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Afroeuropa 3, 1 (2009

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Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456.

AFROEUROPA
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REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES

WRITING THE MOTHERLAND FROM THE DIASPORA: ENGAGING AFRICA IN SELECTED PROSE TEXTS OF DAMBUDZO MARECHERA AND BUCHI EMECHETA

Ayo Kehinde, Ph.D University of Ibadan, Nigeria

1. Introduction

Africa has been variously read by both Africans at home and those in the Diaspora, all too often as a continent wallowing in neocolonial decadence; hence the popular tag ‘Afropessimism’. Actually, African literature, in general, and the novel, in particular, has always been a site for the contest of text and context. It is always handcuffed to history, unlike many other regional novels which have become insular and autolectic. This observation has influenced the assertion of Aijaz Ahmad (1992) that each third-world literature is a socially symbolic act, a national allegory. Over the past two decades or so, African literature in Europe has made a strong impact on world literatures and cultures. The myriad of Prizes that have been won by the African writers in Europe and the growing interest in the reception of their works demonstrate the validity of this claim. Diasporic African fictions (most especially the Europe-based ones) have taken three principal directions in recent times. One, there is the influence of the visionary style and picaresque narrative of Latin American magical realists. Such works now take African fiction into the once uncharted territory. The second variety of African fictions in exile comprises those that are preoccupied with social and political themes of a kind well established in African writings. The third category of African fictions in the Diaspora initiates a new wave of critical thinking; the writers in this camp view their works as an unproblematic

Afroeuropa 3, 1 (2009)
Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456.

AFROEUROPA
.
REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES

synthesis of the Western and the African modes of fiction writing. This blend of autochthonous and imported cultures allows the writers to patronize many of the conventions of ‘-isms’ – postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, multiculturalism, cross-culturalism and feminism. It also lures the writers to write in a highly complex style that looks both outward to the rest of the world and inward. The threshold of Diaspora is revealed as a zone of trepidation, whereby the subject (the writer) faces two places at the same time (Arjun Appadurai, 2001). On the one hand is the memory of home, and on the other, the agonies of desolation. He thus experiences a form of hyphenated or dual identity. The African writers of fiction in the Diaspora bring the horrors of their motherland to the fore in their literary explorations. In order to address the decadence of the neocolonial Africa and to reconstruct its painful realities, writing becomes an elemental tool for survival for most of the African writers in Europe. By choosing a permanent home in exile, they occupy an unstable and complicated position toward Africa, the memory of which, although inextricably linked to the postcolonial disillusionment, remains a presence in their lives, shaping their outlook and surfacing always in their works. Hence, Africa becomes, like Salman Rushdie’s India, a symbol of some sense of loss, relentlessly driving various African writers living abroad “to reclaim, to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt” (Rushdie, 1991:10). However, the decision to leave Africa, emanating mostly from a choice to relinquish physically the ordeals of struggling through the excruciating pains of neocolonial misrule, lends these writers the geographical and temporal distance necessary for an adequate assessment of personal and communal implications of the neocolonial decadence. Africa, and specifically the neocolonial betrayal of the emancipatory promises of independence, becomes a recurring theme directly or indirectly dominating the works of these writers who have been driven into exile by agonies of postcolonial disillusionment. One other preliminary remark which should be made about the current trend of African fictions in exile is that there is just a little element of emotional sense of homecoming in them. This is informed by the impetus that drove some of the writers into exile. It is saying the obvious that Africans are leaving their motherland, on daily basis, in great number. This phenomenon has led to the creation of a variety of new African diasporic communities,

et al. that is. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. In the main. One major side effect of this depressing scenario is the painful departure of both renowned as well as the little-known African writers from their primary source –their continent. They flee their home countries in search of greater educational opportunities. Isidore Okpewho (2002) describes this relatively fresh development as the “New African Diasporas” distinguishable from the traditional Diasporas. Actually. corruption. better economic conditions. yet some others were driven away by persecution. does not portray a typical retreat from reality. who were dispersed from their homeland by a traumatic. as figured in the selected novels. In this paper. their individual nation’s idiosyncratic ‘troubles’ and the shared experiences of the nations in general. The circumstances under which the ‘New African Diasporas’ set sail from their homelands and their general sense of belonging. AFROEUROPA . others motivated by ambition. which take place in Europe and centre on African identities and neocolonial decadence. diseases. why some African writers have been propelled to go into exile cannot be divorced from the general sociopolitical climate of their individual nations. the (re)presentation of the image of Africa and Africans in one variety of many African diasporic writings is examined. Many African writers have been forced into exile by need. The motivation for their leaving ranges from voluntary migration to forced displacement. a continent being ravaged by a bewildering amalgam of problems and social ills –poverty. even catastrophic use of coercion or violence. especially since they still have social and cultural roots back in their original homelands (Okpewho. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES different from the traditional conceptions of ‘the African diaspora’. the focus of the discourse is on fictions on Africa. political freedom and other opportunities. misgovernance.Afroeuropa 3. wars. The abandonment of the homeland is not a way to escape the boarders of a suffocating milieu. there exist some divergences and convergences in the features and experiences of traditional African Diasporas and the new African Diasporas. 2001) distinguish them from the proto-African Diasporas who are mostly either excluded from full integration into the dominant host society or do not intentionally wish to be integrated because the cost in terms of dignity and identity may be too high. . To a great extent. The central thesis of the paper is that exile. The African fiction writers in Europe are considered in this paper as belonging to the emerging New African Diasporas.

AFROEUROPA . ethnic rivalries and unemployment. social. Although the African writers of fiction in Europe have crossed boarders. heartlessness. their texts are still expressions of the cultural. Actually. misgovernance. The same blood flowing in the veins of African people at home also flows in those of their counterparts staying in Europe. one common motif found in African fictions in Europe is the idea of memory. economic and religious experiences of the globally dispersed populations of African ancestors. Another theoretical underpinning of this paper is that fiction is a veritable weapon for the formulation of cultural. The African writers of fiction in Europe have always taken a leap forward in the meshing of socio-political concerns with their works. there is a renewed interest in a broad variety of socio-cultural discourses. more directly influenced by Paul Gilroy’s articulation of the dilemma of striving to be both Europeans and black than by the regionally specific context of W. They provide an alternative vision of the Negritudinal sentimental temper whereby Africa is construed as a ‘beautiful mother’. cultural and ideological space. artistic. In line with Stuart Hall (1997) and Niyi Osundare (2002). African fictions of exile (in Europe) are held in this paper to have the capacity to capture an image of Africa beyond cultural-nationalist stereotypes. Their works constitute a virtuoso performance of double consciousness. planlessness. This brings to mind Adebayo Williams’ view that: The crisis of governance and democratization in Africa has left a profound mark on its literature…African writers have played a crucial role in the political evolution of the continent. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES nepotism. in fact. they are always trying to negotiate the gulf separating the homeland from an exile location. . The pervading images that populate the works include disillusionment. the African diaspora is hereby approached as a geographic. political and social identities. and injustice. African fictions in Europe provide a quintessential paradigm of articulating the transformation of exile and migration (Wumi Raji. inequalities. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. all forms of dissonance and pain are elaborated in most of the works of African writers in Europe. transnational.Afroeuropa 3.B. Dubois’s theory about the internal/external hybridity experienced by African Americans in the United States.E. tension. political. The African writers in Europe react constantly to their condition of displacement and loss in their works. 2003). what we have in most of the fictions of Africans in Europe is a counter-discourse to the hitherto popular sentimental portrait of Africa.

our national discourse as reflected in the domestic media is often overheated. Buchi Emecheta. Their specific mission is to capture the spirit of the continent. the continent has. sometimes. Really. One excruciating pain of African neocolonial decadence which is a motif in the fictions of Africans in Europe is that. they have discovered their mission and fulfilled it. primarily because of social. a theme. As a generation of African writers. African fiction writers in Europe use their works as their contributions to an increased understanding of Africa. self-determination seems elusive. Another unfortunate revelation of the trouble with Africa isolated in the selected fictional works is that. a continent which deserves to be better understood and appreciated. not only of materials but also of technological prowess. certainly. The African fiction writers in Europe considered in this paper are the Nigerian-born Briton. The selected works reveal that in most African nations.Afroeuropa 3. the paper considers how Africa has been constructed in and by the works of fiction. It is a fact that. how Africa has been used as a topos. to reposition the continent in the minds of Africans and the rest of the world. a trope. And. a track they veered away from since the early 1960s. men and women with no vision of a better Africa. African writers in Europe. economic and educational degeneration under successive military and civilian regimes and administrations respectively. interested outsiders and discerning nationals are at a loss as to the credibility and real direction of an African Renaissance. Through an analysis of these writers’ fictional works. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES particularly in influencing the turbulent trajectory of the post-colonial state in Africa (1996:349). frequently sensational and occasionally overly passionate. still attach great importance to Africa. In the process. political. despite their physical separation from their fatherland. AFROEUROPA . 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. but an unwavering mission to enrich themselves in the midst of their look-alike loafers as well as grinding poverty. that is. it is obvious that the problems associated with self-determination will take a miracle for some of the nations to get back on the right but ingenuous track of meaningful development. the task of self-awareness and the unique empowerment of the individual as well as the advancement of the continent are not going to be lived up to by . as a heritage in leadership. and Dambudzo Marechera. it has been metaphorized. with hindsight. the late radical Zimbabwean writer who lived in London. Therefore. how in short. as a bequest.

Edward Said (1991) asserts that the achievements of exile are permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind forever. These African writers in Europe enjoy the advantages of a ‘foreign’ land.Afroeuropa 3. African writers do “more to reveal the reality of postcolonial Africa than most African scholars” (Patric Chabal. may not be a better and safer alternative. Or in the stomach linings of African crocodiles and vultures” (1990:112). only a prisoner. Playing on the term ‘brain drain’. also concurs with the opinion of Soyinka on the luck of the African writers in exile. The African fiction writers in Europe. loneliness. Therefore. dejection. as opposed to genuine leaders that we lack in the present dispensation. most especially during the agonizing period of military rule in some African countries. the Nobel Laureate. victimization. The African writers in exile prefer peace and their own peace of mind to any piece of land. A living exile is far luckier than a dead stay-at–home. one or two do triumph in their adoptive countries. inundated with socio-political and economic problems. not all African writers in the Diaspora succeed. physical distance from home with its attendant experiences of sorrow. but despite all odds. Those African writers in exile have always proved wrong the hypothesis that the distance of exile kills artistic creativity. Nurudin Farah. 2003:2). bitterness. In his words. 2003) may be a painful and very agonizing experience. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES our present crops of bad managers. He believes that he could not have been a writer in Somalia. Soyinka comments: “Lucky drainees! The brains of their stay-at-home colleagues will be found as grisly sediments on the riverbed of the Nile. . However. Wole Soyinka. in order to reconstitute this ‘loss’ referred to by Said and Rushdie. this claim applies only to those who can surmount the daily problems of existence itself. staying at home. where there is freedom to write and time as well as space for this aspect of selfrealization and personal development. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. Not to commit the heinous fallacy of overgeneralization. To a great extent. 1992:8). who has been in exile since the 1970s. strive in their works to reconstruct and deconstruct the African neocolonial betrayal by turning their scrutinizing gaze upon it. AFROEUROPA . “distance distills. However. In fact. ideas become clearer and better worth pursuing” (quoted from Tejumola Olaniyan. aptly captures the benefit of being an African writer in exile. depression and nostalgia (Tejumola Olaniyan. a Somalian writer.

especially the war situation. I shall link the fictions of Africans in Europe to the social conditions that inspire them. In the main. Their themes are bound by a single entity –Africa in the throes of neocolonial decadence. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. was born in Vengere Township. 1952. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES The question remains: how do Marechera and Emecheta engage the dilemma of their individual motherland? The discussion that follows attempts an exploration of this question. 2003). emigrants. for instance. Marechera’s novels. their continual (and ardent) emphasis on the motherland. may tend to be defective if an attempt is not made to locate his major thematic preoccupations within the totality of the history of his society. are replete with violent scenes. this paper confirms the veracity of the basic hypothesis of this discourse that. 2. poverty and violence. from Oxford (for allegedly attempting to burn down part of the school). from the University of Rhodesia (for protesting racial discrimination). AFROEUROPA . perhaps. his works foreground a background of discontent and disillusionment with the past. He lived a life of protest –he was expelled from Mission school (for challenging the colonialist teaching). Fusape. in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) on June 4. he used his creative enterprise and vigour to imaginatively chronicle the state of affairs in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). 1987. why literature from Southern Africa is essentially a literature of commitment. A study of his art. although a marked divide separates African writers who remain in Africa at this period of neocolonial disillusionment from those who have opted to escape the daily traumas by becoming expatriates. This is. During his lifetime. and he had a solo protest march against the government of Ian Smith in Rhodesia and had to flee the nation. that is. present and .Afroeuropa 3. He grew up amid racial discrimination. He died in Harare on August 18. Thus. therefore. they still dwell on the same issue: the critique of neocolonial rulers who have made the emancipatory promises of independence impossible (Carol Fadda-Conrey. Charles Dambudzo Marechera. refugees and exiles. which signify the socio-political outlooks of his homeland. Dambudzo Marechera: Venom on Postcolonial Decadence We cannot gainsay the fact that a people’s literature evolves out of their individual and communal experiences. a quintessential subversive writer.

He therefore became a “homeless wanderer” (Flora Veit-Wild. author of the prize-winning “The House of Hunger” and “Black Sunlight” is less preoccupied with early historical theme. What is foregrounded in Marechera’s fiction.Afroeuropa 3. The following scene is an apt illustration of this claim: There’s hungry people out there. These problems are treated in a generalized. at the time of writing The House of Hunger. There’s many going about in the rags of their birthday suits. Mbulelo Mzamane (1983:203) comments on the art of Marechera thus: A new generation of writer among whom the most celebrated is probably Dambudzo Marechera. abstracted manner. Marechera also had his own personal crisis that influenced what he wrote. He vividly depicts the township squalor of growing up in a settler-exploited Rhodesia. The title story of the collection (“House of Hunger”) captures Marechera’s brutalized childhood and youth in colonial Rhodesia. They’s all got designs… There’s clouds of flies everywhere you go. pleasure and pain. They are more concerned with the contemporary state of affairs. In fact. 1992:176). what stands out in sharp relief against the determinate temporal-spatial setting. as constant. “House of Hunger” relies heavily on a carnivalesque ‘the world is upside down’ approach and scatological imagery which foregrounds the woes of an underdeveloped country. His feeling of total loss and utter despair greatly informed the bitter venom which he poured on African neocolonial leaders through his works of art. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. The significance of Marechera’s contribution to the fictional discourse of the issues of war and corruption in African continent is that he carved out a niche for himself through a special treatment of such seemingly obsolete theme. power and victimization – that is. . For instance. There’s armies of worms glittering in our history. And there’s squadrons of mosquitoes homing down the cradle of our future (59-60). he was in a crisis having just been expelled from the University of Oxford. the realities of human experience. are the existential realities of birth and death. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES predictably the future situations in his continent. trans-historical and ubiquitous continuities in human existence. namely the recent war situation in Zimbabwe. AFROEUROPA . And they’re all mad. There’s homeless people out there.

on a quest for and an accentuation of intrinsic value -properties of literary art. Marechera exhibits a passionate concern for human issues which underline the various betrayals of trust. in particular. he still dwelt perceptively on the ‘trouble’ in his motherland. The House of Hunger captures. such as oppression. love. AFROEUROPA . the typical African life. as much as possible. which can be rightly described as a “rite of passage”. This is in support of the assertion of Mark Afadama (1988) that Marechera’s “imagination. The House of Hunger. His life and literary vocation manifest in the context of neocolonial decadence. for them to see the need for a better tomorrow. power lust. alienation. duty and conscience and the inhuman treatment that is often the lot of the many underprivileged members of the society. even to the ignorant ones. The peculiar tone of the work may be traced to a certain traumatic influence of his social background. deals with social issues in Africa.” Actually. except perhaps Lessing or Head. bespeaks a conditioning by experiences acquired in the contemporary South Africa” (27). 1981:9). The traumas of the protagonist’s personal domestic history . Although Marechera was in Oxford when he wrote his works. are made known.Afroeuropa 3. The anonymous protagonist of the story grows through experience. He is primarily concerned with man as a victim of history within the framework of the socio-political structures that oppresses him. Marechera creates an intense degree of alienation – so severe that the protagonist occasionally suffers mental disturbances which often develop to full-scale mental derangement. A blurb writer in The House of Hunger captures the preponderance of social realities in Marechera’s fiction thus: “I don’t know another book about Africa that deals with the whole situation at such a level. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. on a commitment to “exploring intensely and ultimately the well–springs of our (African) modern experience in all its range and complexity” (Abiola Irele. and the black race. and second. social marginalization and betrayal of trust. its source. in its turn. so that the various problems facing the entire Africans. The artistic expressions of Marechera are pivoted on two basic concerns: first. in general. All these issues are effectively blended into the story of an individual consciousness developing in a society. the depth and variety of which are well externalized through his works. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES Therefore. which. By so doing. for instance. with particular reference to The House of Hunger and Black Sunlight. is battling against many odds.

Immaculate. so crippling. above all. to the streets and to the bush. dwells on gender-violence unleashed as a signifier of neocolonized dichotomy of another generation. a text that deals with the effects of great events of the external world on individual people. Marechera. which was inundated with wars and many other violent actions at that time. but on their effects on the individual soul and the individual mind. so obvious. However. in the story. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES juxtapose with his experiences of the dehumanizing agonies of Zimbabwe (nay Africa) to make him a neurotic person. to his dormitory. Actually. but Marachera focuses the reader’s attention not on the events as abstractions. Its value is more than literary. Peter. It is also revealed that. even more shattering than what the avowed pessimists like Armah or Ouologuem can achieve. it also performs artistic.” is flogged night and day until she is reduced to a ‘red . Marechera. thus. political and social function. in his search for thematic preoccupations. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. In the text. in general. The story opens with a young revolutionary. is not significantly different from those of other African writers who are at drastic odds with their individual societies. places and persons are recalled and commented upon in an irregular manner.Afroeuropa 3. The House of Hunger is. woman in African also comes under the burden of sexism. whose young woman. Marechera presents the protagonist in a number of sexual escapades. becomes a metaphor of the socio-political realities of the novelist’s homeland. Marechera’s nihilism about the conditions of his society. his brand of pessimism differs significantly. and on person-to-person relationship. and so dehumanizing. in particular. Narration in The House of Hunger hinges on the intermittent retrospection of a ‘psychotic mind”. Sex is employed in the story to signify a sort of assertiveness that can be perceived as a form of defensive mechanism against life’s total meaninglessness and brutality. Sex. apart from being a victim of racial machinations. Familiar events. “sweet and childish and big with his sperm. has often turned his attention to the subject of oppression in postcolonial Africa. ranging from his family. and Africa. The issues portrayed take place in the context of war and racism in Zimbabwe. AFROEUROPA . The treatment of sex in the text is an aspect which provides clues to understanding the nature of life and interpersonal relationship.

in general . Black Sunlight is an expansion of the socio-political problems of Africa already initiated in The House of Hunger. For instance. The issue of sociopolitical betrayal of women by their men. Using the trope of photography. The brutality inflicted on Immaculate is sexually motivated. to the destruction that societies impose on the people they claim to serve. and the entire black world. The text is couched in a fragmentary manner. anarchy and disorder.Afroeuropa 3. giving hasty glimpses of the chaos. Therefore. The problem of sexism recurs in Black Sunlight. Susan recognizes the violence inherent in her chosen task as similar. showing that the society he depicts is in an era of turbulence. Marechera gives a vivid view of the new strains and tensions plaguing the African society. the budding colonizer (the colonized male) exclusively in his role as oppressor of the colonized female has vested interest in continued exploitation of the doubly (sexual political) colonized woman. present. offering a macroscopic portrait of the black race from a perspective of the Zimbabwean experience. Susan draws a similarity between her father and the protagonist. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES stain’ (2). she. In this work. Marechera is disillusioned with the past. the colonized man becomes ‘the coloniser’ in a very specific sense. when he tells her to “shut up” after making love to her. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. Christian. this form of verbal male violence is indicative of her father’s irritation at his own ignorance. the future of African continent. in the dichotomy between the colonized man and woman. in particular. the relationship between her and Peter signifies the problem of betrayal of trust which is a pervading social phenomenon in neocolonial Africa. AFROEUROPA . The experience of colonialism lingers on in the society through the binary dichotomy between men and women in the neocolonial period. dreams of a better future because she is pregnant. Here. however. The story signifies that. a press photographer is depicted roving across the span of a society that is in disorder. and deductively. if not identical. becomes a motif in Marechera’s fiction. two generations of men have betrayed Susan in curiously similar ways. thus. In fact. . Black sunlight chronicles the daily experiences in Zimbabwe.the story of the black race under the siege of socio-political intrigues and multiple forms of institutionalized violence. To Susan. Again. In the text.

exemplified by Susan. pondered. A careful reading of his texts reveals that leadership should be a selfless service devoid of all traces of corruption and brutality. The question to which Marechera seeks an answer in Black Sunlight is this: “Who can provide this true leadership?” Is it the traditional rulers (like the tyrant chief in the text!). are not as trivial as the political perception of Immaculate in The House of Hunger. brutally murdered extra-judicially. The above signifies the fate of the black masses in the hands of their neocolonial leaders. Where. In Marechera’s fiction. Therefore. AFROEUROPA . Also. regulations and codes” (1994:256). hanged or detained. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES In Black Sunlight. Marechera still contributes to the debate on the quest for a viable political leadership in Africa through his works. The masses of the society depicted in the text wallow in poverty. This corroborates the opinion of Helene Cixous that “women… must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions. starvation. He was oppressed by the white colonialists and now by his own brothers and sisters. The image of the African masses depicted in the text is that of people being exploited. the politicians or the . What new madness had struck this messenger? White men indeed! The chief removed his fit from my head” (1). 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. sexism and capitalism are portrayed as patriarchal concepts which can be dismantled only by women who are as brave as Susan. The chief in the above quoted scene is so brutal that his throne is lavishly decorated with human skulls and “he wore nothing but a necklace made of human finger bones” (p6). unemployment and socio-political alienation. With courage. the views of women. Marechera enunciates some instances of man’s inhumanity to man among the peoples of Africa. is the hope of African masses? The above highlighted episode suggests that despite his physical absence from his motherland. in the novel. These are apparently the skulls and finger bones of his victims. then. classes and rhetorics. as black as human beginnings. The following scene in the text captures these gory experiences of the masses in Africa: “The chief.Afroeuropa 3. Susan is able to wreck sexual and rhetorical partitions in order to give birth to a new history. He catalogues the sufferings of the downtrodden masses in the hands of their leaders. This suggests that the burden of the average African man is a double yoke. gender dissonance in Black Sunlight is more eloquent and complex than the dream-versus-social-reality dialectic we encounter in The House of Hunger.

1944. the ‘mad-woman’ stereotypes that emerge when an African woman tries to resist patriarchy. a student to whom she had been engaged since she was eleven. Buchi Emecheta: Reversing the Image of the African Woman Florence Onye Buchi Emecheta was born on July 21. Sylvester and Buchi moved to London.Afroeuropa 3. After their marriage. near Lagos. he succeeded admirably in bridging the gap between the functional use of literature and the ability to stir humanity as a whole. the ‘witch’. At a tender age. she engages the trouble with her motherland. Emecheta’s fictional cosmos is on the sexual exploitation of African women and the ‘monster’. to Jeremy Nwabudike and Alice Okwuekwu Emecheta. Thus. and she spent her early-childhood years being educated at a missionary school. she was married to Sylvester Onwordi. Nigeria. 1997:25). at the age of sixteen. post-realist texts” (Neil Kortenaar. Marechera’s search for political leadership in Africa is abortive: Was there a difference between the chief on his skull-carpentered throne and the General who even now had grappled all power to himself in our twentieth-century image? (13) The foregoing historicist reading of Marechera’s fiction has revealed that his stories grew directly out of his socio-political awareness of neocolonialism. In her texts. she was orphaned. in Yaba. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES military? Marechera implicitly proclaims that the traditional rulers cannot be the desired saviours because of their brutality and vainglory. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. and it hit the rock in 1966. 3. including child . She was conferred with the prestigious Order of the British Empire in 2005. he permits reality to comment on itself. AFROEUROPA . His fiction produces a feeling of hollowness. He does not comment directly on reality. even though he was in exile. What he has offered in his prose texts is a unique form of realism. He also despises military dictatorship for being too assuming and over-zealous. oft-violent one. The marriage which was blessed with five children was an unhappy. In 1960. his works are “solipsistic. Here lies the hallmark of his fiction.

exposes the harmfulness of patriarchy in her communities. Says he: Of all women writers in contemporary African literature. her domicile in England has contributed immensely to her feminist growth. Her thematic leaning towards a redefinition of African womanhood is purposeful. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. In the Ditch and Second Class Citizen are feminist works in the tradition of Edna O’Brien and Kate Millet. In most of her prose texts. Emecheta appears to be a frontline feminist. The liberal English setting obliges her to exercise certain rights. especially in her non-autobiographical novels. AFROEUROPA . feminist protest. The African society is predominantly patriarchal and would have greatly inhibited . Lloyd Brown (1981) comments on the status of Buchi Emecheta as an African woman writer.Afroeuropa 3. the African woman is also on the march towards liberation in the literary sphere. economic and gender oppression that African women are subjected to. Buchi Emecheta of Nigeria has been the most sustained and vigorous voice of direct. we have a depiction of the oppression of Igbo women in connection with the claim that colonialism. For instance. In Emecheta. motherhood. Only Bessie Head of South Africa compares with Emecheta in a certain intensity and directness when describing sexual inequality and female dependency. she was able to obtain a divorce and gain custody of her children. dissipating the message of emancipation of the African womanhood. However. therefore. female independence and freedom. she denounces the negative aspects of her traditional culture rather than celebrating its positives. In addition. Actually. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES slavery. Since the suppression of women is a global phenomenon. one notices an apparent ambivalent strain evident in her brand of feminism. Emecheta’s first two novels. This is informed by her personal agonizing experiences of male victimization and the single-mindedness with which she has successfully countered such hostilities. Writing from outside her native culture offers Emecheta a conducive atmosphere to dwell on the problem of cultural. classism and sexism are intertwined in the African women’s experience of oppression. This is as a result of her exposure to two cultures –African and European. we detect an increasing emphasis of the woman’s sense of self… (34). She.

as a writer cannot afford to tell my people what they want to hear. This heightens her concern for this disadvantaged subgroup and awakens her urges for politics of the female plight. but I. or any man who could represent a father to her. the African women are portrayed as finding themselves perpetually trapped in this eternal triangle of the patriarchy. my profession and my country (1981:2582). Emecheta derives the title of her second novel. this concept strongly persists. In a traditional patriarchal society like Nigeria. she goes on to fight them. Emecheta. he defines woman in relationship to himself. The female has no autonomy outside the male who may be her father. the narrator. further exposes her to the sufferings of womanhood in various cultures. In reading her novels. Emecheta does not stop at cataloguing male hostilities. states through. Her field of study. was not her brother the rightful person to decide the fate of little Ojebeta? (30). They are just what the apparatus decree.68). she extends it to the emancipation of the males. Commenting on her consistent narration of the woes in her motherland. The phobia for male children is further heightened in the reaction of Adah’s parents at her . Second Class Citizen. in The Slave Girl. her personal victimization by the patriarchy and her exposure to the works of other feminists. AFROEUROPA . a combination of factors – her diasporic identity. husband or brother. “Titi is only a girl” (71). REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES such actions by a woman. Emecheta says: Some people have said that a talk which I gave at the Africa Centre a few weeks ago is unpatriotic. If I start doing that I would be betraying my conscience. She further muses on the inessentiality of the female when she observes unenthusiastically. So. Therefore. Her brand of sexual politics is not mediocre. one is aware that she is furthering the female cause. Exposing further the status of the girl-child in Africa.sharpen her consciousness. or when she grew up a husband. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. The African society is depicted as a patriarchal world where man is the reference point. that “a boy is like four girls put together” (p. Sociology. Hear her: A girl needed men to guide her: her father.Afroeuropa 3. This idea is articulated in Emecheta’s The Slave Girl. from Simone de Beauvoir’s phrase. Consequently.

It is with ignominy that NnuEgo relinquishes her position as the head wife. an animal or a slave. Adah is the breadwinner and. The fact that the patriarchy regards the female as an object of amusement further reinforces his conception of her as a piece of property. The actual marriage negotiation of NnuEgo and Amatokwo is solely conducted by the males of the family. she still would have been given away in marriage. Emecheta attempts to conscientize African women and make Africans redress their contributions to the subjugation of African women (Sarah Anyang Agbor. Either way. tasks erroneously supposed to be fulfilling. Marriage is usually profit motivated. feels threatened over Adah’s pay packet. Had Ojebeta’s father. 2008). bearing children is highly valued. The word ‘possessing’ is significant in the context because what one normally possesses is a piece of property. such as a piece of furniture. AFROEUROPA . thus. . The Slave Girl is. who sells her into slavery to Ma Palagada. In fact. It is ironic that a father is usually a very active participant in the drama that enacts the sale and subjugation of a daughter. to this effect. they are both versions of slavery because they impede economic independence and self-expression. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES birth. These instances serve to highlight the disregard which plagues the female from infancy to adulthood in a patriarchal society like Africa. since Francis has an aversion to work. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. Childlessness in African society results to the type of mental agony and shame NnuEgo.Afroeuropa 3. a critique of the way women are caught in a double bind between what tradition expects of them and the experiences of the colonial social context. A man purchases a woman in marriage as he would any item. Therefore. In fact. indispensable. It is also significant that it is Ojebeta’s brother. his father reassuringly reprimands him by observing that he should count himself lucky for ‘possessing’ such a wife. In this novel. is subjected to. This novel attempts a denunciation of women’s entrapment between the expectations of the Igbo traditions and those of modernity. she was born when everyone in the family expected a male child. in Second Class Citizen. In marriage. When Francis. been alive. the woman takes care of the home and bears children. her arrival was such a disappointment that her birth was not recorded. one thing that binds Francis to Adah is her money. in The Joys of Motherhood. Okolie in The Slave Girl. Okwuekwu Oda.

it is worth reiterating that Emecheta is a feminist writer as evinced in her autobiographical novels. Her father sees her as a means through which his desired ends can be achieved. Emecheta creates a “new African woman”. However. In dealing with the preliterate African characters that are not extensions of herself. The female questing for independence is a victim of the duplicity of life. multiculturalism and shifting identities as they affect Nigerians both at home in the Diaspora. Invariably. Adah. At this juncture. experiences slavery in marriage in its crudest form. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES In addition. Emecheta’s persona in Second-Class Citizen. To Francis. Adah is like “a yoke-fellow whose labour was crucial if he were to prosper” (14). she creates a literate female who successfully counters patriarchal victimization in the more modern and liberal atmosphere. in Double Yoke. the female is assessed by either whose daughter or whose wife she is but never by who she is. kinship. Married or single. In her reaffirmation of feminism in Double Yoke. Emecheta’s feminism becomes ambivalent as in The Slave Girl and The Joys of Motherhood. in the text. that is. Willful and persistent Emecheta counters male subjugation and achieves ‘selfhood’. also dwells on the modes of patriarchal suppression of the female in African society. One of Emecheta’s most recent texts. The male characters are portrayed in negative images. In the Ditch and Second-Class Citizen set in London. In addition. Kehinde. It also thematizes the issues of community. sisterhood. Through the metamorphosis of the heroine. Nko. as well as the sexual victimization that some females encounter is also explored in the text. Emecheta advocates that the liberated woman grows simultaneously with the modern African man.Afroeuropa 3. thus reaffirming her feminist ideology with which she started. The myth of the “acada” (bookish) woman. In fact. her husband. characters considered from a historical perspective and placed in a rural context. This is with a view to asserting the novelist’s own ‘selfhood’ and extorting other educated Nigerian women to join the campaign for the liberation of African womanhood. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. marriage is depicted as an extension of female enslavement. AFROEUROPA . the double standard morality pervading the African society is exposed. an emancipated female. Emecheta . The case of Ona in The Joys of Motherhood offers an apt illustration of the selfish paternal love some women are subjected to in traditional African societies. a woman remains under patriarchal dominance.

therefore. but the wife (Kehinde). REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES dwells on the predicament of African woman in the postcolonial period. Nigeria. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. . Emecheta’s narrates herself: Kehinde’s feelings could be a reflection of Emecheta’s ambivalence towards Nigerian and English – or Western – societies. London is. However. She does not feel comfortable in her home country after a long absence: “she found herself once more relegated to the margin” (Kehinde. 97). her perception is inevitably shaped by her hybrid consciousness which is a feature of post-colonial writing (M. with a view to arguing that in Kehinde. when she gets back to London. Emecheta has lived in Britain for more than four decades. she does not miss Nigeria. Consequently. is more pragmatic and realistic. AFROEUROPA . therefore. 1998). She.E. In this way. Thus. is ready to return home on the prompting of his sisters. her home. Ana Arce (2000) comments critically on the possible link between Kehinde and Emecheta. an idealist. her hope dream is not fulfilled as she is given only a secondary position in relation to her husband. which she finds more comfortable and convenient than her original home. What Emecheta embarks upon in Kehinde. Her redefinition of African womanhood in the text is both positive and radical. Kehinde. The protagonist. She takes what she thinks is the best for her from both worlds and stays in the transition area.Afroeuropa 3.M Kolawole. The husband (Albert). It is a place where Kehinde’s ‘creator’ (Emecheta) is able to have an outright rebellion against the traditional and patriarchal values in her motherland. the eponymous heroine of the text. in a conservative patriarchy as African’s. in exile. The text dwells on the ideological conflict between couples. Adjustment will certainly occur in the consciousness of the male who eventually will have to accept the “new African woman”. Kehinde feels isolated and ridiculed during her stay at her father’s household. prefers to stay behind at her ‘home’. dreamt of visiting a nation (Nigeria) which would not relegate her to the margins. is a bold and remarkable quest. Thus. her identity is always open and surprising to those who expect coherence from her (82). in Kehinde. This is an appropriate ideological posture that aims to rock the patriarchal foundation on which the stereotypic female portrait is set. Nigeria is depicted as a nation where dreams and hopes are shattered.

profound and evocative (re)assessment of the individual author’s motherland. Conclusion The foregoing discussion has revealed that the prevailing point of view in the fictions of Africans in Europe is critical and rather pessimistic. Emecheta’s fiction “exposes the injustices lined up against women so that society could be restructured in a more equitable manner”. It is our contention in this paper that Marechera and Emecheta’s prose texts do lead to precisely such a powerful. She also articulates protests against the overwhelming power of tradition in African societies. They transmit a vivid picture of the socio-historical realities of their enabling . Actually. but feel they are fulfilling a social function. Whatever the influences of the writers may be. like many other fictions of the African Diaspora. is Emecheta’s way of exposing on the social foibles of her motherland. To Ezeigbo. Akachi Ezeigbo (1996) also corroborates Davies’s evaluation of the utilitarian value of Emecheta’s fiction. In fact. Carole Boyce Davies (1981:9). For instance. One easily notices the familiar distaste of the writers for the ‘gleam’. therefore. the protagonist of The Bride Price. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. but surely not negative. The future fills the continent with foreboding and apprehension. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES The foregoing exploration of Emecheta’s narration of her motherland from the Diaspora has revealed that she privileges stories of a world (unmistakably Nigeria) where women face the problems of poverty and oppression. Emecheta’s fiction examines African “societies for institutions which are of value to women and reject[ing] those that work to their detriment”. but it hopes to arrive. an Osu or slave descendant . Her effrontery to choose Chike Ofulue. Aku-nna. marginalize and contrive to enslave women. they are sensitive and exciting artists who are not “dancing to receive gifts”. cast a critical and sardonic look over the social physiology of the continent. delusion and unfulfilled expectations of the present social period in postcolonial Africa. AFROEUROPA . Emecheta offers a biting critique of Igbo cultural traditions that oppress. She is. an outcast from the society. rebels against the oppressive tradition of her society by choosing her own husband regardless of societal rules.Afroeuropa 3. the texts examined in this paper. 4. at the forefront of defending the rights of African women.

1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. AFROEUROPA . and they are meticulously interrogating the conditions of human existence and (un)recorded history of African neocolonies. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES milieus and offer an insight into various aspects of the realities. The narratives of Africans in Europe. . Despite the disparity in individual experiences. although distinctively different from one another in that they convey different personal experiences of the same neocolonial disillusionment. what remains unchanged is the agonizing historical cum political epoch of Africa itself and its inscription in the mental register of a continent. Ayo Kehinde (2008) makes a similar observation about African fiction: “in the various periods of African literature.Afroeuropa 3. sociohistorical and political realities are foregrounded in literary texts through the employment of certain images and metaphors” (35). Their artistic mission is to present an image of Africa that is ruined by the rancour of decadence. are still joined by the need to express such memories and expose the misdeeds of the African neocolonial rulers to the world. Therefore. African fiction writers in Europe are truly translating reality into language.

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