David Rubadiri's "An African Thunderstorm" describes an intense storm that sweeps through an African village, as well as the way villagers scramble to prepare for its approach. First published in the 1960s, around the time that Rubadiri's home country of Malawi gained independence from British colonial rule, the poem can also be taken as an allegory for the violent upheaval that Western nations inflicted on Africa during the colonial era and its aftermath. The storm, in this reading, represents the devastation of colonialism and of the conflicts that tend to arise in its wake.
From the west ...
... Here and there
Like a plague ...
... madman chasing nothing.
Pregnant clouds ...
... let it pass.
In the village ...
... the whirling wind,
Women — ...
The wind whistles ...
... let it pass.
Clothes wave like ...
... expose dangling breasts
As jagged blinding ...
... of the storm.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
A Video Interview with the Poet — Watch a 1964 interview with David Rubadiri via Indiana University Media Collections.
A Biography of the Poet — Read an obituary and biography of David Rubadiri.
The Poet in 1966 — Read a magazine interview with David Rubadiri from 1966, around the time thispoem was written.
Malawi's History — Learn about the history of colonial and post-independence Malawi, the poet's home country.
1From the west
2Clouds come hurrying with the wind
5Here and there
6Like a plague of locusts
8Tossing up things on its tail
9Like a madman chasing nothing.
11Ride stately on its back
12Gathering to perch on hills
13Like sinister dark wings;
14The wind whistles by
15And trees bend to let it pass.
16In the village
17Screams of delighted children
18Toss and turn
19In the din of the whirling wind,
21Babies clinging on their backs —
23In and out
25The wind whistles by
26Whilst trees bend to let it pass.
27Clothes wave like tattered flags
29To expose dangling breasts
30As jagged blinding flashes
31Rumble, tremble, and crack
32Amidst the smell of fired smoke
33And the pelting march of the storm.