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Black on Black: (In)Visibility in African Literary Heterotopias


In The African Image, Es'kia Mphahlele wonders "What is the African's literary image of himself?," a question he answers when he observes that "Africa is still the African's burden," therefore underlining the connection between the concerns of Africans and their literatures. Femi Osofisan, arguing that African authors cannot but be inspired by the very issues (famine, war, etc.) that today represent Africa's distinctive traits, contends that such issues should remain a priority of African literature. If the presence of "hypervisible topics" in world media does not imply a real visibility of Africa on the global political scene, those topics, however, remain at the core of its history. Does this condemn Africa to be portrayed as the sum of its problems? Does the literary discussion of African priorities necessarily lead to enforcing the stereotype of Africa? This paper will discuss how African literary "heterotopias"—Femi Osofisan's Kolera Kolej, Buchi Emecheta's The Rape of Shavi, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow—deal with both the positive and negative stereotypes of Africa, consciously employing them to construct a political and representational counter-discourse.

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