IRCALC - African Literature - Criticisms
Shakespeare and Ambanasom
by Tembong Denis
Comparative artistic and philosophical ideas between Western and African texts bring new perspectives to the study of recent African writing. In his Son of the Native Soil, the Anglophone Cameroon writer, Shadrack Ambanasom, projects a Shakespearean tragedy against traditional African background. Set in the North West Region of Cameroon, the tragic scene and the fate of the protagonist are artistically woven to reflect Aristotelian tragedy and the tragic hero. Ambansom’s craft is evident in the way he endows his hero with qualities that propel him higher than others in the community of Dudum. The novelist treads upon the bounds of nature and passion and endows on Achamba, the hero of the story, an outstanding personality which foreshadows the tragic atmosphere that leads the protagonist to his treacherous murder at the height of his fame. He lets the society catapult Achamba onto the height of his glory only to “betray him in deeper consequence” (Colin 2).
There are strong indicators from Shakespeare’s Macbeth on the tragic events that surround the tragic hero in Ambansom’s Son of the Native Soil. Regarding Macbeth, Alexandre-Marie Colin observes:
Macbeth is from a tragic standpoint the most sublime and the most impressive as an acting play. Nothing so terrible has been written since the Eumenides of Aeschylus, and nothing in dramatic literature - not even the slaying of Agamemnon - is depicted with such awesome intensity as the murder of Duncan. (Par 1)Therefore, reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth side by side Amabanasom’s Son of the Native Soil might seem like an examination of two literary cultures.
Orature and Oratorical Teaching Strategies in African Literature: The Examples of Laye Camara and Chin Ce
by EM Sone and DM Toko
Traditional literature in
Africa (orature) serves as an instrument for examination of individual
experience in relation to the normative order of society. It was used, and
is still being used in several parts of rural Africa to chart social
progress or to comment on how society adheres to or deviates from general
community aesthetic. Seen in this light, traditional literature as a
creation of the imagination ultimately derives its material from the
realities of society. As mirror of the society it enables the community to
teach, entertain, and explore the ambiguities of human existence. The
substance of human experience out of which orature is created is that which
has made sufficient impact in the community to excite the imagination of the
people to literary creativity. One of these experiences is civic
responsibility and leadership training which is sadly lost in modernised or
Three (Neo)colonial Male Characters of Ama Ata Aidoo by Miriam C. Gyimah
IN THE ART OF Ama Ata Aidoo: Polylectics and Reading Against Neo-colonialism, Vincent Odamtten argues that Aidoo's works consistently address the issue of neo-colonialism and its impact on the educated Ghanaian elite. Citing critics like Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie who maintains that the African woman writer has a particular commitment to discuss issues of gender, womanhood and a Third World reality, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o who asserts that African writers must write against neo-colonialism, Odamtten stresses that readers and critics of African literature should also invest in reading and writing against neo-colonialism. He says, "[i]f there are writers who are writing against neo-colonialism, there should be reader-critics who complement their work" (6). He warns against reading and writing about African women characters and situations from a narrow feminist perspective. Such criticism which sometimes focuses on the ills of patriarchy through colonial impositions and those effected through "indigenous pre-colonial values and relations" promote a dichotomous analysis of African literature (4). Odamtten, then, argues for a polylectic approach to reading and critiquing these works. He says that in order to read in this manner, one must "begin to develop a polylectic understanding of Africa's economic, political, and cultural actualities" (6).
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Cultural Translation in Ama Ata Aidoo's The Dilemma of a Ghost and Osonye Tess Onwueme's The Missing Face by KO Secovnie
Ama Ata Aidoo'sThe Dilemma of a Ghost and Osonye Tess Onwueme's The Missing Face demonstrate the process of finding a cultural identity that does not privilege an originary moment, yet provides space for a negotiated Pan-African identity for West Africans and African Americans. Both of these plays deal with the issue of constructing a Pan-African identity through connecting African Americans with West Africans and both highlight the simultaneous necessity for and failure of cultural translation to facilitate that connection. In each play, we find a female protagonist returning to Africa only to find that the connection she initially sought was not naturally there just waiting for her. Both women (Eulalie in Dilemma and Ida Bee in Face) find the need for a cultural translation and each looks to her African "been-to" husband/lover to provide it. In each case, the expected translator fails in his duties. It is left, instead, for the West African communities themselves, led by women, to provide a translation of culture to the two African-American women that will allow them to connect with and embrace their African identity while respecting the cultures that they find in Africa (rather than the culture that they project onto Africa). These plays, then, challenge romanticized notions of Pan-African identification through an emphasis on cultural translation and reveal the failure of the male-centered model of translation that would posit the husband as the sole translator for the wife and the "been-to" man as the sole translator for the community. Instead, a feminist agency is exerted by the West African communities in which these plays are set that undoes the western notion of translation as the domain of the male, and moves it into a female-led, democratic process by which the community as a whole makes decisions about how to translate itself to the diasporic culture, thus asserting a kind of indigenous African agency while privileging the role of the female within this agency.
Shades of Utter(ing) Silences in The Purple Violet of Oshaantu, Maru, and Under the Tongue by Bettina Weiss
“Shades of Utter(ing) Silences” delves on the idea of
women's potential to unveil constricting gender and racial laws by uttering
silence, or as the title of the essay also suggests, by being enveloped in
utter silence. This voicelessness, however, a cloister into the emotional
space, is chosen deliberately and therefore distances itself from the mere
notion of the Beti proverb of Cameroon: “Women have no mouth”.
Poetics of Diaspora: “La ca't,” Surrealism, and Métissage in Bessora's 53 cm by JT Westmoreland
A NEW poetic and literary trend among
Francophone African diasporic authors, specifically those writing from
Paris, is the use of surrealist techniques in a “postcolonial” context. This
practice dates back to Negritude's affiliations with such European
surrealist writers as André Breton. Whereas traditionally in African
diasporic context, Surrealism has been used to articulate a sense of
solidarity or belonging (as in the formation of the Negritude and Black
Power movements), Bessora employs surrealist imagery in the immigrant
context to articulate a sense of unbelonging or anxiety-filled, hybrid state
of the female immigrant in Paris.
Colonisation and African Modernity in Cheikh Hamidou Kane's Ambiguous Adventure by B. M'Baye
IN THE BLACK Atlantic (1993), Paul Gilroy argues that, from the late eighteenth
century to the present, the cultures of Blacks in the West have been hybrid and
antithetical to “ethnic absolutism” (4-5). According to Gilroy, the modern
history of the Black Atlantic is a discontinuous trajectory in which countries,
borders, languages, and political ideologies are crossed in order to oppose
“narrow nationalism” (12). Gilroy's term “Black Atlantic” describes the
“rhizomorphic, fractal structure of the transcultural, international formation”
of modern Black cultures that oppose the nationalist focus “common to English
and African American versions of cultural studies” (4). Gilroy defines
“modernity” as the period from the end of the eighteenth to the beginning of the
nineteenth centuries when the ideas of “nationality, ethnicity, authenticity,
and cultural integrity” that sustain contemporary cultural studies in the West
were first developed (2). Gilroy writes:
Creating Identity out of the Postcolonial Void by L Nesbitt
IN THE LAST half of the twentieth century many postcolonial cultures have found themselves out of balance. During colonization the people lived a kind of non-existence, a living void; their identities had been stolen. To establish dominion, the colonial power eradicated previous religions, educational structures, and languages. Although the indigenous person adopted a Western identity through the colonizer, it was an illusion, empty of meaning, because the native culture, in all its complexity, was not recognized by the colonizer. Essentially the people became impostors of themselves. Their personal and cultural history had been destroyed as one of the implications of colonial rule. Since the complex identity of the native was not acknowledged, the native essentially never existed as a unique individual in the colonizer's eyes.
The identity inflicted on the indigenous person was a meaningless stereotype masking the true identity that had become void. This vacancy will be explored from the context of abuse of power. This void is the denial of identity and a life with no meaning; the mask of colonial identity covering the void is an illusion. Taking off the mask in the postcolonial world does not necessarily reveal a full individual; the colonial erasure of cultural and personal identity appears to be permanent. The enduring exploitation of formerly colonised nations has been defined using the term Neo-colonialism. The term implies a nation with a continued reliance upon the former imperial power and the West in general, but more specifically neo-colonialism also implies a persistent state of confusion of selfhood for the individual and for the whole nation. We spend our lives constructing unique personal traits and individually recognizable selves created from different sources. In the globalisation of today's society, the notion of identity is becoming increasingly complex, especially with an added complication of post-colonization. Many individuals do not communicate in their indigenous language, were not schooled using textbooks reflecting their particular social and cultural situations, or had Western instructors; even their religions did not reflect their own indigenous religious history. The definition of one's self has become multi-layered and essentially fractured.
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Rhetoric of Despair in Chin Ce’s Children of Koloko by Ogaga Okuyade
THIS DISCOURSE is centred against the background of public attitudes and orientation towards military or democratic governance in Africa. It evinces the relationship between political and legal sovereignty in Chin Ce's Children of Koloko, a book that artistically anatomizes the Nigerian society in its grossest sense in order to give the reader a proper understanding of that society. African literature is hardly discussed outside contemporary history from where it derives its pre-occupation. From the late 1970s till date, African literature continues to be inward looking, x-raying the entire continent with the people trapped in serious socio-economic crisis. To assess African literature more effectively, critics must take into cognizance that this artistic vocation is a recreation of social realities and a critique of the African condition. African writers are alert and alive to their responsibility not only as teachers but, as Oyeniyi Okunoye puts it, "critics and chroniclers of shared experiences" (19). They continue to appraise the ruling class thereby signposting the failures of post- colonial nation states. The post colonial African terrain has been a turbulent geography since the 1960s when independence began to sweep through the continent. As the ruled continue to falter even within the marginal space where they are being held supine, so do their rulers progressively plunge them into poverty with the apparatus of power permanently confiscated for public subjugation. The disenchantment with Africa's independences has made most African writers identify with the people's efforts to resist the rulers. In Josaphat Kubayada's words:
Postcolonial dictatorship in Africa concerns itself with repression, which in effect means the arrest, exile, execution, or consistent harassment of dissident voices. The general result of dictatorship is an atmosphere of fear, hate and humiliation. (5)
Antigone as Revolutionary Muse. Fémi Òsófisan's Tègònni: an African Antigone by A Van Weyenberg
THE POPULARITY of Antigone within Western literature, art and thought has been discussed at length, most famously by George Steiner who classifies it as "one of the most enduring and canonic acts in the history of our philosophic, literary, political consciousness" (1984 preface). At the heart of the tragedy is the conflict between Antigone, who sets out to bury her brother, and her uncle King Creon, who has issued a decree forbidding this burial. Antigone's appeal largely derives from this central conflict, a conflict that appears straightforward, but on closer inspection reveals the intricate nature of the various oppositions it explores, such as that between woman and man, individual and state, private and public and the gods and mankind. Not only does this complexity make the conflict between both protagonists tragic to begin with, but it also ensures Antigone's continuing attraction as a source for philosophical and artistic inspiration.
A great number of playwrights have revisited Sophocles' original, but its contemporary popularity is particularly striking on the African stage, where Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Athol Fugard, Fémi Òsófisan and Sylvain Bemba have given Antigone post-colonial relevance in a variety of 2 settings. It may seem strange that African playwrights would turn to texts that represent the classical Western canon. After all, Greek tragedy originally came to colonial areas through imported, and forcefully imposed, Western educational systems, and in that sense could be seen to epitomise imperial Europe. In their seminal study on post-colonial drama, Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins clarify that it is precisely this enduring legacy of colonialist education that explains the "prominent endeavour among colonised writers/artists" to "rework the European ‘classics’ in order to invest them with more local relevance and to divest them of their assumed authority/authenticity" (16). Still, whether or not African reworkings of Antigone should be considered counter-narratives to the Western canon is a question in need of closer investigation, and one that will be discussed later.
by Steve Bode Ekundayo
The use of proverbs is a major distinguishing narrative style of African novels. It is difficult to read an African/ Nigerian novel without running into strings of proverbs and aphorisms because the artful and apt use of proverbs is a remarkable and distinguishing characteristic of oratory, orators and general interaction in traditional African settings. Quite often, Nigerian novelists lace or sprinkle their narratives with proverbs which enhance the telling of their tales. From the pioneer novelists like Achebe to recent ones like Ojaide, the use of proverbs has remained one of the hallmarks of the genres. In the words of Uyo,
the use of proverbs shows conversational eloquence and …sayings are usually learnt from listening to elders… Proverbs can be used in several ways to teach moral lessons, influence people…and to entertain. A number of Nigerian prose writers are exceptionally skillful in the creative use of proverbs in their works of fiction….the creative use of figurative language is one of the greatest achievements of the author and this makes the novel interesting to read even as a narrative about contemporary issues.(6)
Similarly, Ogunjimi and N’Allah recognise in proverbs “the ingredients of harmonizing the life rhythm of any community” (65). Thus the use of proverbs betrays the Africanness of the writers and projects the settings and thematic preoccupations of their works. According to Jegede,
Proverbs speak louder than words... Proverbs form a pool of linguistic and thematic resources from which speakers and writers…have drawn…The functions of proverbs as means of embellishing speech and performance, projecting the business sense of a people, portraying the image of a community and preserving the history and culture of a people are usually reflected in literary works. (35-6)
As a writer Ojaide “engages metaphors, images, linguistic and semantic manipulations and legends from folktales and history to speak his thoughts, make his points and depict topical issues” (Olaofioye 7). His works are animated through “communal landscape given in myth, folklore and common histories that provide a community with a source of identity” (Okuyade 24).
IN HIS WORK on Chinua Achebe's novels, entitled ‘Chinua Achebe and the Tragedy of History ,' Thomas Melone says that the content of literature ought to be judged as "a portion of his destiny" (T. Melone, 1973, 12). Explaining his reasons, the Cameroonian critic says that every authentic literature should be a "carrier of humanity" ("porteuse d'humanite"), since it should, whether it be African or European, "witness for man and his destiny"; because, continues the critic, "men are first of all men ..., their identity is fundamental, and their destiny human" (T. Melone, 1973.12). More than any other form of literary criticism or appreciation, comparative literature highlights this universality of even' creative literary art. Universality, however, does not mean that one must necessarily compare authors from different countries or different cultural backgrounds. It is possible to compare and contrast two or more writers from the same country, from the same village, even from the same family, and finally, an author can be compared to himself. One comes up with interesting findings, in comparing, for example, the Chinua Achebe of No Longer at Ease with the Achebe of Arrow of God. The young graduate returning from England, unable to find his feet in his former home, and the village of Umuaro no longer thesame under sweeping religious attacks on the gods that had hitherto guaranteed its security and unity, both are witnesses each in its own way to the same cracking society under the invasion of foreign culture. Does it mean that the celebrated Nigerian novelist has said everything when he published his famous Things Fall Apart, and that thereafter is he only repeating himself Far from it? The novelist is comparable to a surveyor, whose field is the human society; in each novel he observes society from a particular point of view. The product of his artistic (here literary) creation is a "portion" of man's struggle with life, i.e., with his destiny, and this "odyssey" reproduces, mutatis mutandis, similar characteristics, whether it talks of Achilles, of Antigone, of Hamlet, of Obi Okonkwo or Ezeulu.
Postcolonial Violence, Oral Metaphors in Chin Ce's Gamji College by Devapriya Sanyal
This reading will demonstrate in Ce's second published prose fiction true images of this postcolonial violence that has modern African states such as Nigeria in a vice grip – a post-war violence, as brutal to the psyche of individuals as it is to the state, perennially threatening to consume the national cultural and political ethos of the entire African region. Thus while Gamji College in a larger artistic perspective may deal with the character of the nation states of Africa under the various civilian and military regimes that govern them in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (Brown par 1), its oral metaphors of violence are rendered in a manner that few recent fiction narratives in the African region have attempted. The objective of this study is to look at the story-teller's conceptualisation of violence, and how it envelopes his narrative, characterization and language in a way that brings out the message in its glaring entirety.
Chin Ce's story of a metaphorical African-Nigerian nation (Gamji College)
is divided into three sections entitled the "The Cross", "The Bottle" and
“The Gun". Each of these sections is as separate from the other as the
characters in the stories are different. The only link is that all the
action happens in the college although at different times. With this
arrangement, quite similar to the author’s first published work, Children of
Koloko, this collection of stories, told through the viewpoint of three
major characters, gives us added insight to the author's vision regarding
the youths (college students) of his country represented by Gamji in the
‘Moderated Bliss’: Coetzee's Disgrace as Existential Maturation by Erik Grayson
ALTHOUGH J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace has garnered a great deal of critical attention in the six years since its publication, most critical literature written about Coetzee's novel attempts to identify and delineate a process by which the protagonist David Lurie lifts himself out of a state of disgrace, often claiming that a condition of grace is the former professor's ultimate destination. Yet, as Ron Charles observes, the moment one begins to consider the nature of Lurie's (dis)grace, "the novel's title begins to refract meaning in a dozen directions" (20). Furthermore, commentators continue to struggle with what Gareth Cornwell calls "the fertile indirections of its narrative style" ("Disgraceland" 43.) Indeed, combined with Coetzee's deceptively simple prose, Disgrace has encouraged a range of equally convincing, yet widely divergent, interpretations.
In their discussions of (dis)grace, critics have viewed Lurie as a burgeoning Stoic, a man threatened by emasculation, and an individual suffering from a lack or intimacy while positing that the novel depicts the attainment of grace through "secular humility" (Kissack and Titlestad 135) and the struggle to remain human in an inhumane world. However, despite the novel's concern with states of (dis)grace, the trajectory David Lurie's life takes during the course of the novel might be better understood as a process of existential maturation. Rather than chart the fall and subsequent redemption of a "mighty" academic, as Melanie Isaacs's father sardonically remarks, Disgrace documents the end of David Lurie's reluctant acceptance of aging and mortality (Coetzee 167). In fact, Lurie's strikingly powerful fixation on mortality not only girds the aforementioned readings, but may also explain the "odd kink in [the novel's] narrative structure," namely what "the first quarter of the story [has] to do with what follows" (Hynes 1). It is only after David Lurie acknowledges and internalises his own eventual mortality that he discovers anything akin to grace. Indeed, Lurie's period of existential maturation, his gradual acceptance of life's eventualities, also marks a period of creative self-discovery during which Lurie finds his voice as he composes a comic opera "that will never be performed" (215). Disgrace, then, may be read as David Lurie's journey from estrangement to sexual, creative and existential self-actualization.
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Postcolonial Literatures as Counter-Discourse: J.M. Coetzee's Foe and the Reworking of the Canon A Kehinde
Africa in Western Canons
All our traditions and experiences are connected with a foreign race –we have no poetry but that of our taskmasters. The songs which live in our ears and are often on our lips are the songs we heard sung by those who shouted while we groaned and lamented. They sang of their history, which was the history of our degradation. They recited their triumphs, which contained the records of our humiliation. To our great misfortune, we learned their prejudices and their passions, and thought we had their aspirations and their power. (91)
Africa and Africans are given negative images in Western books of geography, travels, novels, history and in Hollywood films about the continent. In these texts and records, Africans are misrepresented; they are portrayed as caricatures. Unfortunately, Africans themselves are obliged to study such pernicious teachings. Reacting to this mistake, Chinua Achebe declares that if he were God, he would "regard as the very worst our acceptance, for whatever reason, of racial inferiority" (32). He further comments that his role as a writer is that of an educator who seeks to help his society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of vilification and self-denigration.
Memory and Trauma in John Nkemngong Nkengasong's Across the Mongolo by SA Agbor
THE STUDY focuses on the relationship between literature and memory and thus, addresses a theme that over the last two decades has become one of the central issues in literary and cultural studies. Memory and literature intersect in many different ways. Literature is one of the media that plays a crucial role in the process of representing and constructing both individual and collective memories. Throughout literary history, literary texts have engaged in a discussion of the implications, the problems, and the purposes of remembering (www.uni-giessen.de). Literature, moreover, participates in the processes of shaping collective memories and of subversively undermining culturally dominant memories by establishing counter-memories, which seek to consider, for example, gender-conscious or ethnic perspectives on past events. One of the recurring themes as far as literary representations of memories are concerned is the complex interaction between memories and identities. The intimate relationship between literature and memory is particularly obvious in genres such as autobiography, biography, or fictional biography.
The Anglophone problem is a historical reality in Cameroon and has had a profound influence on the literary imagination of many Anglophone writers from Bole Butake to Epie Ngome to Bate Besong, to Charles Alobwed'Epie and John Nkemngong Nkengasong amongst others. Modern Cameroon is made up of Anglophones and Francophones because the nation was colonized by the British and French. The Anglophones in Cameroon are a minority, constituting about one-fifth of the population and occupying less than one-tenth of the national territory. Alobwed'Epie states that "in Cameroon usage, the term is used to designate the opposite of Francophone on the one hand and, on the other, to designate people native to the S.W (Southwest) and N.W (Northwest) provinces" (49). Although fact is mixed with fiction, Nkengasong's text educates and allows the reader to participate in the (re)creation and (re)interpretation of events and processes that form identity crisis and alienation in a nation. Moreover, the manner in which Nkengasong manipulates characterization, storytelling, and imagination to enact memory is enriching. Across the Mongolo is relevant in the information it coveys and functions as historical data and as an avenue through which nationhood and bilingualism in Cameroon are conceived. This study aims to explore various facets of the intimate and complex relationship between literature and memory from different vantage points in Nkengasong's Across the Mongolo.
The Feminist Impulse of Lucy Dlamini (The Amaryllis) and Sembene Ousmane (God’s bits of Wood) by FI Mogu
SINCE the advent of time and civilization, females have confronted what they perceive to be the male domination of affairs in the human society. According to the African-American feminist critic, May Helen Washington, all facets of the society must conform to the male order before they are adjudged to be correct. However, she reasons that this scenario cannot continue since it is lopsided and punitive of women. She argues for a fairer, egalitarian, non-sex biased society which accords similar rights and privileges to its male and female members alike. In her essay, “The Darkened Eye Restored: Notes Towards a Literary History of Black Women,” she opines that:
In The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers Adventures in Sex, Literature and Real Life, Calvin C. Hernton supports Washington's views and proceeds to show clearly that the male domination of all aspects of life in the society still exists. He reasons that “the complexity and vitality of black female experience have fundamentally been ignored” and that, “black male writing has been systematically discriminating against women” (Hernton 39).
The Enigma of Coetzee
by Rinku Sanjay Solanki
IN his essay, “Into the Dark Chamber: the Writer and the South African State,” in Doubling the Point,1 J. M. Coetzee meditates the meaning and effect of torture in particular and brutality in general within South Africa’s dystopian reality. Here he interprets an episode of flogging in Nadine Gordimer’s Burger’s Daughter as one “com[ing] from the inner reaches of Dante’s hell, beyond the scope of morality” (367). One cannot question his take on it: South Africa “belong[ed] to a damned, dehumanized world,” comparable to the ‘the dark chamber’ of torture and inhuman brutality; “a world of blind force and mute suffering, debased, beneath good and evil” (367) where the physical existence of a torture chamber would be an inane absurdity, a grotesque parody, only emphasizing the reality of fallen scales -where ‘good’ and ‘evil’ have lost their meaning in an abyss of life/ living.
It tells a lot about Coetzee’s epithets of the life in South Africa in the context: going “beyond” good and evil; therefore despairing of the contemporary structures of perception and understanding. It could well be set in the words of one of Coetzee’s characters as, “[n]ot human evil, just a vast circulatory system, to whose workings pity and terror are irrelevant” (Disgrace 98). In a contrastive significance, and to render it in a better perspective, let us recall Lurie’s innocent homily to his daughter, Lucy, regarding the animals: “if we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we feel guilty or fear of retribution” (74). This is a piece of elderly advice by a father to his passionately committed daughter and uttered just before the brutal violence strikes them. Lucy is gang-raped, Lurie badly burnt and the car stolen. The flagrant violence takes them both by surprise but, unlike Lucy, Lurie appears excessively appalled and horrified and, like a true European, harbours civic desires of justice. As it is, this intellectual father is reduced to a pathetically uninformed citizen vis-à-vis his hardy and hard-headed daughter who better knows the legacy of “apartheid South Africa as both a product and a symptom of the West’s continued dependence on an economy that is colonial in its inextricably linked ideological and financial interests” (Jolly 368)2. It is here that the roots of the enigmatic nature of Disgrace can be located.
Postcolonial Memory, Transition and Dialogue: The Cyclic Order of Chin Ce’s Oeuvresby A Grants
Beginning withAn African Eclipse (2000) Chin Ce’s oeuvres foreshadow a general communal retardation most poignant in the Koloko and Gamji fictions. Seen together as one movement, Chin Ce’s writings trace a movement in the major characters from one of social preoccupation to that of psychological transition in awareness and growth. 'A Farewell' (AE) highlights this movement in a prefatory manner. The three ways: left, right and middle signify three choices involving two extremes and a middle course, an important element in Chin Ce's oeuvres. Before the choice is made, we must face ourselves, our fears, and actions represented in 'only our own graffiti.' The choice of a middle alternative is imperative from the flagellation of the other extremities but it is a lonely route that marks a separation from friends, old values, and life ways. In Children of Koloko, Yoyo represents this third factor and his separation from his two friends, Dickie and Buff, finally marks his attainment of growth as we shall see later. With the choice enacted in full awareness of the sense of alienation engendered, progress is sure even if the social outcome of this progress in political and social discourse may be uncertain. 'May 29 1999', a historical poem on the inauguration of Nigeria's last democracy confronts us with the grotesque physical paunch and slovenliness of Nigeria's new civilian leadership which combine with poetic epithets to forecast political disaster. 'The curse of the triangle' is another slavery which the new government portends for the generality of the Nigerian people. Ce's cynicism has been justified in the society-evident lack of direction that rated that country one of the most corrupt nations on earth under the government of Olusegun Obasanjo. It is the fraud of nation building which Africa’s postcolonial founding fathers had mistaken for patriotism. Its impact on the younger generations to come is being witnessed in contemporary politics of attrition and dislocation of time honored traditional values, a situation that Chin Ce forewarns in his second fiction Gamji College.
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Mia Couto and the Holistic Choric Self: Recreating the Broken Cosmic Order (Or: Relearning the Song that Truly Speaks…)
by I Marques
TWO STORIES from Mia Couto's collectionContos do Nascer da Terra (Stories of the Birth of the Land) published in 1997 "The Little Girl Without Words: Second Story For Rita" and "The Little Moon-bird: First Story For Rita," demonstrate how the Mozambican contemporary writer recreates the traditional African holistic (choric/animistic) 'self' via the use of innovative language and narrative techniques –a self that has been overshadowed by both the colonial and postcolonial orders. Some similarities that exist between African traditional worldviews (epistemologies) and other worldviews such as Western psychoanalysis and Buddhism, could point to the idea that we might all have more in common than we think.We all seem to yearn for the connection with our choric/holistic self, even if often we do not know how to regain that connection due to the general fragmentation and spiritual alienation that tends to pervade our rationally ordered modern societies.
Couto's stories are generally characterized by a great emphasis on the traditional pre-colonial African ways of life and epistemologies: myth, orature, different cosmogonies, conceptions of time, the inter-relation between the world of the living and the world of the dead, as well as animistic and holistic perceptions of life, where humans, nature and the universe at large are connected in deep ways and often not perceived as separate entities. The characters of the stories are often people who live in rural areas, which in fact constitute the vast majority of Mozambique's citizens, or people who do not adhere completely to and show resistance towards the assimilation of Western cultural values brought about by both the colonization and post-colonization processes. This suggests that Couto is interested in displaying the rural side of Mozambique, the side less touched by Western cultural values, less touched by the colonization and post-colonization processes: the endogenic/internal (orchoric/coric) side of Mozambican cultures. As David Rothwell notes, Couto has always demonstrated an awareness of Portuguese and, more generally, Western influence on his work. Rather than recusing such influence, he understands and then distorts it. He disrupts the paradigms of Western orthodoxy as he fashions identity by turning European epistemology into a raw, repackageable material. (28)
Failed Heroes and Failed Memories: Between the alternatives of V.S. Naipaul’s Biswas and Mongo Beti’s Medza by GMT Emezue
Most of contemporary critical opinion about the West Indies is likewise
connected with the colonial attitude toward Africa and endures in the general
dilemmas of post colonial African states that emerged in the 20th century from
crude amalgamations by their colonial founding masters. Colonial intrusions in
Africa and other parts of the New World laid the seeds of more sophisticated
tribal rivalries and conflicts at so-called independence. For instance, the
Assimilation policy of the colonial French government in West Africa left a
record of exploitation and dependency syndrome that put Africa’s economy
perpetually on the receiving end. On the individual plank, French policy at best
succeeded in the creation of a hybrid African whose destiny was failure in all
political, social and economic fronts; the only redemptive alternative being the
rejection of Europe’s Trojan gift of civilisation. In a bid to become African
Frenchmen the new product of colonial education was made and encouraged to turn
his back on his traditional values. This alienated attitude of self derision
became part of the enduring notions of the westernised African. On the
continental level African states after the imperial adventure became mere
geographical curvatures that satisfied the predatory instincts of the west whose
only morality had always been the force of the cudgel and their control of the
instruments of propaganda and thought.
Of significance in this study is the West Indian (VS Naipaul) and African (Mongo Beti) novelists’ response to the consequences of the colonial encounter through the memories of their characters and the development of the post colonial dialogue in the minds and thoughts of individuals who are representatives of particular cultural and historical stages of growth and transformation. The writer's vision of history and the impact of his assessment, if borne from a continuing tradition of self analysis is the subject of this critical assessment bearing in mind the power of the creative medium of literature in developing and refashioning a credible response of people to history and experience.
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Ngugi’s Marxist Aesthetics A Philosophical Re-Imaging of Petals of Blood by MSC Okolo
The central sense Marx understood aesthetics, also, it seems, applies to Ngugi (96), who sees literature as 'a reflection of the material reality under which we live.' The writer's primary responsibility in Ngugi's view is to channel his creative energy towards the production of the aesthetic devoted to the fight for freedom, exposing the distorted values integral to capitalist exploitative system and the struggle against exploitation in a class society. To carry out this task, a writer has to be sensitive to the class nature of the society and its influence on the imagination. Literature is part of the class power structures that shape our everyday life (Ngugi, xii). A writer's works invariably reflect the various struggles political, cultural, ideological, and economic going on in the society. Every literature is a commitment to a particular political ideology and every writer is a writer in politics (Ngugi xii). For literature to be meaningful it has to assume a revolutionary stance. Its focus must be on a critical appraisal of the economic structure of modern society, which is essential in getting a revolution going. Ngugi's ideal is for a literature that is committed, assertive, confrontational, which can bring about a more equitable change in human relations, especially, in the unbalanced relationship between the West and Africa and other third world countries. Truly, literature is teleological; its goal must be to transform a given society. In this sense, the essential task of literature, at least for the African writer, is to act as a vehicle of liberation from European imperialistic capitalism, which has placed the West at the core and Africa and the third world at the periphery in economic and social relations. It is only a revolution that can restore to Africa and its people the self-image and confidence necessary for the radical transformation of society. Literature cannot stand apart from the social processes taking place in the society. Its thoroughly social character makes it partisan; literature takes sides especially in a class society (Ngugi 6). For this, the African writer must shun 'abstract notions of justice and peace' and actively support the 'actual struggle of the African peoples' and in his writing reflect 'the struggle of the African working class and its peasant class allies for the total liberation of their labour power' which alone provides the foundation for a socialist transformation of the society (Ngugi 80). In Ngugi's summation, Marxist oriented literature is the aesthetic viable for the future and the only literature worth producing by the writer.
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