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  • "The Original Explosion That Created Worlds": Essays on Werewere Liking's Art and Writings
  • Cheryl Toman
"The Original Explosion That Created Worlds": Essays on Werewere Liking's Art and Writings ED. John Conteh-Morgan and Irène Assiba D'Almeida Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. 363 pp. ISBN 978-90-420-2971-2. Paper.

Although individual essays on Werewere Liking's works are plentiful, this collection dedicated solely to the Cameroonian writer and artist is not only the first of its kind, but it also promises to be the most valuable single resource on Liking to date. This book accomplishes everything that John Conteh-Morgan and Irène Assiba d'Almeida promise in its introduction and more. They bring together a most impressive list of contributors who cover all aspects of Liking's life and art, including themes that had not been discussed in depth prior to this publication.

In the first part of the collection, Michelle Mielly provides the most comprehensive biography of Liking available in print and this is in complement to her discussion of the many facets of Liking's Village Ki-yi as a social movement offering alternative strategies of development. Peter Hawkins explores Liking's sense of multiculturalism from an Afrocentric perspective and Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi writes an intriguing piece on masks, looking at her own personal experiences as well as discussing how masks are used in Liking's texts and art as representations of ancestral power and protection. Yvette Balana concludes with a fresh linguistic analysis of Liking's use of ritual language. In the second part, Eloise Brière, Odile Cazenave, and Hélène Tissières decode elements in Liking's texts that have proved challenging to her readers—the mention of African myths, rituals, and historical figures, for example. These chapters are excellent for understanding Liking's references to Ruben Um Nyobé and to the epic Soundjata. Cazenave in particular reiterates Liking's call for the reinsertion of women back into Cameroonian history. Part three provides English translations of two of Liking's texts previously unpublished in any language: Liquid Heroes [Héros d'eau] [End Page 141] appears in its entirety along with several excerpts of This Africa of Ours [Quelque chose—Afrique] translated by Judith Miller and John Conteh-Morgan, respectively. Both Miller and Conteh-Morgan provide critical analyses to accompany their translations. Liking's poetry is the focus of part four in which Joseph Mwantuali and Séwanou Dabla each look at Liking's first work, On ne raisonne pas le venin (1977), a text that had been begging for more critical attention. Liking is arguably one of the most challenging authors to translate, and it is a thus exciting to see part five devoted to the translation of her various texts, a process described by the translators themselves (Marjolijn de Jager and Jeanne Dingomé). Kathryn Batchelor provides an equally commendable analysis of the complexities involved in such a linguistic and cultural exercise. Part six serves as a conclusion to the collection as d'Almeida brilliantly analyzes all angles of critique concerning Liking's works. Although not exhaustive, the twenty-three-page bibliography that follows the essays is nonetheless an invaluable tool for scholar and student alike.

The merits of this collection are too numerous to mention here, but in addition to its aforementioned components, it is wonderful to see that Liking's Un Touareg s'est marié à une Pygmée as well as her poetry have finally been given the critical attention they deserve. Together, Conteh-Morgan and d'Almeida did superb work as editors of these essays, not to mention that the resulting book is a most befitting tribute to the memory of Conteh-Morgan.

Cheryl Toman
Case Western Reserve University


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pp. 141-142
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