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More Essay Previews from our Library!

 

 

Here you can take more sneak peeks at some essays and book chapters

Available from our Library of African Writing (AW), Journals of Critical Studies [CS], African Literature and Culture [JALC] and New Poetry [NP]. You may order from an online bookstore or contact the publishers for bulk supply.

 

See Previous Essays

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Beyond Subjectificatory Structures by GAR Hamilton

Chin Ce 'In the season of another life' 

 

LIKE the works of many other politically-conscious Nigerian poets –such as Ada Ugah, Odia Ofeimun, and Niyi Osundare – Chin Ce's collection of poetry, An African Eclipse, is clearly concerned with the ethical and moral transgressions of Nigeria's political leaders in its post-independence years. Yet, one would like to demonstrate here how Ce's poetry offers something more profound than a simple sketch of the various past injustices inflicted on a largely poor Nigerian population by both civilian and military leaders following the official end of British colonial governance. Indeed, this paper argues that Ce's An African Eclipse conceptualises a non-personal force of Life that not only conditions a revolutionary way of being for its readers but also functions as an ethical principle that has the potential to become the antidote to the diseased morality of Nigeria's political leaders. ...For Ce, this simply cannot be said of the post-independence Nigerian political leaderships. Indeed, the political emphasis of Ce's An African Eclipse ensures that the collection is not without (many) examples of the impoverished condition of what one might call 'State thinking'. So, Ce writes of the profligacy of political administrations and the manner in which such recklessness and wastefulness is learned and repeated by the Nigerian everyman in the damning social commentary of 'Prodigal Drums'; he writes of the rampant egoism of Nigeria's political leaders in 'African Eclipse', which results in the social blight of self-interest and self-importance and claims of billions of dollars in oil revenues siphoned from the Nigerian economy by some Nigerian leaders and their families; and he writes of the willingness of the politicians to hide rather than disclose and resolve social problems and injustices, in the poems of 'The Second Reptile' and 'The Champ'. Taken in concert, Ce's cutting overview of State thinking presents a scathing indictment of a leadership that demonstrates a complete inability to empathise with, and react to, the experience of being a modern Nigerian. However, in Ce's essay 'Bards and Tyrants' one can trace the inability of the political leadership to form an appreciation of other Nigerians to a failure of thinking itself. Linked to his discussion of the degeneration of the integrity of the Nigerian university system, Ce reasons that the inadequacy of State thinking is due to the failure of Nigeria's political class to engage in deep personal thought at the hands of a 'liberating' literature:

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Available in African Journal of New Poetry NP. 3

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The Poetry of Osmond Ossie Enekwe by FO Orabueze

 

OSMOND OSSIE Enekwe was born on 12th November, 1942 in Affa, Enugu State of Nigeria. He graduated from the University of Nigeria in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He earned his masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, New York. He is a scholar and a prolific writer whose teaching experience spans several universities in two continents: America and Africa. His international reputation is primarily as a poet, but he is also a theatre scholar, director, musician and novelist. Ossie Enekwe, like the English Romantic poet, William Blake, was apprenticed to an artist but his longing for education propelled him to abandon that career for education. His competence in these several professions bears on his works, especially on his poems. Today, his works are published in several local and international academic journals and books. Some of his poems, particularly those in his recent collection of poems, Marching to Kilimanjaro, are already in Tijan Sallah's New Poets of West Africa.

Ossie Enekwe cannot be seen solely as a pessimistic poet; he also gives out rays of light and hope at the dark and dangerous tunnel of life in which man is a wayfarer. In Broken Pots, he believes that the cycle of doom of broken humanity can stop if there could be unadulterated love and friendship. And in Marching to Kilimanjaro, he advocates that the chains of bondage, servitude, humiliation, degradation, suppression and injustice must be broken by a bloodless revolution, where the 'rockets' and 'bazookas' fired to be replaced with new weapons: 'knowledge', 'intellection', 'work', 'love for truth and beauty'. The poet agrees with Richard Wright in his inspiring novel, Black Boy, and William Blake in the poem, "The Tyger" (Songs of Experience) that it is only through the power of knowledge that comes from education 'burning bright/in the forests of the night' that broken humanity can break the dams of inequality and injustice, which separate the mighty from the weak. It is only through this violence-free revolution that they can create an egalitarian society where all men will live in peace and love. The poet espouses in "Situation Report": But through knowledge, intellection and work, we will give this rage the firmness and potency of rockets and bazookas, streaking fast against the assumed permanence of injustice. Through love for truth and beauty, we will create the world where the hawk and the eagle can perch, none displacing the other.

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Available in New [Nigerian] Poetry Journal Journal No. 2

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The Revolutionary Lyrics of Fela Anikulapo Kuti by Albert Oikelome

 

BY the nineteen seventies, a unique popular musical typology emerged from the continent of Africa pioneered by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Afrobeat, Fela's musical synthesis from rhythm, jazz and highlife was defined by this fusion of foreign elements in a socio-stylistic musical framework whose roots are African traditional. Felá Anikulapo Kuti remained an enigma to his generation. Some said he was one of Africa's best musicians. To others he was a prophet. And to the governments that ruled in his time, he was an odious rebel. In all, Felá stood as an outspoken musician that employed his music as a weapon to propagate both political and social ideologies. His irresistible rhythms and instrumental composition were laid with originality that grew increasingly political and revolutionary in nature. Coker describes Fela as a brilliant artist:

 He was able to establish an entirely new genre of resistance. He despised political corruption, and the persecution of the masses. Self-identifying as an artist of the people, he managed to upset the ruling class of his own society and to cast a spell of reform on the elites of other societies. (95-95)

Fela Anikulapo Kuti's music was unique in the sense that his fearless projection of anger released new creative possibilities. These resulted in his forceful, aggressive, socially and politically explosive lyrics.

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Available in The Journal of New Poetry NP No.6

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Eco-critical Spaces of New Nigerian Poetry by Devapriya Sanyal

 

THIS Eco-critical reading of what is being tagged as ‘New Nigerian poetry’ uses the poetry collections Marching to Kilimanjaro (Enekwe 2005) and Full Moon (Ce 2001) to focus mainly upon how local poets in Africa perceive nature in their poetry, and what possible interpretations can emerge from their poetic representations of personae, subject and ideas with the natural landscape. Interestingly, as Eco-criticism attracts scholarly interest throughout the Eastern and Western hemispheres in the twenty-first century, arguments still abound concerning standards of practice, focus and the actual relationship between environment and literature. ...while discussions and propositions continue in the West, some eco-critics have been very busy creating “model” nature writings in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Mary Austin, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Wallace Segner, Robinson Jeffers, Edward Abbey, Gary Synder, Ann Zwinger, Wendell Berry and Barry Lopez while others have not been too idle in the narrativisation of scholarship as a method of imparting and exploring knowledge. For critic Lawrence Buell, this foregrounds the “liveliness” and not “consensus” that abounds in critical practice. For him this point of disparity is traceable to the concept of literature and environment. Our practice departs from those of mainstream Western scholars as described above and situates the investigation on the broadest definition of Eco-criticism as the imagining and representation of nature in literary texts. And so our use of Eco-criticism in this study shall be based broadly on the definitions of the concept offered by Cheryll Glofelty and Michael Cohen. According to Cheryll Glofelty, Eco-criticism shares the fundamental premise that human culture is connected to the physical world, affecting it and affected by it. Ecocriticism takes as its subject the interconnectedness between nature and culture, specifically the cultural artefacts of language and literature. (Ecocritical Reader 1996)

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Available in Critical Supplement Onuora Ossie Enekwe CS (A)2

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Osundare's Lamentation for the Dead and Living by Kola Eke

 

COLLEGE students who occasionally open an anthology of poetry are familiar with his name and with one or two of his poems. Some are familiar with such collections as: Songs of the Market Place (1983), Village Voices (1984), A Nib in the Pond (1986), The Eye of the Earth (1986), Moon Songs (1988), and Waiting Laughters (1990). However, this study will be entirely focused on Songs of the Season (1990). This is because of the conspicuous development of Osundare's skill in elegiac poetry. Osundare's critics have more frequently affirmed no impression than that of the fullness of the poet's participation in the socio-political affairs of his country. It has been asserted that the themes that preoccupy him are "social and political corruption, maladministration and mismanagement, deprivations and oppression suffered by the masses and concern with Third World situations" (Bamikunle 121). Another critic is of the opinion that Osundare has devoted his "poetic energies to the service of the exploited African peasantry (Ngara 177). It has also been pointed out that in Osundare's poetry one confronts "poetry of revolution and revolutionary poetry" (Jeyifo 320).

An aspect of Osundare's poetry scarcely mentioned by critics, but which is the subject of some remarkable poems and of central importance in Songs of the Season. Call him what you will, tragic poet, poet of the masses; the point is that a careful reader cannot miss the elegiac tone of a number of poems in this collection. Surprisingly enough, critics seem to lose sight of the lament quality of his poems, though this is a subject worthy of careful study. In Songs of the Season, some poems do share enough features to make them worth discussing together, and these poems can be grouped under the common elegy. Therefore, one makes bold to say that the lament over the dead and the living is no chance interest but one of his central concerns in Songs of the Season.

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Available in African Journal of New Poetry NP. 3

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Current West African Poetry by Ama B. Amoah

 

THE Postcolonial discourse being that which attempts “…to elucidate the function of cultural representations in the construction and maintenance of “First- /Third-world relations” (Said Culture” 349) implies a perspective that is constantly aware of power tussles and the strategy of “negotiating with the structure of violence imposed by Western liberation to intervene, question and change the system from within” (350). Negotiating power, both on political, economic and socio-cultural spheres and its straggling motifs of social disequilibrium, hybrid cultures, high criminality, prostitution, gender inequality, et cetera, have provided the critical tandem that post colonial discourse in Africa must align with. This has been the preferred creative perspective of many contemporary African writers among whom Ossie Enekwe, Kofi Anyidoho, Chin Ce and Joe Ushie are significant voices. As Okafor avers:

A work of act is never created in a vacuum, it mere supposes a culture, a civilization which is the emanation of a particular historical, geographical, socio-economic and political circumstances hence geography, history, economics, politics are to a great degree … are indeed very important. (105)

This exposition of recent poetry from West Africa aims at reviewing existing power tensions in different social and political contexts of the African continent. It purveys poetry’s attempt to artistically subvert these structures for the enlightenment and empowerment of the people. For the purpose of this discourse, a single poem from each of their selected poetry anthologies shall serve as illustrations of how poetry has been deployed to undermine the favourite accompaniments of colonialism, western imperialism and postcolonialism in Africa.

Anyidoho Kofi is the poet from the homeland of Ghana who shares the belief of his compatriots in committed art. His poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies world wide. His four published books of poetry: Elegy for the Revolution (1978), A Harvest of our Dreams (1984), and Earth Child (1985) all show sentiments rooted in the traditions and culture of the Ewe. Although Kofi’s is wont to be elegiac in tone, it also reveals an artistic awareness of the African universe which situates life and death as a continuum of existence while sorrow and joy occupy the same revolving axis.

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Available in Critical Supplement Onuora Ossie Enekwe CS (A)2

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The Mythography of Tanure Ojaide's Poetry by Ogaga Okuyade

 

To most African writers, there seems to be a formidable energy in the past which they endlessly invoke in their art in order to interrogate the calamitous present in the invention of a pellucid future. Benji Egede attributes this backward glancing as an avenue from which the writer is, "supplied (…) with symbols, images and techniques in addition to furnishing him with themes at public level" (67). It becomes an undeniable fact that the magnetism of orature on the social existence and life of Africans are evident in contemporary African literature. The pervasiveness of orature manifests to a large extent, the profound impact it has in the social formation, shaping and constitution of the geneology and life of a writer. Ojaide himself observes that "poetry in Africa is generally believed to be currently enjoying an unprecedented creative outburst and popularity" (4). According to him this popularity seems to arise from "some aesthetic strength hitherto unrealized in written African poetry which has successfully adapted oral poetry technique into the written form" (4). Although the scribal expressive medium is English, the poetry carries the African sensibility, culture, and worldview, as well as the rhythms, structures and techniques of tradition, which give credence to what is designated as "double writing" (Soyinka 319). Yaw Adu-Gyamfi factorizes such features to include "ceremonial chants, tonal lyricism, poetry of primal drum and flute, proverbs, riddles, myths, songs, folktales, the antiphonal call-and-response styles, and the rhythmic, repetitive, digressive, and formulaic modes of language use" (105).

In Ojaide's poetry, social existence is constructed through communal landscapes given in myth, folklore and common histories that provide a community with a source of identity. Ojaide develops this form of art by transposing traditional forms and images into the contemporary world in order to address more pressing post-independence concerns. Since the work of art according to Hugh Webb "arises out of the particular alternatives of his time (24), the historical circumstances that inform Ojaide's art is a real issue of this study.

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Available in African Journal of New Poetry NP. 3

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Ethnicity in Popular Zimbabwean Music by Joseph Chikowero

 

Zimbabwean music is often conscripted into “popular” garrisons, foreclosing possibilities of reading the power of music beyond mere entertainment. This paper attempts a critical thematic analysis of music by selected Zimbabwean musicians of foreign origin to illustrate their contestation of political and popular constructions of Zimbabwean identities. While the two musicians whose lyrics are examined here do not question their foreign origin, they challenge narrow, nativist constructions of Zimbabwean postcolonial identities that exclude citizens such as themselves who are, after all, not immigrants but are only descendants of colonial migrant workers. By challenging narrow, exclusivist conceptions of national identity, the Khiama Boys expose the postcolonial government's failure to move beyond colonial hierarchies, anxieties and categories that were concocted to drive wedges between various races, shades and ethnicities. The musicians propose Zimbabwean identities as essentially multifaceted as opposed to one identity that seamlessly traces its origin to one ethnicity or place of origin. This former position is made more plausible given that Zimbabwe's national borders are an artificial creation of British colonialists and the fact that many people currently living in Zimbabwe trace their origins to areas outside the country's national borders. In this vein, selected musicians of foreign origins articulate the failure of the Zimbabwean post-colonial nation to achieve what Benedict Anderson had termed “simultaneity”, that is “the ability to imagine the existence of an extended community in time, even without direct knowledge of other members of this community who exist at the distant edges of national space” (Szeman 7) This is within a nation that has generally not appealed to a mythic or primordial past for national legitimacy but rather “a communal project whose aim is to create a promising future out of a terrible past” (8) These musicians insist that in spite of the mark of “foreignness” they remain Zimbabweans, thus dismissing notions of national identity rooted in ethnic origin or place of origin. The paper exposes the schizophrenic character of Zimbabwean post colonial identity(ies) given its ambivalent relationship with certain prominent “foreigners.”

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Available in Journal of African Poetry JAL No.5

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The Poetry Of Odia Ofeimun by Idaevbor Bello

 

With regard to the poetry of Ofeimun, there has not been much critical attention. In spite of this, however, those who have had to make one comment or the other about the poetry have not dealt with the steps by which Ofeimun believes revolution can be achieved in his society. For instance, Harry Garuba discusses his "… passionate commitment to public issues and social causes" (Ogunbiyi Perspectives 270). Egudu (Okike 79-92) focuses on the effort of Ofeimun in depicting the problems in his society. In her own contribution, Patience Iziengbe Osayande dwells on the mobilizing power of Ofeimun's poetry. Funso Aiyejina (Ogunbiyi Perspectives 112-128) sees Ofeimun's poetry as a product of the anger he has against his society. Tanure Ojaide ( Research 4-19) sees Ofeimun's poetry as merely an expression of anger against writers who are not committed to the people. None of these critics has focussed on the strategies by which the poet believes change can be brought about in his society. In this paper, therefore, we shall discuss the strategies by which Ofeimun feels revolutionary change can be effected in the Nigerian society; namely, knowledge, defiance, as well as resistance and physical destruction.

Ofeimum in his poetry tells us his objective is "to nudge and awaken them / that sleep / among my people" into action "Prologue" (TPL1). In brief, Ofeimun does not just capture and present the sordidness in his society to amuse those who read him but with the objective to make the people see the dirt and the pain around them so they can be adequately respond to it. Niyi Osundare observes that "knowing is ending evil" ( Songs 60). And as Aiyejina also puts it "…to ask the right question in a season of fear and lurking death is a revolutionary gesture" (127). Our preoccupation in this section is to examine how Ofeimun's poetry the pain and social decay in his society.

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Available in New [Nigerian] Poetry Journal  2

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Birth Songs of Oku Women of Cameroun by Frida Mbunda

 

PERFORMANCE like all other speech acts, is a communication system in which social discourse takes place principally between a narrator/performer and an audience. Malinowski in his study of Trobiad oral narratives was struck by how much was lost in the reduction of the oral text to print and the subsequent analysis of the material divorced from the context that gave it life. As Ben-Amos observes: "an oral poem is essentially an ephemeral work of art and has no existence or continuity apart from its performance" (1971:18). Coffin and Cohening also point out that "folklore enters a state of suspended animation when in print; it becomes alive again only when it flows back into oral circulation through performance" (1966: xiv). One gets a meaningful understanding and a deeper appreciation of Njange Wan more by observing the artists perform than by reading the texts. Finnegan asserts: "The nature of performance itself can make an important contribution to the impact of the particular literary form being exhibited" (1967:93).

Njange Wan is context-bound. The songs have their integrity impact and realisation only within the scope of performance, which is done on specific occasion. Malinowski makes an apt observation which is appropriate to Njange Wan: The text, of course, is extremely important, but without the context it remains lifeless... The whole nature of the performance, the voice and the mimicry, the stimulus and the response of the audience means as much to the natives as the text;... the performance has to be placed in its proper time setting -the hour of the day, and the season (1926:24.)

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Available in African Literary Journal ALJ No.2

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Conflict Resolution in Oral Literature: A Review of Yoruba Satirical Songs by Arinpe Adejumo

 

CONFLICT, an ever-present human phenomenon in social life, is a universal one. The perception of individual action as a threat to the goals of another is the springboard for the different forms of conflict that manifest in every part of African societies. Attempts have been made to manage conflicts in Africa through Western approaches. However, total breakthrough has proven evasive. In the traditional Yorùbá society of Southwestern Nigeria, satire, a form of literary art, is one of the powerful weapons used to sanction erring members in a bid to forestall and, at times, manage and resolve conflicts. This paper, using the sociological approach to literary evaluation, specifically focuses on Yorùbá satirical songs as a way of demonstrating how traditional methods of ridiculing non-conformists could prove an effective strategy for conflict management and resolution.

Literature takes its root from the realities of the conditions and values of the society that provides and primarily consumes it. Thus, the norms and values of the society are transmitted and internalized into the audience or citizens through the various literary genres that exist in that society. Globalization and civilization are trends that have promoted a state of anomie in most parts of African societies as a result of cultural diversity and cultural integration which gradually culminate in perpetual conflicts. In contemporary Nigerian society, ethnic, religious, political, social, domestic and interpersonal conflicts are prevalent. Research findings reveal that attempts have been made to manage conflicts in Nigeria without paying attention to the deployment of traditional methods for the resolution of conflicts. Such methods in Yorùbá society clearly involve the deployment of satire, a form of literary art, in ritual and festival songs for the purpose of mediation, reconciliation and resolution of conflicts. Salient lessons could therefore be learnt from Yorùbá satirical tradition for the peaceful resolution of animosities that constantly arise among the various ethnic and religious groups in the African continent.

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Available in Journal of African Poetry JAL No.5

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The Creative Wit of Alaa's Children by Chin Ce

 

LITTLE HAS been written about the riddle genre of Africa's oral art apart from scattered references in some research efforts by western scholars. Yet the riddles of African oral literature still survive as a literary genre in its own right with short diction and imposed meanings, stock devices and stock answers repeated almost word for word in communities where they flourish.l Among the children of Alaa the value of the riddle and bash contests is not just in the educational or entertainment motif. There lies some superabundant wit in the prolific deployment of imagery, epithets and symbolism from the repertoire of Alaa tradition and culture. Alaa's progeny themselves are regular contestants and have, over time, cultivated so much artistry in this artistic form that they must generally come to be recognised as bards in their own right. The creative genius in African literary tradition is often indebted to his immediate environment or larger society. It is the society that provides him with linguistic and literary traditions in terms of a common language or dialect, metaphor, imagery, and proverbs. But this in no way dims the creative vision that drives the spirit of his art and the genuineness of his work. 'Genius' here implies the artiste's ability to effect some variations on this body of existing traditional sources at his disposal. 'Some traditions allow for considerable individualistic expression,' says Abdulkadir. '(So) the poet must however rely to some extent on traditional forms and structures... and traditional materials in (his)... composition. (Abalagu, et al, 1981) Thus the evidence of performance reveals that it is the personal dynamics that must coalesce acceptably with the artiste's traditional repertoire in order to make the final piece a unique and aesthetically pleasing experience. This is what makes the elaborate riddle contests of Alaa a richer concatenation of expressions of intrinsic poetic value than ordinary riddles and one can agree no less with Jack Mapanje that 'the person who can complete the metaphor (and symbols laden in this art genre)... is well equipped to understand (great) poetry.' (Mapanje, 1983)

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Available in African Literary Journal ALJ No.2

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Igbo Oral Poetry by F. O. Orabueze

 

MAN has always expressed his feelings, experiences, expectations and dreams through the medium of poetry. Although there may be no final definition of poetry, all ideas about poetry centre on one thing: man's display of emotions in a unique language that is devoid of every day usage. To the Romantic writer, William Wordsworth, it is 'the imaginative expression of strong feelings, usually rhythmic…. the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility' (in Obi Maduakor 2) And for the Chinese poet, Kuo Mojo, it is 'the music invoked from men's hearts by the age in which they live'. (Mojo 1)

The differentiation of oral from written poetry is not the message but the form and structure. Oral poetry is essentially '… a collective enterprise handed down by word of mouth dependent upon the memories of listeners and story-tellers….' (Levitas xxiii). Traditional poetry is, therefore, the cultural heritage of indigenous people. Poetry to a critic and art historian is the song of the heart which touches on and rekindles the very living chords of human experience. (Otagbunagu & Okoro 5).

Poetry, which is the oldest of all the literary genres, is categorized into two: written and oral. Written poetry is the property of one poet or a group of poets and for the literate reader. Oral poetry, on the contrary, is the property of non-literate societies. Every African society is very rich in traditional poetry which is the common property of the whole community; the poet or groit or the praise singer and bard use that to express the communal vision of life. Abiola Irele agrees that African traditional poetry is culture-tied and handed down orally from generation to generation:

It represents our classical tradition i.e. that body of texts which lies behind us as a complete and enduring literature though constantly being renewed and which most profoundly informs the worldviews of our people and is thus at the same time the foundation and expressive channel of a fundamental African mental universe. (12)

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Available in African Journal of New Poetry NP. 3

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Re-visioning Igbo-Biafran War Songs by Onyebuchi Nwosu

 

WAR songs are essential elements of Igbo oral poetry and pervade a huge part of Igbo and African oral repertoire. This treatise assesses the thematic imports of some Igbo war songs before the Nigerian civil war. It compares tendencies in war songs before and during the war while juxtaposing some relevant themes of war with the experiential testimonies of living witnesses to the Biafran war with Nigeria.

Conflicts are said to be inevitable in human existence. Misunderstandings frequently occur in relationships and, if they are not properly handled, often degenerate into a bitter and protracted combat. The general “state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict, carried on between nation states, or parties” (Free par. 1) known as war, leaves little to be desired for the ruin, destruction, suffering and debasement it brings to persons and places. The Biafran which war, which raged for thirty months from July 6, 1967 to January 12, 1970, witnessed great animosities, hostilities as well as atrocities. The theater of this violence was mainly enacted in Igboland, the main enclave of the secessionist Biafra. However, the Biafran war brought a new dimension to the employment of war songs in conflict. Some scholars are of the opinion that but for the effective use of oratory, songs and propaganda, the Biafran state would not have lasted as long as it did. Before this time, however, the phenomenon of war was not new for the people. Among the Igbo there were occasional inter-communal wars evidenced in their oral poetry and songs. Such songs were then referred to as valour or war songs.

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Available in Journal of African Poetry JAL No.5

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The Trope of Cultural Foetal Searching by Ayo Kehinde

Edward Brathwaite's The Arrivants

 

One major strand that runs through the poetry of Edward Brathwaite is the quest for identity, an attempt to come to terms with a past that was overwhelming in itself “and still remains overwhelming in its undesirable intrusion into the present” (Egudu 8). Brathwaite's main artistic preoccupation is to achieve 'wholeness' through poetic reconstruction. For him, therefore, “the eye must be free/seeing --an attempt to retrieve his world through his poetic vision” (Dash 122). In fact, the importance of Africa in West Indian writings cannot be overestimated, either as providing alternative metaphors of cultural difference or as a fully developed Negritude.

The trope of Africa is a recurrent feature of West Indian literature.

Given this unified African heritage and shared commonality of the African historical experience, African and West Indian writers appear to consciously examine their African heritage in the literatures of both areas. Brathwaite's sense of awareness --most importantly of his historical position and situation in society-- finds utmost expression in his brooding, slow but progressive attempt to achieve 'wholeness' out of the debris of his past. His Ghanaian experience, no doubt, had opened his eyes to this possibility.

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Available in African Journal of New Poetry NP. 4

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Matrifocal Feminism and The Lianja Epic by Sharla Dudley

Theory in Praxis

 

 IN HER influential work, Feminism Without Borders, Chandra Talpade Mohanty discusses the divergent feminisms of Western and Third World origin. Mohanty describes U.S.-based feminism as class-centric and academic, located within a protocapitalist norm which avoids or ignores the need for collectivity. This feminism lacks the solidarity that Mohanty seeks, the “mutuality, accountability, and the recognition of common interests as the basis for relationships among diverse communities” (7). Mohanty's political solidarity and theory in praxis proposes that women pursue a collective empowerment based on understanding and appreciation rather than difference and pity. Similarly, there are preexistent alternatives to Western patriarchy and cultural imperialism being discussed by African scholars such as the contributors to the online journal, JENDA; these contributions demonstrate Mohanty's transnational feminist theory in praxis. Scholars in fields of study such as sociology and anthropology develop and utilize their perspective to increase understanding of African communities. Essentially, this recent movement reclaims feminism in a mother-centered African context, and so we may refer to this emergent school of thought as matrifocal1 feminism. The sociological foundation of matrifocal feminism offers a theoretical method for considering female characterization in African classical literature. This paper applies theories of matrifocal feminism to an analysis of The Lianja Epic, an African oral text. This application of theory is used as a means of investigating the characterization and political power of female figures in the narrative, and determining the cultural and literary contribution of the text to the discussion of transnational feminist community.

Matrifocal feminism and its “co-mothering” community offer a possible alternative and means for political solidarity. Oyèrónké Oyěwùmí rejects the globalization of the term sisterhood as a post-colonial form of Western imperialism (“Introduction,” African Women and Feminism). She points out that the term does not carry the same political or social meanings in an African context. In the place of this “sisterhood,” she prefers co-mothering:

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Available in African Journal of New Poetry NP. 4

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Ayi Kwei Armah: Provincialising Old Centres by Divine Neba Che

Remaking the African Myth

 

 FOREMOST revisionist African mythologists like Cheikh Anta Diop and Chinweizu have successfully debunked the Western collusion in Black inferiorisation. They are joined by Ayi Kwei Armah, a dogged revisionist mythologist who in the novel Osiris Rising attempts to demythologize the racist maxim that the black world is "forward never, backward ever" by resuscitating the African past as a means of restoring her lost values. This process of resuscitation, recycling and integration may not totally erase assimilated or hybrid values, for Africa owes a debt to the modern nation states and vice versa, but is simply a process of bringing into limelight what has been rejected or ignored for

centuries: the ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis and the building of the image of a vibrant Africa via literature.

Our premise is that decentering former spheres of influence gives birth to new provinces where each province has a defined autonomy enabling it to operate with little constraint within the global milieu. Although this may not allow for a protracted study of Amah's works as a whole, it traces the history of a severed continent in Two Thousand Seasons and its regenerative ability in Osiris Rising using the ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis with the intention of rebuilding the image of a vibrant Africa. In both novels Amah’s proposition on the question of provincializing the modern nation states includes reconstructing or mending the dismembered past by making Africans more aware of their history.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC 7

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Gender Issues in Ola Rotimi’s Drama by Omolara K Owoeye

 

OLA Rotimi’s dramaturgy adapts Classical tragedy in order to represent history and act as a commentary on issues of tragic import in society. Moreover, the plays have severally portrayed the notions of such matters as tradition and change, the metaphysical and the very controversial issue of destiny and predestination using “the historical perspective to explain the man-God interplay in matters of destiny” (Elegbeleye and Adeoti 258). Rotimi’s achievement in the treatment of destiny is patented in The gods are not to Blame, an adaptation of Sophocle’s Oedipus Rex and such other works as Kurunmi and Ovoramwen Nogbasi. It is not surprising that critical works on Rotimi’s plays have focused more on the above subject matter than women and gender issues in the stories. However, a close look at the works would expose the gender imbalance and patriarchal nature of the African societies in which the plays are set. The little significance of women in the plays may be due to authorial choice to adjust history for his artistic and thematic intentions. Adapting authors do not owe history the loyalty to historical facts and details and this enables Rotimi, for instance, to alter the type of death that Kurunmi meets at the end of the play, Kurunmi. Ashaolu comments that “although this historical tragedy derives directly from the 19th-century Ijaye Ibadan warfare, it casts a suggestive glance at contemporary socio-political events not only in Nigeria but also elsewhere in Africa”. (99)

Anita Kern talking specifically of the prose genre makes the observation that “female characters have figured more or less prominently in various novels or short stories according to the writers’ purpose or to their particular levels of consciousness regarding women”. (157) Indeed in all the three traditional genres of literature, authorial perception has always been a vital factor in female character depiction. It then becomes obvious that the absence of female participation in the political process in Rotimi’s plays, for instance, is attributable to authorial intention especially since it is a trend in his three major historical tragedies. The playwright appears caught in a patriarchal hold that makes him overlook the significance of women in socio-political struggles and familial aspirations thereby prompting the question: what could have been the benefit of complimentary female involvement as the protagonists in all the plays daringly battle to safeguard their physical and ideological territories from colonial and territorial invasion?

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Available in The Journal of African Literature JAL 9

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The Miriam Makeba Story  by Benjamin Odhoji

 

THE above lines from her musical composition, Homeland, produced in 2000 soon after she had returned home to South Africa, are true memorials of Miriam Makeba's life. Most of these “memories of days gone by” Makeba had inscribed in her autobiography: Makeba: My Story. In this collaborative biography – Makeba was assisted by one James Hall – she grapples with memories of a painful past as an individual and as a member of a group subordinated and disenfranchised under the apartheid regime.

Miriam Makeba’s story emerges as a self-making "therapoetic" process. It is a therapy, not so much "for dealing with psycho-pathology…as for savoring the aesthetic richness of everyday life" (Kenyon and Randall 2). It is both a spiritual as well as a radical political commitment that entails subversive forms of self-representation. The painful past Makeba remembers entails mental and emotional re-experiencing of trauma. Memory is a weapon. It is a weapon against forgetfulness of a painful past. When discussing racial conflict and identity in South African novels, Jane Davies reminds us that the desire to forget seems associated with a false belief that forgetting the painful past means recovering from it while, in fact, healing is reached through reflection on and understanding of the past. Makeba urges the traumatized to remember her story. In terms of narrative form, the text presents crucial questions regarding the issues of testimony and witnessing.

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Available in The Journal of New Poetry 6

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Crisis of Identity in Chinua Achebe's A Man of the People by Smita Jha

 

WHEN we talk of identity crisis in African writing it is a kind that is both individual and territorial in character and does have strong social, political, religious or cultural implications within the continent. Through a century of colonial governance Africa lost much of its traditional and cultural identity to artificial nation state and ideological formations. The violence inscribed upon the continent imposed by the colonizing power has witnessed traumatic physical and psychological conditions that affect generations of African peoples and cultures. For the first generation of modern African writers led by Senghor, Achebe, etc., it was a daunting task to seek to restore belief in the lost and maligned traditions of Africa through their writings.

Achebe’s search for innate human qualities takes an ironic manifestation in A Man of The People wherein he portrays two well-rounded characters immersed in their own rationale of success and achievement and proves that western cultural invasion together with the infiltration of material luxuries poses a serious threat to tribal African values and amidst such confusion the society lost its way.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture 7

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Memory and Palimpsestic Time by Kei Okajima

Reviewing Ben Okri’s Famished Road

 

 Despite the tremendous influence that the slave trade exerted on every corner of contemporary African life, most West African writers appeared to turn away from the traumatic memory of the slave trade, pursuing milder themes of pre-colonial Africa or post-colonial challenges of emerging nations. Indeed critics and scholars have read Ben Okri’s 1991 novel The Famished Road as such a novel.

For instance, Olatubosun Ogunsarwo, focusing on the narrative modes of the novel, celebrates the magical-realist framework used to create the typical “postcolonial” novel (50). Ogunsarwo argues that the juxtaposition of the African folkloric myth with the description of the nation’ s predicament in form of a European realist novel signals the discursive multiculturality of “postcolonial” conditions, which allegedly re-formulates the colonial perception of different cultural phenomena. Ogunsarwo maintains “The inescapable intertextuality and the consequent mutual ‘rubbing off’ underline the interdiscursivity of the novel’s textual discourse; there is a relation of mutual interdependence between the dominated and the dominators that must be recognized, since neither the imperial city nor the colony can return to a ‘pure’ state following colonization” (45). Along similar lines, John C. Hawley applies the label “postcolonial postmodernity” to The Famished Road, asserting that “The significance of an abiku narrator … is that it moves African literature closer to the postmodern movement” (31 his italics). According to Hawley, Azaro’s presence as an abiku child embodies alternative ontological systems that are foreign to the western master narrative of history while at the same time Azaro allegorizes postmodern “resistance to the fixing of boundaries” that enable him to “imagine something new” (36). On balance, these scholars praise the happy blending of essential elements of the African mythological consciousness with the postmodern stylistic features, which ultimately creates this “postcolonial” novel. While such arguments may have its own credits, their rather easy celebration of the “postcolonial” hybridity seems to overlook the significance of the traumatic memory of the colonialism that is still alive and manifest in Okri’s novel.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature 9

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New Kenyan Writers by Jonathan Fitzgerald

The Narratives of Binyavanga Wainaina and Yvonne Owuor 

 

KENYA elected a new leader, Mwai Kibaki, in December, 2002, after 24 years under the presidency of Daniel Arap Moi. This was not only a major change in Kenyan politics; it opened the door for a major shift in the lives of all Kenyans and especially the nation's artists. It was not long, however, before the new administration faced accusations of corruption and business as usual, but the spark had already been lit under a burgeoning artist community; change was on the horizon.

In that same year a Kenyan writer, recently returned from years living and working in South Africa, published a story called “Discovering Home”. Binyavanga Wainaina was awarded the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing for that story, the first time a Kenyan had received the honor. With the prize money Wainaina formed Kwani Trust, an organization that, among many other things, publishes Kwani?, East Africa's only literary magazine. The first issue of the magazine featured 2003's Caine Prize winning story, “Weight of Whispers” by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, another Kenyan.

In his introduction to the first issue of Kwani? (a Sheng word that literally means, “So?” but is better likened to the English slang, “What's Up”) Wainaina declared that he had been meeting talented young Kenyans working in all fields, from hip-hop artists to writers, since his return from South Africa, and, more significantly, these artists all seem to be making art that is particularly Kenyan.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature 6

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“Genealogies of the Spirit” by Shirley J. Carrie

Ancestral Reclamation in the dramas of August Wilson 

 

CONTEMPORARY Black intellectuals and artists like August Wilson often signify the historical dispersal of peoples of African descent in a redemptive narrative that suggests that diasporic body can be re-born through the restoration of the dead. More importantly, the commemoration of the ancestor figure anchors the diasporic subject to their own uncertain present by enabling them to redeem the past. This cultural reclamation of an African origin and/or roots is often tied to the solemn remembrance of the Ancestor. Thus, the demand for the humane treatment of the ancestral dead is viewed as having both social and psychic consequences for the generations that follow. For many Black artists throughout the Diaspora, the aesthetic recovery of African origins often serves as a way to bridge those ruptures that exist between the uncertain present and the elusive past. As the renowned African American playwright August Wilson articulates in The Ground on which I Stand, “all of art is a search for a way of being” (46). For Wilson, the stage serves as symbolic space of cultural rebirth—it is a way of being, which he views as being invested with the strength of his African ancestors (19-20). ). 

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture 7

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African Mythic Context and Postmodern Philosophy by Médoune Guèye

Aminata Sow Fall's Le Jujubier du patriarche 

 

IN THE wake of the announcement of the death of grand narratives by postmodernism, postcolonial critics announced the death of such “essentialisms” as race, nation or even gender in their works.1Aminata Sow Fall's Le Jujubier du patriarche2 illustrates that deconstructive vein of postcolonial literature with a discursive strategy, underwritten by the interaction of genres. Le Jujubier du patriarche opens in the mode of novelistic fiction and closes through that of epic poetry. Constructed in a dialogic relationship between the novel and the epic, the work transposes one genre, which is tied to the African oral tradition, into another, which emerges from the Western literary tradition.3 The novel's structure is characterized by the weaving of traditional mythological elements into a contemporary fictional text. This literary strategy allows the author to produce a narration written in the fiction of orality4 by creating a framework of oral enunciation via the technique of alternating voices. By achieving a collage of traditional speech within her novelistic discourse, Aminata Sow Fall makes Le Jujubier du patriarche emerge as the prolongation of the myth, which she installs at the core of the real.5 Here we examine the novelistic and epic styles of the work and the discursive implications that convey an ethno-nationalist counter-discourse on Senegalese society.

The novel opens with a narration that recounts the ritual pilgrimage to Babyselli that happens every year. The description of the physical setting lingers on a canal which used to be “the cradle of the Natangue6 river [...] [and] has long been dry, but [...] has had the time to crystallize, better to echo the epic song that tells the extraordinary adventures of their glorious ancestors” [le berceau du fleuve Natangué […] [lequel] a tari depuis longtemps, mais […] a eu le temps de se cristalliser pour mieux rendre l'écho du chant épique qui conte les aventures extraordinaires de leurs glorieux ancêtres] (9). In combining the past of such a locus with the present of the residents and pilgrims that inhabit it, the novel's opening announces, through the temporal interlacing of the narration, the interaction of genres that dominates the work's structure. Full

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Available in The Journal of African Literature 6

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Rethinking Feminism and the African Woman’s Identity by H. Oby Okolocha

Tess Onwueme’s Tell it to Women

Onwueme is a playwright for whom drama serves a feminist purpose. Like the majority of contemporary women writers in Nigeria, Onwueme continues the literary and dramatic tradition of feminist concern for women’s issues. Her plays demonstrate a commitment to exploring the challenges facing modern women in changing times. Thus drama, for her, is an excursion into the issues of gender, feminism, identity, race, history, national and international politics, specifically as they affect women. In Tell it to Women she makes statements on the nature of feminism as practised by educated women in Nigeria; she provides an insider’s exposition of the identity of the African woman and gives a participant’s evaluation of the benefits and consequences of feminism as an ideology adopted by educated Nigerian women. This woman’s point of view, dominant in Onwueme’s writing and in the creativity of contemporary women writers, is a perspective that has not been adequately provided in the literary output of male writers.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature 9

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Can the Subaltern Speak? by Sura Khrais

Language and the Crisis of Identity in Nadine Gordimer’s  July’s People

 

IN July's People, Nadine Gordimer depicts the transformation of a white family when its old certainties are progressively broken down the moment the Smales are forced out of the dead shell of the past into an uncertain present as they flee riot and violence in the city to find shelter in their black servant’s village. Critics have long discussed the implications of the transformation of the white bourgeois culture represented by Maureen and Bam, the white mistress and the master, and their children, when they are exposed to a new class structure that of July’s native people and to which they try to adjust. The linguistic relationship between the white heroine (Maureen) and the black hero (July) reflects three different phases of linguistic communication which undermine a crisis of identity defined by in the postcolonial binary opposition of the Self / the Other.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture 8

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Remembering the Past: Conflict and War by Sarah Anyang Agbor

Nadine Gordimer's None to Accompany Me, Yvonne Vera's The Stone Virgins and Buchi Emecheta's Destination Biafra

 

NADINE Gordimer's None to Accompany Me, Yvonne Vera's The Stone Virgins and Buchi Emecheta's Destination Biafra transmit a vivid picture of the reality of war and offer an insight into its various aspects. Some aspects of the novels depict the fear and anxiety of the paralyzing violence of war in the various spheres of ordinary life: those of work and intellectual activity, private and social life. How does the majority of the people in the representative societies of the chosen texts suffer and endure their effects and search for a means of survival? The interesting question is to what extent do their common experiences of that reality bring African women writers from different ideological and social camps closer together? Do these experiences create a common ground for them, one which allows them to transcend their ideological barriers and meet for a constructive recognition of one another? How do the different races in Southern Africa and ethnic groups in Zimbabwe and Nigeria perceive the conflict and in what ways are the various spheres of their lives, their attitudes, and visions affected by it? This approach is based on the premise that conflicts and wars are not carried out in abstract political, economic, or social systems, but in the concrete lives of people because they are the perpetrators and/or victims, and it is in their bodies and souls that the most devastating effects of such conflicts are to be found.

War is one of the recurring absurdities of postcolonial African societies and the world all over. Although war is ugly enterprise, it remains central to human history and social change. One of the significance of the African literary imagination has been its capacity for a compelling recollection of colonial, civil and ethnic (tribal) wars. Civil wars have been fought in some African societies such as Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Sierra-Leone, Somali, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Zaire. The effect of war on human characters is quite revealing in the novels of Chinua Achebe, Ayi Kwei Armah, Nurrudin Farah, Bessie Head, Nadine Gordimer, Zakes Mda, Buchi Emecheta, Yvonne Vera, and Lesego Malepe amongst others. Using the New Historicists theory, the cultural and sociopolitical degradation which war brings and how it affects the identity of characters in Nadine Gordimer's None to Accompany Me, Yvonne Vera's The Stone Virgins and Buchi Emecheta's Destination Biafra are the general foci of this study.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature 5

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Nationhood, Otherness in Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born 

 

IN postcolonial context, the term nationhood acquires significance beyond the dictionary definition of “a group of people, who believe themselves to constitute a nation, have things in common with each other and share a sense of nationhood” or as “an imaginary community where people believe themselves to have some sort of link, or commitment to others in the nation, most of whom they will never meet” (Harrison and Boyd 48). In Africa and elsewhere it is rather by the bulwark of independence struggle that the sense of nationhood was strengthened by “otherness”. The relationship between the colonised and coloniser was that of the “self”’ and the “other” in a state of perpetual opposition. The “link” and/or “commitment that existed among the colonised in their common goal was the prime motivation for independence which was synonymous to the quest for nationhood. Harrison and Boyd go further to argue that, in order to have meaning, “nationhood… must be closely associated with the desire for self-government and the creation of a state to express that desire” (40). ...

The Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are not Yet Born (1968) may read as an allegorical story of the failure of an African ruling other Africans from colonial inherited precepts and the transformative capability of a new man emerging from the state of near-hopeless opposition. The protagonist is an anonymous railway office clerk, simply called "The Man," who struggles in the slums against poverty on one side and material greed on the other. He is pressured by his acquisitive family and fellow workers to accept the norms of society: bribery and corruption in order to guarantee his family a comfortable life. His virtues go largely unrewarded; his wife thinks him a fool. At the end of the novel, the moral strength of "the man" is contrasted to a once-powerful politician who has been deposed in a military coup. Independence in Ghana, like in most African countries becomes an avenue for a new kind of colonisation.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture 8

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Black Township Life in Apartheid South Africa by Dianne Shober

Sindiwe Magona Interrogating

 

SOUTH African author Sindiwe Magona was only five years old in 1947 when she was forced to leave the safety and security of her idyllic rural Transkei childhood for the squashed environs of Guguletu township in Cape Town. Her enforced relocation was not unlike many other black children of her era. Magona describes her poignant farewell to family and friends, realizing even as one so young that making such an important transition to the big city meant leaving childish ways, meaningful traditions and loved ones behind, some of whom she would never see again.

Her father collected his three young children from Gungululu in 1947, a fortuitous moment in the history of the nation. Should he have attempted to do so just a year later, the legislations implemented by the new Afrikaner government would have made such relocation impossible and the family would have been forever separated, the steely apartheid policies locking blacks in their respective geographical prisons.

In her first autobiography To My Children’s Children written while living in America in the 1980s and apartheid restrictions limited images of township life for most global readers, not only does Magona seek to bridge the geographical divide but also the ignorance that time creates when the memory of location housing is distant and obscure. Her gaze jerks across time from that of a wide-eyed child to a critical adult as she narrates their two day train journey to Cape Town from her rural roots, the scenes from her train window shifting from the opulence of white homes to “less impressive buildings” to squalid shacks haphazardly arranged in an area devoid of trees, but nevertheless teeming with life (20).

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture 8

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Naguib Mahfouz and the Portrait of the Nubian by S. I. Akhuemokhan and A. O. Eruaga

 

A study of the Nubian in the works of Mahfouz may not be absolutely considered postcolonial in that the Arab presence in Egypt cannot be strictly equated with a colonizing Western power, and in turn the Nubian cannot be categorized as a subaltern. Nevertheless, postcolonial theory has directed our focus to a number of realities in the Arab/Nubian situation, such as the tenor of Arab leadership, the potential of discourse to disseminate racial stereotypes convenient for the prevailing power structure, and the need for a counter discourse to at least expose, if not rectify, the error. Postcolonialism has so sensitized Third World researchers to racist presumption that even a renowned postcolonial writer like Mahfouz is not exempt from attack.

Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, an award which brought him under the international spotlight. Prior to this time, however, he was the best known writer in Egypt and throughout the Arab world. His fame rested both in his artistic genius and in his moral message, which expressed poignantly Egypt’s pride of culture and its growing demand for freedom. A comment by Sonia Ghattis-Soliman is particularly enlightening because it itemizes the author’s objectives in a manner that has direct bearing on our argument: “In the eyes of the Egyptian, the Arab and the African, [Mahfouz] is the champion of freedom, whose integrity, dedication and hard work have won him the Nobel Prize” (11). It is significant that Ghattis-Soliman arranges Mahfouz’s preoccupations in the order of “the Egyptian, the Arab and the African,” placing the African at the tail of those who acknowledge his championship. She is registering a fact that some critics might miss in the fervour of the applause surrounding this celebrity, but which cannot be ignored. In as far as Mahfouz is concerned, the freedom of the Arab comes a long way in front of the freedom of the African, whether the African is Egyptian or not.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture 8

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Colonial Chattel, Postcolonial Whores by Rosetta Codling

The African Daughters of Sefi Atta and Isabel Allende 

 

OPPRESSIVE tentacles stemming from the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade span further than the mere colonial shores of Europe onto the African and American coasts. The legacy of the atrocity of profiteering from the trafficking of human flesh spreads onto centuries and into the current millennium of processed ‘postcolonial’ thought.  By far, the most enduring yoke of this historical period is to be seen in the enduring psychological constraint of the ‘colonial mentality’ (on the part of the oppressor and victim) to this very day. Black is still negative and White is still glorified. Betty Freidan in her monumental treatise, The Feminine Mystique (1997) on the state of the contemporary Post-Modernity female, omitted the African Diasporic female entirely. Such an omission was symbolic of the transparency of Black women in terms of recognition by the mainstream White female society. In short, the African Diasporic female didn’t merit a clause in the fight for securing rights for the Post-Modern female.

The novelists Sefi Atta (Nigerian) and Isabel Allende (Peruvian) sculpt African Diasporic female protagonists of different dimensions to illustrate the harsh reality of their lives. These tragic heroines provide authentic representation. The conflicts that the protagonists face in terms of ‘color hue’ racism are equally authentic.2 The staid, classical, Western female (tragic?) heroine is White and embroiled in battles against White males that attempt to marginalize her existence based, primarily, upon her gender and/or class status. But, for the African Diasporic female there are other challenges. These challenges extend beyond the borders of her breasts and genitalia.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture 8

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Exploring Iyayi’s Marxist Aesthetics by J. Agho and ‘D. Bamidele

 

IN the 1970s and 1980s African writers saw the need to make specific initiatives that would situate the liberation struggle of Africa in popular culture and folk art. The result was that the writer became a cultural manager and promoter and subsequently a political activist. 

 Festus Iyayi’s novels, with such critical intensity, explore the slimy, sleazy and seedy sides of life in contemporary Nigerian society and cohere with Chinua Achebe’s claim that “any African writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being irrelevant” (78).  Although Iyayi’s latest novel was published twenty four years ago, his art still finds relevance in contemporary Nigerian socio-economic and political reality, in particular, and Africa in general. Unfortunately, African social existence, instead of improving since Iyayi wrote his last novel has rather gone worse. The prophetic vision as espoused in his literature of change is not peculiar to him. The trend is replete in the works of other African writers like Ousmane Sembene, Ngugi wa Thiong’O, Ayi Kwei Armah, Kofi Awonoor and a host of others. Iyayi’s Marxist dialectics accepts that political and historical events are due to conflict of social forces caused by man’s material needs, and in this context, more by economic needs. But since a selected few appropriate the wealth of the nation for themselves at the detriment of the majority who are the working masses, then revolution becomes the path to liberty and freedom, and this, the ‘third army’ is set to do.  Iyayi’s poetics is thus combative. His socialist ideology permeates his art and also identifies the tension between capitalism and socialism as the source of the contradictions that plague modern socio-economic life.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature and Culture 8

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