Background the Poem Vanity by Birago Diop
With the colonization of Africa and the subsequent introduction of Western values and ways of life, many Africans, especially those educated in the Western way, consciously distanced themselves from the traditional beliefs, practices and general ways of life oftheir people. They saw them in the light their white masters would have them do. They saw them as primitive, retrogressive and even barbaric. In the French West Africa from where the poet comes, the Assimilation Policy introduced as a system of administration by the imperial France actually set out to achieve this in the name of making Frenchmen out of the natives and granting them equality, liberty and fostering fraternity among all. The discovery of the contrary by Africans who later visited or went to school in France and the consequent realization that African values and ways of life are not inherently inferior provided the background to the poem.