studies at University of Ibadan where he graduated with a degree in English in 1960. He began his career as a writer and journalist and became chief editor of Daily express in Lagos. He later moves to America in 1962 to further his education at Princeton University. He became a lecturer at University of Lagos and co-editor of the literary journal “Black Orpheus”.

He is a playwright, a poet and a great writer, some of his work include; verse collections poems (1962), “A Reed in Tide” (1965), State of the Union (1985). His play work include: Song of a Goat (1961) The masquerade (1965), The Raft (1978), Ozidi of Atazi (1978), Wives Revolt (19) and others.

1.9.2 Bio-Data of Christopher Okigbo

Christopher Okigbo, (born Aug. 16, 1932, Ojoto, Nigeria died August 1967, Nigeria), Nigerian poet who is one of the best and most widely anthologized African poets. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Western classics at the University of Ibadan in 1956, Okigbo held positions as a teacher, librarian at the University of Nigeria, private secretary to Nigeria’s federal minister of research and information, and West African editor of Transition, an African literary magazine.

He was awarded first prize for poetry in the 1966 Festival of the Negro Arts in Dakar but declined the prize because he felt that writing must be judged as good or bad, not as a product of a specific ethnic group or race. In 1967 Okigbo’s efforts to launch a publishing company in Enugu with the novelist Chinua Achebe came to an abrupt end after his death while fighting in the war for Biafran independence from Nigeria.

Okigbo published three volumes of poetry during his short lifetime: Heavensgate (1962), Limits (1964), and Silences (1965). His collected poems appeared posthumously in 1971 under the title Labyrinths, with Path of Thunder. Okigbo had a deep familiarity with ancient Greek and Latin writers and with modern poets such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, as well as with Igbo (Ibo) mythology.

His poems are highly personal, richly symbolic renderings of his experiences, his thoughts on the role of the poet, and other themes. He weaves images of the forests, animals, and streams of his native Igbo landscape into works that are often obscure, allusive, or difficult. Despite this, his verse is intensely evocative and shows careful craftsmanship. Okigbo became the most widely translated of all Nigerian poets. A volume entitled Collected Poems was published in 1986.

Mr. Harrison

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