SOCIO-CULTURAL IDENTITIES OF AFRICAN DRAMA

INTRODUCTION

Dhlomo (1977) observes that “the origin of African drama was a combination of religious or magical ritual, rhythmic dances and the song”. By implication, the totality of the elements of the root-religious or magical ritual, rhythmic dances and the song will be transplanted into the drama. It is not a coincidence that these elements are some of the features of African drama.

Literature generally re-represents the society; it reproduces societal experience. Issues that are affecting generally affecting people are portrayed. Identities of African drama are, therefore, those features that are found in it, which are peculiar to African society. These are the elements that distinguish it from the dramas of other tradition.

This work, therefore, investigates the socio-cultural identities of African drama.  

HISTORICAL OCCURRENCES AS SOURCE OF AFRICAN DRAMA

One of the major signifiers of African drama is its historical nature. It talks about African history. Since it is the society that literature relies on as raw material for its production, African drama reflects the general experience of Africans in the past. Through this, Africans’ past is ‘immortalized’, which makes it possible to be passed from generation to generation.

A vivid example of African history as a signifier of African drama can be seen in Ahmed Yerima’s The Trials of Oba Ovonramwen. In this play, Yerima chronicles the account of how the British invaded Benin Kingdom and the eventual deposition and exile of Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi to Calabar in 1897. Yerima explicitly presents a critical period in the history of Benin Empire-an African Kingdom-when they made contact with the British, who later bombarded the kingdom due to clash of cultural beliefs; and eventually looted age long artifacts in the kingdom.

Like the eponymous character in the play-Ovonramwen- the characters in the play are the real names of the actors who were involved in the making of the history. Such character like Captain Philips, the over ambitious Acting-Consul, who disregards the Kingdom’s tradition by insisting to see the Oba during Ague ritual, which forbids the Oba to meet with a stranger while the ritual is still on. Obaseki, the Benin high chief who serves as a sellout; Iyase, another Benin Chief; the Queen of Britain- though being mentioned in absentia, are these ‘undisguised’ characters in the play.

Therefore, the history of Benin Kingdom in Ahmed Yerima’s The Trials of Oba Ovonramwen signifies or identifies that it is an African drama.

Another Play that is also historically inclined is Ngugi Wa Thiong’O and Micere Githae Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. This play talks about the revolutionary struggle of the Kenyan people-the Mau Mau movement- during colonialism. It comes from the perspective of the eponymous character, Dedan Kimathi, one of the celebrated leaders of the Mau Mau movement. Thiong’O and Mugo explicate the valour and sacrifices of Kimathi in standing stand up to British imperialism in Kenya. The play is rich in the history of what the Kenyans passed through under British imperialism. Atmosphere in the Court where Dendan Kimathi is tried gives a lot of incisive perspective about the collective experience of Kenyans.

In the court room where Kimathi is tried, white settlers sit on a comfortable side while the blacks sit on the bad benches and dare not mingle with the whites. A white man’s assault on the court Clark, who is a black man, gives a vivid picture of the experience of blacks in Kenya. The court Clark suffers assault from one of the black man because he orders the court audience to keep quiet; the white man is infuriated by the ‘insubordination’ of the black court Clark, and charges at him in the court room! Out of intimidation, the poor Clark clarifies that he is only referring to his fellow blacks and not the whites. This sums up the experience of blacks in Kenya during British imperialism as mirrored by Thiong’o and Mugo, in The Trial of Dedan Kimathi.

AFRICAN WORLD VIEW AND FOLKLORIC ELEMENTS/ HERITAGE OF AFRICAN PEOPLE

The incorporation of the worldview and heritage of the people is a very strong identifier of African drama. The general belief of the people nay their belief system is often reflected in African drama; the folkloric elements; festivals, legends, myth, religion, way of dressing, etc. are found in a play that is to be considered African. For example, the idea of ‘After-life’ is one of the core components of the African worldview. To analyze these identifiers of African drama, Bode Sowande’s Tornadoes Full of Dreams would be employed.

Tornadoes Full of Dreams is a play that mirrors Africa’s historical past, the Arab-Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that ravaged the continent. Sowande enriches this play with African folkloric elements and he equally reflects Africans’ belief system; he does this aesthetically from the Yoruba perspective.

The ideas of ‘After-life’, ‘reincarnation’ and ‘ancestorship’ are vividly displayed by Sowande. It is Africans’ belief that there are three worlds; the world of the living, the world of the unborn and After-life. Africans believe that after a person dies, it is not the end of the person because there is still another life for such person. For example, it is African belief that the ancestors watch over those they left in the world. In the play, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Napoleon Bonaparte of France are placed in an ancestral position. They are made to come back to life from ‘After-life’ to review the evil and impact of the trans-atlantic slave trade by the Europeans in Africa and the eventual liberation of blacks in San Domingo which eventually becomes the Republic of Haiti.

Nkrumah and Bonaparte exchange views on the brutality of the Europeans against Africans on the one hand, and Africans’ brutality against Africans-selling of their kinsmen to slave traders for pieces of gold, mirrors, rum and other items. The two historical icons eventually return to ‘After-life’ after the liberation of slaves of African descent in San Domingo. This statement from Nkrumah caps it all:

NKRUMAH: We will climb higher with this revolution of history. It is time to go back to After-life, Napoleaon, I see a new age soon to begin below. (pp. 117)

This belief system is what Sowande explores in his play.
Another belief system in Tornadoes Full of Dreams is the belief in gods and their sacredness. Africans believe that gods are sacred, they must not be offended, and if they are offended they must be appeased. Akinlade, a warrior and a slave merchant, kills a Sango priest and took his daughter for sale. He sells Girl (Magdalena) to Abubakar but retrieves her from Abubakar after Girl has been possessed by the spirit of Sango. Akinlade knows the danger in offending Sango, the god of thunder, by selling Girl with Sango’s spirit in her. He made some sacrifices and eventually heads for the coast to sell her to the white. Akinlade recounts the nightmare he has been having since his affront against Sango; he recites incantation to pacify the gods and goes ahead to sell the Sango Priestess to the white. Akinlade eventually suffers the consequences of offending the gods by being sold to slavery by Ayinde, who is supposed to be his partner in trade; Akinlade is eventually killed by Magdalena (Girl) after many years in slavery in the West Indies. It is not a coincidence that Magdalena kills Akinlade while she is repossessed by the spirit of Sango in San Domingo. This shows that the gods punishes whoever offends them, anytime and anywhere.

Ayinde also recognizes that he would be in trouble if he sells Girl (Magdalena) who is a Sango priestess. He tries to call off the deal with Sidney, the white slave merchant, but Sidney does not share in the belief that a god cannot be sold. Ayinde understands the imminent danger and goes to offer sacrifices to appease the gods. Bode Sowande, therefore, showcases the African world view in this play, which serves as an identity of African drama.

Folkloric elements are also not left out in Tornadoes Full of Dreams. African folklore is the totality of African culture/heritage. As earlier said, this includes the people’s oral literature, religion, dressing, and so on. These elements are consistently found in African drama; therefore, they are part of the identities of African drama. In the play, Tornadoes Full of Dreams, there are oral performances by the African characters. When Girl (Magdalene), a Sango’s priestess, is initially sold to Abubakar, she is taken over by the spirit of Sango-the god of thunder- and begins to act dramatically, in a typical manner of Sango. The other slaves that are sold also start to recite Sango’s chant:

A f’eni ti kogila kolu Except the cursed

Lo le ko l’esu can confront Esu,

Lo le ko lu Sango and challenge Sango

A f’eni ara pa: Only he who must be killed by thunder! (pp.10)

There is also a slave dirge that is rendered that expresses the mystery of nature and the Yoruba belief system that after this world of the living, there is the existence of another world (After-life) which is regarded as the final ‘home’:
Oro lo foro A word tells the tale
Araye e gbo Let the world listen to

le fi b’oka ninu oka how corn is found in the cobra

Oka ki ma i j’oka The cobra does not eat corn.

Ohun to joka l’oka je The cobra swallows the corn eater.

Ile Aiye Life

Ajo ma ni Is a voyage,

Bo pe titi Sooner

Bo pe b’oya Or later

Gbogbo wa a rele We shall all return home. (pp.10)

Akinlade, who sees the scenario, also bursts into chanting of Sango’s praise; and decides to pacify Sango with a sacrifice. These are some of the folkloric elements that are incorporated to further give the play African aesthetics. Abubakar, who is an Arabian, only interprets all he has seen as being demonic, but Akinlade-an African-his partner in trade, ‘rightly’ sees his own action as a ‘sacrilege’ for trying to sell a god.
In San Domingo after Magdalene has poisoned Tolbot, she meets Akinlade once again and she is possessed by Sango once again, and there is another round of oral performance. Despite Magdalene spending several years away from home, the spirit does not depart her. Here, Sowande has been able to portray the ‘never departing spirit’ of the African belief.

Akinlade offering palm-wine to Abubakar-an Arabian-to drink in reaction to the latter’s offer of tea to him, is another significant African cultural identity in the play. Palm-wine is an African drink which is peculiar to the people. For ‘plam-wine’ to be seen in a play certify that such play is African. Akinlade’s rejection of Abubakar’s “tea”, and offering him palm-wine in its stead portrays the affirmation of African culture.

Also drawing an example from Thiong’o and Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi, African songs accompanied with drums are rendered; these are the oral performances in the play. So also, in Yerima’s The Trials of Oba Ovonramwen, incorporation of Benin culture is seen. Ovonramwen’s praise songs are constantly sung with drums; ritual costumes are featured; proverbs and so on. These are cultural identities of African drama.

LANGUAGE

Another socio-cultural identity of African drama is the language use. Though English language is deployed by African playwrights, but the kind of English that is deployed has been imbued with African aesthetics and peculiarities. Simply put it has been Africanized. In the construction of the Africanized English language used, ideas that cannot be substituted or vividly represented in English language are directly ‘transplanted’ to give the language an African outlook. African proverbs are heavily used, not forgetting African names. All these are the identities of African drama.

It is also pertinent to note that code switching and code mixing are also employed. That is, switching from English language to indigenous language. The dialogue below is an example drawn from The Trial of Dedan Kimathi:

WAITINA: Askari?

SECOND SOLDIER: Fande

WAITINA: Line up those Mau Mau villages two by two

SECOND SOLDIER: Tayari Bwana!

WIATINA: March them to the screening ground. He can guard the street. And tell him to wake up for Christ’s sake! Sikia!

SECOND SOLDIER: Ndio Bwana.

WAITINA: March properly! Pesi! Na pana kimbia…

WAITINA: Lets karaiasi yako.

FIRSTMAN: Sina.

WAITINA: Sina Afaden! Rudia!

FIRSTMAN: Sina Afande.

WAITINA: Kasi yako?

FIRSTMAN: Kulima.

WAITINA: Mtu ya Kimathi?

FIRSTMAN: Hapana. (pp. 6-7)

From them above excerpt, one could see an Africanized version of English language characterized by code mixing and code switching. In The Trials of Oba Ovonramwen, we come across African names such as Ovonramwen, Okavbiogbe, Iyase, Ologbose, Akure, Obadan< Esan, Agbor, Itsekiri, Uzon, and so on.
SOCIAL COHESION

Africans are known for a communal life; we exist together in the spirit of brotherhood. We do things in common; we exist for one another; we are our brother’s keeper. In African drama we often see cohesiveness in African society, this is against the western society that is based on individuality. A play where we find someone call a child that does not biologically belong to him or her “son” or “daughter” is African in orientation. This is because it is in Africa, we share the belief that what belongs to you belongs to me. It is essential to pick a symbolic example in Abdelkader Alloula’s The Veil. In the play, when Berhoum the Timid, son of Ayoub the Dry, wants to get on top of the boiler he wants to fix, there is no ladder to climb to the top of the boiler. But with the help of his fellow comrades; Lareedj, Filali and Bekkouche, her is able to get past the hurdle. They help each other up and form a human ladder, each bearing the other on his shoulders. This is a symbolic example of social cohesion in African society, where mountains are surmounted in togetherness.

Throughout the period Berhoum studies the plan for the repair of the boiler, his children always leave the house to go and study their lessons at the homes of their neigbours. This portrays intimacy and cohesion in the neighborhood where Berhroum resides.

In Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The Black Hermit, elements of social cohesion could be seen in Marua tribe. Remi-the first educated man in the tribe-is seen as the voice of the community. Though he refuses to return to the community, but the elders of the community who are the representatives of the people meet constantly to ensure the return of their ‘golden’ son. On his return to the community, his community men and women pour out en mass to welcome Remi back to the community, with drums, songs and dance. This is a pointer to the synergy that exists in the society, as against the western tradition which is individualistic in nature. Africans, therefore, do things in common; they are their brother’s keeper, and they all participate in their communal assignments.    

AFRICAN MYSTYCAL LIFE

Another important cultural identity of African drama is the reflection of African mystical worldview. In this sense, we come across African gods and goddesses, spiritual agents such as those from the world of the unborn, and the Life-after. Africans are a people that place much emphasis on spirituality; anything that happens to them is connected to one spirit or the other; either a god is angry or is pleased with such person. If we come across these elements in a play, then it is African.

In Bode Sowande’s Tornadoes Full of Dreams we come across a lot of African mystical beliefs. For example, there are African gods like Sango-god of thunder-, Ogun-god of iron-, Oya-the river goddess-and so on. When Akinlade begins to have bad dreams as premonitions that something evil is imminent, he quickly connects his travails to Sango and Ogun, whom he believes he has angered by killing a Sango priest and at the same time daring to sell a Sango priestess-Oya. This affirms the belief that in Africa it is a taboo to offend the gods. Africans’ life is therefore configured based on this belief, and this is a strong indicator of African drama. By incorporating African religion, African drama is de-westernized and is given a face of its own.

DEFENCE OF AFRICAN CULTURE
In African drama, it is a common trend to come across the defense and affirmation of African culture and tradition. African playwrights use their plays to promote African culture, and defend its relevance whenever the need arises. This can also be found in Sowande’s Tornadoes Full of Dreams. A wayward character like Akinlade still promotes his culture and rates it higher than others. When Abubakar offers Akinlade a cup of teas, he rejects it instantly and instead offered Abubakar to take palm-wine.

ABUBAKER: It is tea my friend. Tea to quench your thirst so that Allah may bless my kindness.

AKINLADE: …A blood that does not take wine makes one pale like the moon. Here, horse eater, have a drink of palm-wine before we begin today’s bargain. (pp.4)

From the above excerpt it could be inferred that Akinlade defends African culture and at the same time promotes African way of life by rejecting Abubaker’s offer and offering him his own local drink instead.

So also, Sowande makes Akinlade pay the ultimate price for staging an affront against the gods by selling a Sango priestess despite the premonitions of its consequences. Not enough that he is sold in to slavery himself, but he is shot dead in the land of slavery by Magdalene-the Sango priestess he sells into slavery-even though he is aging. Sowande, therefore, defends the belief that a man does not transgress against the gods and goddesses without its attendant consequences.

AFRICAN CONCEPT OF ORDER AND JUSTICE

In African society when there is conflict between two people it is traditional that the two warring parties are pacified and reconciled. None of the parties is made to carry the burden of guilt. Clashes are settled amicably in sharp contrast to what is obtainable in western tradition which has police to make arrest and courts to pronounce guilt or otherwise. But Africans make use of communal law rather than man-made laws in the western world.

In The Trial of Dedan Kimathi by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Micere Githae Mugo, this identity of African drama is well captioned. When Boy threatens to beat Girl because of his change, Woman separates them; she does not put the burden of guilt on either of the two, rather she moves to reconcile them. She eventually gives Boy money to buy food as a way of pacifying him; despite calling her a “bad woman” she still does not take offense. This is the true picture of African concept of order and justice.

In contrast to what we see in the western system that tries Kimathi, African system of justice seeks to reconcile rather than to convict. This is therefore, a strong social signifier if African drama. 

UTILITARIANISM

African drama is functional; it is not just art for art sake like that of western tradition. It is highly didactic; African drama is very rich in moral teaching, therefore, anyone who reads an African play must be able to take one or two lessons from it.

In The Trial of Dedan Kimathi :

BOY: I was…but Girl here…she was all strength and daring and no fear.

WOMAN: That is the way it should always be. Instead of fighting against one another, we who struggle against exploitation and oppression, should give one another strength and faith till victory is ours. (pp.60)

From the above example, Woman admonishes that unity is important in achieving a collective goal, especially when fighting against oppression. By extension, Ngugi and Mugo are sending out words to Africans that united we stand, divided we fall. Furthermore, the scene is presented in a symbolic way that portrays an elderly person, who in African setting has the necessary experience to teach and educate younger ones, sitting and teaching Boy and Girl who are sitting at her feet listening to her words of wisdom. This symbolically represents what African drama does to audience, that is, it teaches and enlightens.

Woman also admonishes Boy on how to be a man, how to be strong, and how to channel his strength to the people’s struggle for freedom. When Boy returns her change she encourages him to be truthful and trustworthy by returning the change to him. By so doing, she builds him ethically. She also rebukes him for nursing the thought of submitting himself to ‘slavery’.

BOY: I don’t know how to thank you for what you have done today. But…but… If I can do something, anything, you know…like cleaning your compound, weeding your shamba, even washing your clothes.

WOMAN: (angry): You want to change masters! A black master for a white master! Have you no other horizon? Except to be a slave! If I didn’t have other things to do, why, I would have thrashed you. (pp.20)

Symbolically, Ngugi and Mugo are building the Africa’s cultural base, that is, Africans should hold their belief and not succumb to any form of suppression, but rather be conscious of their African dignity.
As a propagator of culture, African drama as one of its identities propagates the culture of the continent. It teaches Africans their culture and also introduces the culture to foreigners. These are the essences of using cultural elements in African drama. In other words, the folklore-the totality of cultural heritage- of the people, such as festivals, chants, songs, religion and rituals, mode of dressing, food, dance, legend, myth, games, etc, are all implanted into African drama so as to teach Africans their culture and introduce it to foreigners. 

LAND
African perception of land is another very important factor that identifies African drama. Africans place much importance on their land. They believe it is their ancestral asset which every son and daughter of the land must see as their final resting place; therefore, they cannot afford foreigners to take charge of it. African land belongs to their ancestors because it is where their remains were buried, therefore it is sacred. It also serves as where African ancestors and those they left in the world will reunite again when they finally leave this world.

In John Kani’s Nothing but the Truth, Themba-an anit-apartheid struggle hero, who is exiled to England-instructs his wife and daughter that his remains must be taken back home-South Africa-to be buried “closer to his ancestors”. Mandisa, while narrating Themba’s last moments states:

MANDISA:…He called us together about six months ago. He asked us a favour-to ask his brother to bury him at home next to his parents. Closer to his ancestors…so that’s why I am here. (pp.21)

The excerpt above depicts how Africans prefer being buried in their own land to being buried in a foreign land. It is believed that some sort of rituals must also be performed to ease the passage of the deceased to the ancestors. This ritual is an offering to the land which Africans believe must be appeased by giving it sacrifice for the acceptance of a new ‘resident’. Themba’s brother, Sipho, who is preparing for Themba’s funeral informs Thando and Mandisa:
SIPHO: My uncles have agreed that the ox must be slaughtered on Saturday to clear his passage to the ancestors.  

The killing of an ox, therefore, gives the land its own share of sacrifice for Themba’s easy passage to the After-life.

The importance of land to Africans can also be seen in Kenya when they were struggling for independence from the British imperialists, which led to Mau Mau uprising. This is vividly represented in The Trial of Dedan Kimathi by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Micere Githae Mugo, where Kenyans take up arms against the settlers to reclaim their land. One of the notable leaders of the movement is Dedan Kimathi who stands trial for his ‘treasonable’ acts against the states, in the play.

Africans’ perception about land is, therefore, a strong identity of African drama.

AFRICAN CONCEPT OF TIME AND SPACE

Africans believe in the endless nature of time and space. To Africans, the death of a person does not mean his or her end, rather it is the beginning of another life which is spiritual. There are three worlds-the world of the unborn, the world of the living and After-life. After death, the After-life is where man lives an eternal life; this is where ancestors are resident. It is believed that those in the hereafter oversee and have influence over the affairs of those in the land of the living. 

Bode Sowande’s Tornadoes Full of Dreams gives a clear representation of African concept of time and space. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Napoleon Bonaparte of France represent the ancestral concept in this play. Nkrumah represents African ancestor, while Napoleon represents European ancestor. They both descend from After-life to oversee and conduct a ‘review’ of activities between Africans and Europeans.    

Also in Yerima’s The Trials of Oba Ovonramwen, Ovonramwen during Ague festival does not meet with any foreigner; he has to be with the gods and ancestors. This shows that according to African belief system, ancestors still interact with their kinsmen in the world. This shows that there is still another existence after this present one.

AFRICAN ECOLOGY
African ecological system is another vital identity of African drama. We come across African seasons- raining season and dry season-, plants, animals, etc.

CONCLUSION
Finally, African drama is a product of African society, and all the factors that that are peculiar to the African setting are incorporated into African drama to localize it. Therefore, effort has been made to investigate socio-cultural identities of African drama. 
REFERENCES
Dhlomo, H.1977. “Drama and the African”. English in Efrica, vol. 4, no. 2, Literary theory and criticism of H.I.E. Dhlomo. pp. 3-8.

Alloula, A.1987.” The Veil”. Four plays from North Africa. Ed. M. Carlson. New York: Martin E. Theatre Centre Publication.

Kani, J.2002. Nothing but the truth. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

Sowande, B.1990. Tornadoes full of dreams. Lagos: Malthouse Press Limited.

Thiong’o, N.1968. The black hermit. Oxford: Heinemann.

Thiong’o, N and Mugo, M.G.1976. The trial of Dedan Kimathi. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.

Yerimah, A.2007. The Trials of Oba Ovonramwen. Ibadan: Kraft Books Limited.     

(Follow Erhijodo Edafe on Twitter: @iamdafe )

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African Prose Fiction and Prose Fiction About Africa

African prose fiction centres on prose works written by Africans about Africa. That is, having Africa as setting and treating issues that relates to Africa. Works written by Africans in diaspora that centres on the living conditions and life of Africans abroad can also be call African prose fiction. On the other hand, prose fiction about Africa has to do with prose works written by non Africans, about Africa. Writers of this type of prose are often foreigners writing about Africa and their experiences in Africa. Prose fiction about Africa often portrayed Africa from an outsider’s perspective. The stories are written through the lens of a foreign observer. More often than not, these writer portrayed Africa in negative light. European writers who wrote about Africa often portrayed the negative side of the continent. In their works, they presented African characters who are primitive and uneducated. A good example is seen in the novel Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene. The writer painted a negative image about Africa, he portrayed Africans as uncultured and uncivilized. But in another novel Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa by Peter Goodwin, the writer was objective in his work. He made an unbiased portrayal about Africa, he sees himself as part of the culture and the people.

Scholars like Chinweizu et al. (1983) Emmanuel Obiechina (1975) and Christopher Miller (1990) have argued that African prose when compare to that of the West, command a different interpretation and must be read through an African-tinted epistemology. As Western readers may not fully grasp the embedded meanings in some African prose fiction works. For example, early African prose works like D.O. Fagunwa’s 1936 novel Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irunmale, which has been described as “the first novel written in an African indigenous language” (Anthony Oha 2009, 2), and Amos Tutuola’s The Palm wine Drinkard which draw heavily from African folktales, often pose problem for non African readers.

Postcolonial African fiction

Postcolonial African fiction often addresses the problems and consequences of decolonization, especially questions relating to the political and cultural independence of Africa. Post-colonial literature moved from attacking the white oppressors to attacking the native-black rulers who after independence have taken the oppressive role of the colonialists. Example of this is seen in Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s novels. Characters like Jacobo in Weep not Child, and John Boy in Matigari. These individuals misappropriated the country’s resources, and unleashed hardship on the masses. Kwaku Asante-Darko (2000) sees post-colonial literature as a synthesis of protest and imitation. It blends revolt and conciliation (2). This duality permeates its styles and themes in a manner that is not always readily perceptible to western critics. This has practical didactic implications for the contemporary literary endeavor in Africa

 Linguistics Marginalization in Postcolonial African Fiction

Linguistic marginalization is the relegation or exclusion of a language, thereby making it seem unimportant. It is the placing of a language in an undesirable situation. Linguistics marginalization is the deliberate elimination of a language (Skutnabb-Kangas and McCarty, 2010). Scholars like (Desai 1993) have time and again raised questions whether some European languages which is widely spoken across Africa can be regarded as African languages. Guy Butler and Dorothy Driver (1996) have argued along different lines, on how long English had been used in the continent. While Butler opines that English haven passed through different stages of usage can be regarded as an African language, Driver insisted it is not (1996:99). For Achebe the use of English for writing literature may not depend on whether it is an African language, he argues that: “For me again it is a pragmatic matter. A language spoken by Africans on African soil, a language in which Africans write, justifies itself”. (Achebe 1975:67)  

Instances of linguistics innovation abound in postcolonial African fiction. African writers often replace and interchange the syntactic structure of European languages with that of African indigenous languages. The significant deviations in syntax may result in the language used being regarded as new. This has given rise to new varieties. Example is seen in the novel Man of the People by Chinua Achebe: 

Look my frien I done tell you say if you no wan serious for this business make you go rest for house. I done see say you want play too much gentleman for this matter… Dem tell you say na gentlemanity de give other people minister…? (114).

Many African writers have appropriated and reconstituted European languages (English, French, Portuguese) in their texts through some linguistic processes which include loan words, loan coinages, loan blends, pidginisation, code switching and the like. This is one way they strive to find a solution to the problem of bilingualism and biculturalism by relying heavily on the domestication of the imported languages. The linguistic innovations in their works offer outlets for creativity in language and put a new life into the imported languages. These writers deviate from the Linguistic rules guiding the use of the languages. By so doing they have been able to come up with a new form of usage. They creatively appropriate dictions suitable to the characters and themes they depict. This is predicated on the fact that most African writers use local words because they believe that no foreign language can adequately express native experiences and problems and there are some words that cannot be easily translated in English, thus such words are transliterated into the English language, thereby bringing about linguistic innovation. Example of this is seen in Gabriel Okara’s The Voice : “Some of the town’s men said that Okolo’s eyes were not good and that his head was not correct.” (1). this sentence is a typical example of replacing African words with that of English.

There is also the use of African pidgin. Pidgin differs from one African community to the other, it is often a blend of European language and African indigenous language. There are handfuls of African novels written in either Pidgin. Example is seen in Ken Saro Wiwa’s Soza Boy: “Suppose as the soza captain come talk, enemy begin enter Iwoama? Then he will kill all of us plus myself.” (87).

Some critics have argued that Pidgin is used for humour as well as for character portrayal and can also be employed to explore deeper meanings, to explain the reasons behind a character’s actions, and to project and foreground certain themes. There is no doubt that Pidgin has been deployed interestingly in the novels of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chimamanda Adechie. These works portray the varied dimensions in the use of Pidgin to enhance modern African prose fiction. 

Historical and Cultural Context of African Prose Fiction.

Slave Trade

Another controversial aspect of identification of African fiction is the inclusion of literary works by African slaves in America, India and Europe. The African works best known in the West from the period of colonization and the slave trade are primarily slave narratives, such as Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789).

There is also Alex Harley’s Roots which also gave accurate account of the slave trade experiences of the Africans in fictional mode. In the colonial period, Africans exposed to Western languages began to write in those tongues. In 1911, Joseph Ephraim CaselyHayford (also known as Ekra-Agiman) of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) published what probably the first African novel is written in English, Ethiopia Unbound: Studies in Race Emancipation. Although the work moves between fiction and political advocacy, its publication and positive reviews in the Western press mark a watershed moment in African literature. Interestingly, the emergence of African American literature now subsumes the literatures of slave Africans.

World wars
It is clear that wars are not good experiences to humanity. It diminishes human integrity and arouses man’s animalistic nature to the extent of destroying feelings and fancy. In The Last Duty, we see Africans fighting each other against the backdrop of immoralities. Many people are victims of the war because of fabricated facts. The civil war in Nigeria provided a lot of traumatic facts in the development of this novel. In Burma Boy, we see innocent Africans as victims of wars they never caused. World War 11 was a training ground for blacks in theatrocious wars man had caused for himself. Although written several decades after the Second World War, Burma Boy reveals that the effects and experiences of war are not easily forgotten memories. It lingers because of the scares and the endless pains.

Burma Boy is set in the Second World War. Biyi Bandele presents the comic tale Burma Boy, a novel that tells the story of Nigerians that fought in the Second World War as part of the Burma campaign of 1944. In the novel we meet Ali Banana, a thirteen-year-old former blacksmith’s apprentice who lies about his age to join the army. He becomes the youngest member of the D-Section Brigade, a group of Chindits, an unconventional and quick strike special division whose job it is to go behind the enemy lines of the Japanese. Besieged with ambush after ambush and attack after attack the Brigade, led by the one-eared veteran Samanja Damisa, make their way to a British stronghold wherefrom there a routine troop, a ‘floating’ exercise leads to a fatal conclusion. Bandele’s novel is inspired by his father’s participation in the war. His father, Solomon ‘Tommy Sparkle’ Bandele Thomas was once a proud member of the Signal Corps of the Nigeria Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Forces in 1943. Burma Boy is dedicated to his memory. 

Biyi Bandele combined childhood memories of his father’s tales of “carnage, shell-shock and hard-won compassion” with biographical research into the lives of Order Wingate and other Chindits leaders, and further studies of the Second World War’s “least documented and most brutal theatre”. Yet there is no whiff of the lamp about this taut, tense and utterly riveting tale of comrades-in-arms undergoing conditions of such adversity as to defy belief.
The novel has two heroes: Wingate himself, for whom the saying about genius being akin to madness might have been invented, and the scarred Sergeant Damisa, a veteran of Wingate’s Gideon Force in Abyssinia(where he lost an ear in hand-to-hand fighting against the Italians), who takes the novel’s protagonist, 14-year-old Ali Banana, under his wing. Bandele’s portrayal of the manic, bearded, Old-Testament-prophet-like Wingate is as vivid and compelling as everything else in this novel. He prefaces the Chindits story with a graphic account of a suicide attempt by the (then) major during a bout of malaria in Cairo. Many officers who later served under Wingate in Burma may have wished it had been successful, since they were deeply offended both by his attitude to the wounded and his often unflattering remarks about their beloved troops. For every one who thought him a genius there were others who dismissed him as a charlatan whose strategy was not as original as he liked to make out. But such historical controversies are outside the scope of this book, and Bandele’s account of the way Wingate’s sudden death in an aircraft crash orphaned the Chindits is absolutely authentic. As for the Gurk has, they are known in the novel as “ThikHais”, from their constant use of the Urdu phrase for “all right”, and feature only as sure-footed walkers who provoke the Africans’ curses as the latter try to keep up with them on grueling forced marches. Ali Banana is one of the reinforcements flown in to shore up the besieged “White City” fortress against frantic assaults by the Japanese.
After enduring weeks of bombing raids by Mitsubishi Zeroes and suicidal mass attacks on foot and by tank, “the stronghold had turned into a purgatory… being inside the block, or anywhere near it, was like being trapped inside an airtight canister filled with methane”. When they set out on a mission, Banana’s comrades are delighted to leave this hell hole that is a paradise only for vultures and flies. But sadly for them, it is a case of out of the frying-pan into the fire. Burma Boy explores to the full the inhumanity of modern warfare while celebrating the humanity of warriors caught up in it. It gave the unheard West African Child a voice of their own.

(Follow Erhijodo Edafe on Twitter: @iamdafe )

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Criticism and Classification of African Prose Fiction

The question of criticism and classification is one of the vital issues raised at the Ugandan conference of 1962. Just like the controversy trailing definition and language polemics, criticism and classification elicit similar heated arguments. The debate raised some dust hence the question: Was African literature about Africa or about the African experience? What about a non-African who wrote about Africa: did his work qualify as African literature and who is qualified to criticise African literature. According to Ngugu:

The debate which followed (the debate of definition and language at the Ugandan) was animated: was it (African) literature about African or the African experience? Was literature written by Africans? What if an African set his work in Greenland: did he qualify as African literature…Ok: what about Arabic, was it not foreign to Africa? What if a European wrote about Europe in an African language? If…if…if…this or that… (287).

The problem of classification is age-long one. It has even metamorphosed to another trending debate about the true identity, classification and contents the works of migrants Africans fiction writers. Some literary writers who write about Africa were not really Africans. For instance, Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson, a story about Africans and Africa. Perhaps, this is the novel which prompted the writing of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Achebe once explained that, Mister Johnson contains distorted pictures and images of the African society which he tries to correct in Things Fall Apart. In like manner, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is also about Africa and the African People.  

The questions, just as Ngugi rightly poses, are: should we call these fictions African fiction because they presented Africans? What about the authorship? Is African fiction to be written by Africans only? It is true that the present form of written fiction in Africa is an offshoot of Western literary culture infused in the western education of Africans but is it possible to have African fiction in African form that is without any hinge on the western form of writing? These are impossibilities since the writers of African fictions make use of western style and values in the craft. One very important fact here, being that every fictional work must show realism not mere fabrication of unrealities purposely designed to distort the history of a people.

Thematic Signifiers in African Prose Fiction

The African prose fiction during colonial era could be possible described as a ‘protest’ fiction. It is like a protest in the sense that writers of this period attempted to correct the long-held prejudices and aspersions cast on African tradition and cultural ethos by the white. In doing this, it dwelled heavily on the oral traditional features by borrowing some of oral elements such as proverb, songs, dance, folktales, myth, and legend among others.

Some of the thematic preoccupation of Africa prose fiction include but not limited to the following: colonialism, neo-colonial, independence, apartheid, indigenous and imported religions. Thus, the themes dealt with by African novelists include art, religion, urban-life, tradition and culture, apartheid, ironies of life, and pre-colonial, colonial, and neo-colonial reality. Just as the common storyteller of old, the contemporary African fiction writer aims at helping his/her society to change while retaining the best features of authentic African cultures. A large number of literary authors of great talent have not lost sight of the novel’s potential to enrich human lives and African societies 

Things Fall Apart by Achebe is probably a reaction to correct the very negative portraiture and gross misrepresentation facts about Africa and scathing account of Africa and Africans by Joseph Conrad and Joyce Cary’s Heart of Darkness and Mr Johnson respectively. As counter reaction, paints a picture a society where rule and order was the ground norm until it was gradually eroded with contaminating contact with the white man’s dividing offer of religion and education. This novel is also about the pure rural lives of the African with the tragic effect of colonialism destroying the values of the people. Everything fell apart as the real African values of life were thrown into the abyss while a strange culture, law and values were imposed on the people.

With the incursion of colonialism in African, There are new values and attitudes that came from the colonial milieu. The writers, concerned with the change of this attitude and value and express fears about the adverse effects. They wrote about the city and the rural setting in the colonial society. The educated ones were worried about the way Africa and Africans are being portrayed

African prose fiction took a new dimension during the post-colonial era. Before many African countries got independence 1960s, Africans had hoped that with blacks taking the mantle of leadership from the white, there would be paradise on earth. To their greatest chagrin, the set of Africans who took over leadership became a bunch of collective failures. Disillusioned by the gross maladministration, steeped in an acute corruption, wanton embezzle of collective wealth by few and austere selfishness, African writers confront the so called African leaders using their fiction. For instance, Ngugi’s The Devil on the Cross, is an illustrative example on how to deal with the enemy especially the ones within. The white colonial masters have returned to their countries but they still have evil economic and political field soldiers through whom they infest their neo-colonial nets on African. 

Ngugu admonishes us to be more careful when next we want to kill our enemy; that we must ensure the enemy is death and buried before leaving the scene. This is to avoid a situation where a supposed dead enemy would have resurrected and wreak more havoc on us.

Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautiful Ones Are Yet Born is handy in juxtaposing the betrayal of expectation of the peoples of African by their supposed leaders. Ayi Kwei Armah’s text is an attack on corruption in Africa using his country Ghana as a template. Post- independence novels are mainly satirical as they attack misplaced values and propose better means of running a hitch-free republic. They attack the individual and the state. Post-colonial writers write with a sense of commitment to teach, to direct, to advise and to attack anomalies. They are more concerned with what Africans are making out of the independence they fought for. In other words, post-independent writer reflect and refract.

 In Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom, we see a writer presenting the South African society at the grips of Apartheid and how the black South Africans have been subjugated to live as animals and turned to slaves in their own land. The inhumane treatment meted out to coloured black South African is the thematic thrust of the novel.

 In Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not Child and A Grain of Wheat, the author presented the problem of disinheritance of land from the blacks. The East African society was engulfed with the politics of land as a result of colonialism. Most African novels seem to be an attack on the ruling class.

Leadership failure in Africa: Since independence the question of leadership has been a very sensitive issue in Africa. The African novelists have been commenting on the bad administration of most African countries. In 1966, Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People, was described as a prophetic novel because it predicted the first ever military coup in Nigeria. It was glaring as at that time that the civilian government in Nigeria was very corrupt and that military intervention was the only option. In Africa today, leadership problem still lingers. Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautiful Ones are not Yet Born, as observed earlier, is an attack on the corrupt government in Ghana then. Similarly, Dambudzo Marechere’s House of Hunger also exposes the feelings of hopelessness in Zimbabwe. The text is more or less, an indictment on the Zimbabwean leadership over its failure to live up to the masses’ welfare and socio-political needs.

Theme of conflict: As a novelist Ngugi made his debut with Weep Not Child 1964. The story entails the plight of the African people. Weep not Child is a story about a young boy, Njoroge, as he grows up amidst the Mau Mau war and the conflict between the African natives and the British colonial rulers. The book is, in essence, about the hopes and dreams of a young boy coming into being and affected by the outside world and how the outside world changes a person. The plot of this novel centers on a boy and the hardships he goes through in the course of his life. Conflict is one of the main themes of this novel.

Camara Laye’s novel, The African Child is one of the effects made by writers in colonial era to rewrite the African story which has been badly configured by the egocentric and highly discriminatory white. The novel is full of the rich African culture and tradition especially our believe system. Snake is used in the novel to show the link between the living and the death and how the cordial relationship is mutually beneficial to both the living and the death.

Female writers’ contributions to African prose fictions are invaluable. They have, through their works, made African prose discourse a balance one. The thematic significations of prose fiction in Africa are robust and discursive. The female writers continued resilience in churning out quality and quantitative literary pieces over the years is commendable. Some of their thematic contributions are highlighted in the subsequent argument.

Prior to 1966, when Flora Nwakpa published her debut novel, Efuru, the female folks in Nigeria and African have always accused the male writers of negative portraiture of the female character in their literary work. In particular, Chinue Achebe was labelled sexist given the way he portrayed female characters in Things Fall Apart. Provoked by this perceived negligence, Nwakpa wrote the first novel by a female in Africa. As expected, the major character whose name is also the title of the novel is created to be an independent woman. In the text, Efuru is modelled as a dutiful, dedicated and unassuming female character. Though her two marriages crashed, the husbands are made to be at fault due to their irresponsible life style. In other words, the men are now irresponsible and no longer the female as pointed in some patriarchal novels before.

Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood is also another novel that treats the issues about women. Some of the themes of the novel are child bearing, marriage, infertility and betrayed expectation. Theme of environmental degradation, sexual harassment by expatriates, government negligence of the oil producing communities and man-made poverty pervade Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow. The novel is calling on government to look into some of the environmental hazards being face by the people who ‘feed’ the nation.

Marriage is an institution that is full peculiarities. Everyone has diverse experiences. Going by the saying that experience is the best teacher, Marian Ba in her didactic novel, So Long a Letter, teaches the women in case of any eventuality, the options they could have. Beyond the issue of marriage, the texts tells of how to overlook some things and allow nature run it course. The case where the boy is beaten by her teacher for no justifiable cause comes handy. There are many more germane themes in the works of our female writers.

Women of nowadays no longer belong to the kitchen, not even when the president holds that view. In The Last of the Strong ones by Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, the female characters are created as not just as heroine but ‘shero’. They are engage in physical challenging tasks as hunting and fighting wars. Not only that, in the Eagle woman and Children of the Eagle, she creates women of ‘substance’ who could stand on their own with or without men. They are also not to be under any prying scrutiny of any man. They are as free as anything to do whatever they like. In fact, to some of female characters in the texts, marriage is optional and negotiable. There are many more germane themes in the works of our female writers. Chimamanda Adichie, Seffi Attah, Chika Unigwe and hosts of them have made great imparts in the thematic signification of African prose fiction. These and some other topical issues are the thematic thrusts of African prose fiction.

(Follow Erhijodo Edafe on Twitter: @iamdafe )

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African Prose Fiction: Problem of Definition

African prose fiction (literature) as a whole has defied a generally acceptable definition. The controversy over definition has been raging over the years, leading different scholars to view African prose fiction from different perspectives. It has become like the proverbial elephant whose description lacked a unified account. Everyone who described the elephant was as everyone felt it. That experience is probably the case of the African prose fiction so far. For an in- depth discourse on African prose fiction, it is pertinent to first understand the key concepts that revolves round the topic. 
Prose has been defined as any piece of writing that is built upon structure of sentences as opposed to verse. That is, it has no structural meter or stanzas. M.H. Abram (1999) defines prose as “an inclusive term for all discourse, spoken or written, which is not patterned into the lines either of metric verse or of free verse” (246). It is organized by grouping complete sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into pages, and pages into chapters. According to J.A. Cuddon (1998) prose is a direct, unadorned form of language, written or spoken, in ordinary usage… it is not restricted in rhythm, measure or rhyme (704). Prose can be categorized according to structure. Common structural classifications include novels, novellas and short stories. On the other hand, fiction have been defined by Peter Childs and Roger Fowler (2006) as a complex term with many overlapping uses. For William Harmon and Hugh Holman (1990) fiction is the classification for any story created by the imagination and, therefore, not based strictly on history or fact (212). 

Farner Geir (2014) submitted that fiction constitutes an act of creative invention, so that faithfulness to reality is not typically assumed. What this means is that fiction is not expected to present only characters who are actual people or descriptions that are factually true, rather it portrays characters who are figments of writers’ imaginations. In the words of M.H. Abram (1999) fiction is “any literary narrative, whether in prose or verse, which is invented instead of being an account of events that in fact happened” (94). He went further to explain that fiction denotes “only narratives that are written in prose (the novel and short story)”. Scholars like J.A. Cuddon sees fiction from a broader perspective, he argues that it is a vague and general term for any “imaginative work usually in prose” (318). He was quick to add that drama and poetry are also forms of fiction when they treat “feigned or contrived” issues. From the foregoing, prose fiction can be said to be an imaginary story, usually written in paragraphs and chapters, and told in everyday, natural language. 

What then is African prose fiction? Different scholars have also attempted to define African prose fiction. Chinua Achebe in his essay Mornning Yet On Creation Day (1975:56), submitted that it is challenging to tie African literature unto one small neat definition. He is of the opinion that what we have as African literature, is a part of, is a group of associated unit, a sum total of all the national and ethnic literatures of Africa. This clarification by Achebe shows that African prose fiction might not readily be given a specific definition.

African prose fiction should be a product of an African, for an African audience, composed of African socio-historical, sociocultural experiences and above all, in African language is the view strongly canvassed by the Troika – Chinweizu, Onwuchekwa Jeremie and Madubuike. In their text entitled Towards The Decolonisation of African Literature they define African literature as “works done for Africa audience, by Africans and in African languages, whether these works are oral or written, constitute the historically indisputable call of African literature” (11-12). Their position therefore, implies that any work that could be called African should have Africans as its targeted audience and must be written in African language. And anything short of those enlisted features could not possibly be worth of being considered African work. 

Ernest Emenyeonu (1982), accordingly, views African prose fiction from another dimension. To him, African prose fiction has to be “an imaginative recreation of a people’s account of social, cultural, political and economic perspectives at a given time or place” (122). He is not concerned with any language employed in the literary work.

Additionally, in the 1984 Conference of African Literature, African prose fiction was defined as “prose fiction in which African setting is authenticated handled or to which experiences originating in African are integrated”. This view is similar to the position of the Troika above. They belief such African works must be set in Africa and its contents must be on African society. If this position is to hold, it would mean that any prose fiction written outside of Africa cannot be considered African. Therefore, these works being written by migrant writers would never have been in any way taken as a part of African prose fiction.

Language Polemics of African Prose Fiction
Another controversial issue in African prose fiction is the problem of which language is to be used in composition of African prose fiction. It is also a different stroke to different folks. This issue has raised a lot of dust with scholars found on different sides of the divide. Going by the look of things, the argument would continue with no real solution in sight. Some scholars favour the use of the European languages while others vehemently oppose it. A closer look at both sides shows some possible convincing reasons which inform the strong stand of each side. In the light of the foregoing therefore, some of the scholarly arguments are adduced below:

To Obi Wali, ‘’African literature must be written in African language. He is of the view that any literary work of Africa, written in a European language is not worth of being called African. As a result , he argues that ‘’until these writers (African writers who write in English) and their Western midwives accept the fact that any true African literature must be written African languages, they would be merely pursuing a dead end, which can only lead to sterility, uncertainty, and frustration(282). The point of his argument as a pro African critic, but there are more angles to the issue, which it impossible for us take him hook, line and sinker.

In the same vein, Ngugu Wa Thiong’o shares the same view with Wali. Ngugu posits that ‘’a foreign language cannot correctly reflect the historical consciousness of a people’, he adds that ‘’Language, any language, has dual character: it is both a means of communication and a carrier of culture’’ (291). This is one of the major reasons why Ngugi is against the use of European languages in African literature. Ngugi wa Thiong’o rejected Achebe’s argument and insisted, in 1986, that African literature should be written in African languages. ‘By our continuing to write in foreign languages’, he argued, ‘are we not on the cultural level continuing the neo-colonial slavish and cringing spirit? The colonial languages have had a negative and alienating effects on local populations, Ngugi insisted, for language is the carrier of culture, and the imperial languages continue to convey neo-colonial values which include the image of Africans as simplistic, imitative and backward (449-450) .

Charles Nnolim, in Issues in African Literature, lends his support to the argument being canvassed by Wali and Ngugu that African literature should be written in the writer’s mother tongue. This stand informs his view that:

…the thing the African writer must bear in mind is that throughout literary history no writer has been proved great who insists on talking to his people through an interpreter – via a foreign tongue. The African writer must understand that the way to internationalise African languages will be to write in them, thus lending their authority and prestige these languages. (2010:104).

What appears to have compounded the language polemics for the African writers, Nnolim laments, is ‘’the tragedy of our era is that our African writers not only imprison themselves in the language of their masters but (also) physically imprison themselves in the very land of their enslavers for the paltry glitter of the enslaver’s money…’sublimity will continue to elude the African writer who writes in foreign language no matter what pretences and masks he puts on (104; 105).

While interrogating Achebe’s rationale for opting for the use of the English language, he observes:

…we shall always praise Achebe for cleverly adapting English to the ‘’ speech patterns’’ of the Igbo. But he himself will admit that whatever Igbo proverb he transliterates into English falls several decibels short of the idea of original. Writing in alien tongues over which the African writer cannot claim complete mastery, torn between European and one’s native speech concepts, unsure of one’s audience (or, more accurately, aiming at an alien one), the African writer is inherently handicapped as an artist. Great ideas he may have, inspired insights he may possess, but inspired language and nobility of diction – this last has eluded the African writer’s repertoire of chameleon-like attributes (105-6).

On the contrary, Achebe holds a divergent view on the choice of language to be used in African literature. Bearing the number of audience he intends to reach, both African and non-Africans alike, Achebe pragmatically opts for the use of the European languages, in his own case, English. He avers that ‘’there is certainly a great advantage in writing in a world language, maintaining that Africannised English and not the standard English should be used. The type of English that has been domesticated, having communion with the ancestral home. It should have the tendency of international intelligibility.

In 1964, Chinua Achebe insisted that his use of the ex-colonial language did not, in itself, exclude African readers from consuming his work. Rather, his choice to write in English served to widen readers’ access to literature across regional and national boundaries, and did not limit texts to localised ethnic groups. Adopting a pragmatic rather than an idealistic position, he wrote, ‘for me there is no other choice. I have been given this (English) language and I intend to use it’. The use of a European language was not an act of cultural desertion or desecration in Achebe’s view; rather, he said optimistically, ‘I see a new voice coming out of Africa, speaking of African experience in a world-wide language’ The task of the African writer, in consequence, was to aim at fashioning out an English which is at once universal and able to carry his peculiar experience’’ (Achebe 1964)

As if that is not enough, Leopold Sedar Lenghor suggests that French should be the language for African literature. He posits that ‘’French should be the enabling or vehicular language of African literature because of its universal civilisation. 

Concluding remark, Nnolims submits: Taking all these into consideration, the problem of language in African literature will for a long time be enveloped in a fog and resolution of the problem has a very bleak future.

(Follow Erhijodo Edafe on Twitter: @iamdafe )

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The Rhythm Of This World

Why look for rhythm
When crickets still shrill,
Why harking for rhymes
When there is music in the hives.

All are not in tune
With the drumbeat.
We dance not to the beat
But to a tune in our heart.

As in a circus,
We try hard to impress.
Exhausting our breath,
Not for medals but for dread of the whip.

The rhythm of this world
Is nothing but a dirge
Which purge our souls
Of laughter and joy.

Those who dared
To be carried away by this tune,
Are now gone before us
Walking along God’s highway.

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VANDALS OF FAITH

In the haze of the harmattan,
a kraal protrudes like tumour,
hills caressing the sky.

The tolling of the Angelus
and the chants of the muezzin
herald each breaking day.

A shadow, loathsome and rabid
soon twisted men like twigs,
and left charred relics of a thriving town.

Who could stand the deafening echoes of silence.
Who could watch the tortured sights
of souls, bounded and burnt.

Vampires in religious guise!
Vandals of faith!
Why hack a man for professing his creed?

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AN APPLICANT’S ORDEAL

AN APPLICANT’S ORDEAL.

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