- African Migration Narratives: Politics, Race, and Space ed. by Cajetan Iheka and Jack Taylor
Migration, one of the disturbing transnational realities of the twenty-first century, is increasingly receiving inter/multidisciplinary attention from scholars across the world. One of the latest efforts in this regard is African Migration Narratives: Politics, Race, and Space, edited by Cajetan Iheka and Jack Taylor. The focus of this volume is on Africa, a continent in contradictions: a place endowed with natural and human resources, but mismanaged to such a pitiable extent that its inhabitants seek survival in the West or elsewhere. The editors begin the introduction with anecdotes that emphasize the critical condition of the continent, ending with something that sounds like a plea "to nudge humanity toward justice—to encourage the reader to welcome in advance the ones who have yet to come" (14). In the editors' view, this is a call to democratize global resources, but it may have unwittingly lent credence to the notion that migration is the only way out of economic miseries for people in Africa.
The volume, however, contains essays not as patronizing as the introduction sounds. Some of the essays interrogate the very acts of migration, foregrounding its consequences on not just the individual lives of the migrants, but also on the diasporic communities they have built in their hostland. One significance of this volume is the prioritization of representation as a cultural act. Migration, that is, is seen as mediated by artistic and cultural imaginations—imaginations as diverse as their aesthetic locations. The volume is therefore an offering of migrant arts and [End Page 211] writings from Nigeria, Algeria, Peru, Burkina Faso, Angola, and other locations in Africa and South America.
There are fifteen essays, grouped into four parts, each with a headline that captures mainly the genre or the location. For instance, part one is titled "African Migration on the Screen: Films of Migration," the emphasis being on the genre of film studies. Part two is "Forgotten Diasporas: Lusophone and Indian Diasporas," the essays emphasizing the location markers "Lusophone" and "Indian." The essays are studies of recent works in film, literature (fiction and nonfiction), and visual art, in nuanced ways that match craft with sociological and historical issues.
Valérie K. Orlando's "Harragas, Global Subjects, and Failed Deterritorializations: The Tragedies of Illegal Mediterranean Crossings in Maghrebi Cinema" is a study of two movies, Merzak Allouache's Harragas [The Burners] and Mostefa Djadam's Frontières. In explaining the word "harragas," Orlando gives sociolinguistic insight regarding its semanticization as "burning" to capture the desperation and waste attendant to migration in northern Africa. Her analysis of the two films points to the eventualities of the Western capitalist, exploitative system that consumes the hopes of migrants. Other films studied in this volume are Sylvester Amoussou's Africa Paradis, Chineze Anyaene's Ije: The Journey, and four Nollywood comedies on the related issue of visas: Osuofia in London, American Visa, 30 Days in Atlanta, and Visa Lottery.
In a similar vein, Isidore Diala's chapter, "Esiaba Irobi: Poetry at the Margins," follows the saga of the Nigerian poet Esiaba Irobi, an embattled migrant yearning for home, in the real and symbolic sense, until his death in Germany. Reading some of Irobi's autobiographical poems, Diala blends reality and the imaginary by casting Irobi as an intellectual exile in the sense Edward Said propounds it. Other writers discussed in different essays are Nadine Gordimer, Noo Saro-Wiwa, Teju Cole, Jose Agualusa, Mia Cauto, and Germano Almeida, among others.
The world of artwork and material culture is powerfully represented, among others, by Gilbert Shang Ndi's chapter, "Reimaging Blackness in a Hybridized and Racialized Space: The Visual Landscapes of the Peruvian District of El Carmen, Chincha." Ndi studies how Peruvian Africans, specifically of the El Carmen community, project their unique music and gastronomy through artworks. Images in the forms of photographs, paintings, billboards, posters, and handwritten slates are embedded with unique folkways and histories, the import of which this chapter unveils...