In this paper, an anthropologist examines sexuality, feminist consciousness, and postcolonial politics in Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions and in her earlier play, She No Longer Weeps. In both works, sexuality offers the promise of freedom, entails a loss of security, and delivers punishment. Reading the novel in light of the play provides insight into the sexual tension in the father-daughter relationship and suggests that Nyasha's nervous condition is in good part derived from the opposition between becoming a woman and being a daughter. Dangarembga's feminism, expressed through the power of speaking up and the erotic as power, has traces of the work of Audre Lorde, which Dangarembga uses and critiques. When directly addressing postcolonial Zimbabwe, feminism is vital to Dangarembga, but other forces, such as rampant corruption and state violence, form the backdrop for family dynamics. In the play, Dangarembga satirizes women's groups even as she points to the new government's betrayal of women.
In this paper, I consider the narrative in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's Devil on the Cross against a largely ignored preface in the Gĩkũyũ edition of the novel Caitaani Mũtharaba-inĩ, and against the conventions of the gĩcaandĩ art that the novel invokes. Focusing on the interimplication of gender and orality in the story, I employ cultural narratology as my framework to examine the dialogic relationship between the novel's formal features and their cultural contexts, especially the gendered implications of the oral narrative strategies that Ngũgĩ deploys to frame the narrative. I argue that, contrary to most readings of the novel, the "gĩcaandĩ" oral artist who frames the story is unreliable, and the text provokes the reader to see his presentation as incomplete and contradictory. When the preface is considered, and the narrator subjected to tests of reliability, the oral narrator's account comes through not only as totalized and teleological but also as shot through with imperatives of hegemonic masculinity that call for a challenging voice as required by the protocols of the gĩcaandĩ art-form that this frame narrator conjures up. Although the preface is paratextual, untranslated, and consigned to the margins of the narrative, its consideration in the analysis of the text offers new ways of unpacking the gendered dimensions of Ngũgĩ's use of oral techniques.
When read in what were perhaps South Africa's darkest decades, the 1970s and 1980s, Nadine Gordimer's The Conservationist seemed to be a rather apocalyptic novel. But the fear-stricken, history-bound protagonist who walks right into his own trap shows only one side of reality. The other side is referred to by his two antagonists who are—as a dead man who has yet to be buried and a woman becoming a diviner—both in the middle of an existential transformation; a rite of passage that implies not only change, but also the temporary acceptance of phenomenological chaos, before a new order can be formulated. Gordimer seems to hold the (future) reader responsible for completing the rite of passage: identity and destiny of the characters will eventually depend on the viewpoint and intertextual input of the reader.
Wole Soyinka's sonnet "Hamlet" is first situated in the historical and biographical circumstances under which it was generated. A close reading of the text follows with interpretations carried out on two levels: transtextually with Shakespeare's play Hamlet and subtextually with Soyinka's disguised "messages" written during solitary confinement in a Nigerian prison. Prose writings by Soyinka are referred to in support of my subtextual de-coding of the poem. A theoretical framework for the reading is also postulated based on a schema of intersecting vertical and horizontal compositional trajectories. With the close reading played out, consideration is given to the appropriateness of Shakespeare's tragedy as archetypal template for Soyinka's sonnet. It is concluded that while there is neither generic compatibility nor any psychological correspondence between Shakespeare's protagonist and Soyinka's speaker, scrutiny of the political state of Denmark in the play, and of the condition of the Nigerian body politic at the time the prison poem was written, does point to similar political conjunctures.
The association of Christopher Okigbo's poetry with Anglo-American modernist poetics has often attracted two main types of evaluation: the failure of ideology and Eurocentrism. But Okigbo demonstrates literary dexterity in the manner in which the deep structure of his poetry troubles the historical overvaluation of the white sign and the devaluation of the black sign manifest in the colonial market of memories between Europe and Africa. Historical dialogism or a postcolonial market of memories—involving the invocation of both the local and the foreign, the specific and the universal—is a strategic feature of Okigbo's poetry. He ultimately creates a third signifying field via a conjunction of two signifying systems, the native and the colonial, into a new state of consciousness rooted in a traditional African mythic code.
The first novel in the Xhosa language, USamson, written by the greatest figure in the history of Xhosa literature, S. E. K. Mqhayi (1875–1945), and published in 1907, is now lost. It was produced at a time when black people in South Africa were becoming bolder in their demand for human rights, forming independent black churches and political organizations. It appeared after a period of gestation for Xhosa literature in newspapers, at a time when missionaries were discussing the publication of books in Xhosa, but Mqhayi paid for its printing and organized its distribution. The novelette added details of setting and characterization to the biblical story to encourage the youth to gather behind black leaders who lacked support. Caught in the social tension between Xhosa and Mfengu, USamson was heavily criticized by I. W. Wauchope for departing from biblical narrative, but more generally defended by readers, who looked forward to the further publication of Xhosa literature in books.
Remi Raji, one of the loudest and most eloquent political poets in Nigeria today, sees his craft as a means of conveying serious social message to his land. Raji's consummate political theme, which is powered by what he calls "the nationalist imagination," is skillfully explored in his latest volume of poetry, Lovesong for My Wasteland (2005), more than in any of his previous collections. Following the tradition of the social commitments of African literature and evolving orature-based aesthetics that marries choreography to poetry (choreopoetry), Raji traces the history of Nigeria, in the symbolic forty-five verses of the volume, exposing the leadership failures and plunder of yesterday and today, and presenting a hope that is predicated on the people's collective stand to build their ravaged land. The business of this paper is therefore the exploration of Raji's political theme in his latest poetic effort to raise his society's consciousness to the collapse of national psyche and to redirect their attention toward a better tomorrow for which they have to work.
Jamal Mahjoub's two historical novels reveal intense engagement with various forms of transculturation, ranging from the power-driven imposition of a new culture, to a willing absorption of the knowledge offered by another culture, or a reciprocal sharing of understanding between two cultures. In the first, In the Hour of Signs, Mahjoub sets up a central tension between the antitranscultural mission of the Muslim prophetic figure, the Mahdi, and the philosopher, Hawi, who more sincerely values the downtrodden whom the Mahdi claims to represent, and who is open to transcultural influence. Avoiding generalizations about the two opposed sides in the Sudanese war, Mahjoub distinguishes between the receptivity of military leaders on both sides in terms of transcultural awareness. A similarly penetrating portrayal of the more ordinary people's lives reveals startling differences, in relation to transcultural potential, between two young dispossessed people, the woman Noon, and the youth, Kadaro. In the second novel, The Carrier, Mahjoub highlights the forces of prejudice and fear as major obstacles to transcultural developments. To those who have managed to rise above such insidious influences—Rashid, the dispossessed young Arab whom fate has brought to Denmark, as well as Danish farmer-astronomer, Heinesen and his sister, Sigrid—transculturation, chiefly here through historical research, is a fervently desired goal. As in the first novel, however, the forces of resistance prove more powerful and one is left in suspense as to the possibility of any lasting transcultural achievement.
Despite critical assertions that West Africa has experienced an "amnesia" regarding the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its effects, this reading of the West African literary canon provides previously unconsidered insight into the way African authors explore the traumatic history of the slave trade on Africa's shores. The central argument is that even when texts ostensibly depict some later period or concern, West African writers can hardly avoid the pervasive presence of the slave trade in the memory of the region. This article traces the way in which Amos Tutuola, in particular, imbues the landscape of his novel with the memory of the trade, representing the way in which the memory of the trade continues to haunt the collective psyche of West Africa. As a figure of that memory, the protagonist in the novel is both physically captured and enslaved within the bush. For Tutuola, the bush becomes a space of Freudian traumatic repetition from which the protagonist can hardly escape.
Disease, most often imagined in the past as an external invasion of bacteria or viruses, can also be imagined as "dis-ease," a set of political, economic, and social imbalances that disturb the well-being of people's lives. Today, these imbalances would be termed psychological and psychosomatic diseases, but in a colonial arena, such as early twentieth-century South Africa, these forms of disease were inadvertently perpetuated and ignored. In addition, certain somatic diseases, such as tuberculosis, introduced into South Africa by the Europeans, had unforeseen and often fatal effects on the health of the natives. Tuberculosis, especially, became a peculiarly raced disease. Peter Abrahams fictionally recreates this area of colonial history in his 1946 novel, Mine Boy, which presents us with characters who negotiate the uncertain and often tragic terrain of colonial introduced and induced diseases. In particular, characters confront and deal, as best they can, with somatic, psychological, and psychosomatic diseases in ways that highlight the racist society of colonial South Africa.
The paper refutes Douglas McCabe's essay "'Higher Realities': New Age Spirituality in Ben Okri's The Famished Road" for its injudicious attack on Okri as a New Ageist and "detraditionalizing perennialist" whose novel The Famished Road purportedly reinforces cultural imperialism and global capitalism. The paper reveals that McCabe's primary intention is to indict Okri for the latter's supposed misappropriation of the traditional abiku narrative and that McCabe's imputation of The Famished Road relies on evidence from without, rather than within, the novel itself. The paper goes on to consider Okri's suffusion of spirituality in the novel as a means of imparting an "enchanted" history. It suggests that notions of cosmopolitanism, in Anthony Kwame Appiah's sense, pervade the text and that characters like Dad and the Photographer can offer insight into individual attempts to manage the various, contesting ontological systems at play in an African culture.
Through a reading of Moroccan writer Abdelkrim Jouiti's 1999 short story "Medina Al-Nuhhas" (The City of Brass), this essay seeks to understand how imagined global cities of the past function as imprisoning architectures of memory and how narrative space can be cleared to creatively imagine a new future. The essay argues that in re-telling multiple stories of the City of Brass, Jouiti's text works to expose multiple layers of nostalgia in dominant discourses of modernity, memory and identity in order to critique the processes of industrialization, urbanization and the drive for modernity in contemporary Morocco. By unearthing and questioning intertextual literary traces, rumors and ruins from Arabic and modernist traditions, the text destabilizes the monumental and monolithic nature of cultural narratives that imagine the greatness of the past so as to dissimulate the lack and inequality of the present.
Although it deals primarily with events that happened sixty years ago, Rachid Bouchareb's film Indigènes (2006) is in every sense a sign of the times. The movie could not have been funded without the meteoric rise of its most prominent star, Jamel Debbouze, whose popularity was also crucial in ensuring the film's box office success. In addition, Indigènes capitalized upon and helped to influence major public debates within France about the nation's colonial past and contemporary postcolonial immigrant minorities. In highlighting the role played by North African colonial troops in the liberation of France during World War II, the movie helped to persuade President Chirac to end a long-standing injustice whereby veterans in former colonies have been receiving lower pensions than their former comrades in arms in France. The promotion of Indigènes was also used to press the case for fairer treatment of African immigrant minorities in contemporary France.