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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
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.
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,
especially since they still have social and cultural roots back in their original homelands (Okpewho. even catastrophic use of coercion or violence. AFROEUROPA . 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. 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. Many African writers have been forced into exile by need. the (re)presentation of the image of Africa and Africans in one variety of many African diasporic writings is examined. does not portray a typical retreat from reality. In the main. others motivated by ambition. a continent being ravaged by a bewildering amalgam of problems and social ills –poverty. misgovernance. yet some others were driven away by persecution. The central thesis of the paper is that exile. which take place in Europe and centre on African identities and neocolonial decadence. the focus of the discourse is on fictions on Africa. et al. To a great extent. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES different from the traditional conceptions of ‘the African diaspora’. . why some African writers have been propelled to go into exile cannot be divorced from the general sociopolitical climate of their individual nations. The abandonment of the homeland is not a way to escape the boarders of a suffocating milieu. Actually. corruption. The circumstances under which the ‘New African Diasporas’ set sail from their homelands and their general sense of belonging. 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. Isidore Okpewho (2002) describes this relatively fresh development as the “New African Diasporas” distinguishable from the traditional Diasporas. as figured in the selected novels. who were dispersed from their homeland by a traumatic. better economic conditions. political freedom and other opportunities.Afroeuropa 3. there exist some divergences and convergences in the features and experiences of traditional African Diasporas and the new African Diasporas. The motivation for their leaving ranges from voluntary migration to forced displacement. diseases. The African fiction writers in Europe are considered in this paper as belonging to the emerging New African Diasporas. In this paper. their individual nation’s idiosyncratic ‘troubles’ and the shared experiences of the nations in general. that is. wars. They flee their home countries in search of greater educational opportunities.
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. cultural and ideological space. planlessness. one common motif found in African fictions in Europe is the idea of memory. Dubois’s theory about the internal/external hybridity experienced by African Americans in the United States. their texts are still expressions of the cultural. 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. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. In line with Stuart Hall (1997) and Niyi Osundare (2002). political. Their works constitute a virtuoso performance of double consciousness. political and social identities. The African writers in Europe react constantly to their condition of displacement and loss in their works. . 2003). heartlessness.B. tension. economic and religious experiences of the globally dispersed populations of African ancestors. there is a renewed interest in a broad variety of socio-cultural discourses. transnational. African fictions in Europe provide a quintessential paradigm of articulating the transformation of exile and migration (Wumi Raji. misgovernance. social. Although the African writers of fiction in Europe have crossed boarders. and injustice. in fact. The same blood flowing in the veins of African people at home also flows in those of their counterparts staying in Europe. They provide an alternative vision of the Negritudinal sentimental temper whereby Africa is construed as a ‘beautiful mother’. the African diaspora is hereby approached as a geographic. 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. all forms of dissonance and pain are elaborated in most of the works of African writers in Europe. ethnic rivalries and unemployment. inequalities. Actually. The African writers of fiction in Europe have always taken a leap forward in the meshing of socio-political concerns with their works. artistic. they are always trying to negotiate the gulf separating the homeland from an exile location.E. what we have in most of the fictions of Africans in Europe is a counter-discourse to the hitherto popular sentimental portrait of Africa.Afroeuropa 3. The pervading images that populate the works include disillusionment. Another theoretical underpinning of this paper is that fiction is a veritable weapon for the formulation of cultural. AFROEUROPA .
1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. 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). Through an analysis of these writers’ fictional works. In the process. despite their physical separation from their fatherland. African writers in Europe. a track they veered away from since the early 1960s. primarily because of social. that is. our national discourse as reflected in the domestic media is often overheated. Therefore. with hindsight. a continent which deserves to be better understood and appreciated. as a bequest. the continent has. but an unwavering mission to enrich themselves in the midst of their look-alike loafers as well as grinding poverty. Really. The selected works reveal that in most African nations. The African fiction writers in Europe considered in this paper are the Nigerian-born Briton. Buchi Emecheta. how in short. how Africa has been used as a topos. still attach great importance to Africa. it has been metaphorized. AFROEUROPA . As a generation of African writers. as a heritage in leadership. they have discovered their mission and fulfilled it. to reposition the continent in the minds of Africans and the rest of the world. political. African fiction writers in Europe use their works as their contributions to an increased understanding of Africa. the late radical Zimbabwean writer who lived in London. 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 paper considers how Africa has been constructed in and by the works of fiction. not only of materials but also of technological prowess. One excruciating pain of African neocolonial decadence which is a motif in the fictions of Africans in Europe is that. Their specific mission is to capture the spirit of the continent. a trope. and Dambudzo Marechera. And. sometimes. frequently sensational and occasionally overly passionate. a theme. certainly. interested outsiders and discerning nationals are at a loss as to the credibility and real direction of an African Renaissance. Another unfortunate revelation of the trouble with Africa isolated in the selected fictional works is that.Afroeuropa 3. men and women with no vision of a better Africa. economic and educational degeneration under successive military and civilian regimes and administrations respectively. 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 . It is a fact that. self-determination seems elusive.
in order to reconstitute this ‘loss’ referred to by Said and Rushdie. staying at home. The African fiction writers in Europe. the Nobel Laureate. However. “distance distills. but despite all odds. AFROEUROPA . In his words. However. African writers do “more to reveal the reality of postcolonial Africa than most African scholars” (Patric Chabal. victimization. Not to commit the heinous fallacy of overgeneralization. Nurudin Farah. In fact. He believes that he could not have been a writer in Somalia. Edward Said (1991) asserts that the achievements of exile are permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind forever. Therefore. most especially during the agonizing period of military rule in some African countries. 1992:8). loneliness. aptly captures the benefit of being an African writer in exile. 2003) may be a painful and very agonizing experience. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. Wole Soyinka. Playing on the term ‘brain drain’. who has been in exile since the 1970s. also concurs with the opinion of Soyinka on the luck of the African writers in exile. The African writers in exile prefer peace and their own peace of mind to any piece of land. one or two do triumph in their adoptive countries. as opposed to genuine leaders that we lack in the present dispensation. .Afroeuropa 3. this claim applies only to those who can surmount the daily problems of existence itself. These African writers in Europe enjoy the advantages of a ‘foreign’ land. Or in the stomach linings of African crocodiles and vultures” (1990:112). dejection. depression and nostalgia (Tejumola Olaniyan. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES our present crops of bad managers. ideas become clearer and better worth pursuing” (quoted from Tejumola Olaniyan. Those African writers in exile have always proved wrong the hypothesis that the distance of exile kills artistic creativity. 2003:2). only a prisoner. bitterness. strive in their works to reconstruct and deconstruct the African neocolonial betrayal by turning their scrutinizing gaze upon it. where there is freedom to write and time as well as space for this aspect of selfrealization and personal development. To a great extent. a Somalian writer. not all African writers in the Diaspora succeed. may not be a better and safer alternative. physical distance from home with its attendant experiences of sorrow. Soyinka comments: “Lucky drainees! The brains of their stay-at-home colleagues will be found as grisly sediments on the riverbed of the Nile. inundated with socio-political and economic problems. A living exile is far luckier than a dead stay-at–home.
In the main. 2003). He died in Harare on August 18. I shall link the fictions of Africans in Europe to the social conditions that inspire them. Fusape. poverty and violence. 2. Dambudzo Marechera: Venom on Postcolonial Decadence We cannot gainsay the fact that a people’s literature evolves out of their individual and communal experiences. 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. especially the war situation. He lived a life of protest –he was expelled from Mission school (for challenging the colonialist teaching). for instance. this paper confirms the veracity of the basic hypothesis of this discourse that.Afroeuropa 3. refugees and exiles. therefore. He grew up amid racial discrimination. he used his creative enterprise and vigour to imaginatively chronicle the state of affairs in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). 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. 1987. that is. from the University of Rhodesia (for protesting racial discrimination). perhaps. Their themes are bound by a single entity –Africa in the throes of neocolonial decadence. A study of his art. Thus. their continual (and ardent) emphasis on the motherland. his works foreground a background of discontent and disillusionment with the past. Charles Dambudzo Marechera. This is. present and . are replete with violent scenes. emigrants. was born in Vengere Township. from Oxford (for allegedly attempting to burn down part of the school). a quintessential subversive writer. why literature from Southern Africa is essentially a literature of commitment. 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. During his lifetime. and he had a solo protest march against the government of Ian Smith in Rhodesia and had to flee the nation. Marechera’s novels. 1952. in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) on June 4. they still dwell on the same issue: the critique of neocolonial rulers who have made the emancipatory promises of independence impossible (Carol Fadda-Conrey. which signify the socio-political outlooks of his homeland. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. AFROEUROPA .
The title story of the collection (“House of Hunger”) captures Marechera’s brutalized childhood and youth in colonial Rhodesia. The following scene is an apt illustration of this claim: There’s hungry people out there. what stands out in sharp relief against the determinate temporal-spatial setting. He vividly depicts the township squalor of growing up in a settler-exploited Rhodesia. pleasure and pain. There’s homeless people out there. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES predictably the future situations in his continent. There’s many going about in the rags of their birthday suits. In fact. He therefore became a “homeless wanderer” (Flora Veit-Wild. AFROEUROPA . author of the prize-winning “The House of Hunger” and “Black Sunlight” is less preoccupied with early historical theme. the realities of human experience. And there’s squadrons of mosquitoes homing down the cradle of our future (59-60). “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. They’s all got designs… There’s clouds of flies everywhere you go. abstracted manner. For instance. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. trans-historical and ubiquitous continuities in human existence. . he was in a crisis having just been expelled from the University of Oxford. namely the recent war situation in Zimbabwe. at the time of writing The House of Hunger. They are more concerned with the contemporary state of affairs. And they’re all mad. 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.Afroeuropa 3. What is foregrounded in Marechera’s fiction. 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. There’s armies of worms glittering in our history. are the existential realities of birth and death. 1992:176). as constant. 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. These problems are treated in a generalized. power and victimization – that is. Marechera also had his own personal crisis that influenced what he wrote.
The artistic expressions of Marechera are pivoted on two basic concerns: first. in its turn. By so doing. duty and conscience and the inhuman treatment that is often the lot of the many underprivileged members of the society. The peculiar tone of the work may be traced to a certain traumatic influence of his social background. which can be rightly described as a “rite of passage”. He is primarily concerned with man as a victim of history within the framework of the socio-political structures that oppresses him. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES Therefore. such as oppression. which. even to the ignorant ones. deals with social issues in Africa. the depth and variety of which are well externalized through his works. and the black race. Marechera exhibits a passionate concern for human issues which underline the various betrayals of trust. on a quest for and an accentuation of intrinsic value -properties of literary art. for instance. on a commitment to “exploring intensely and ultimately the well–springs of our (African) modern experience in all its range and complexity” (Abiola Irele. as much as possible. power lust. is battling against many odds. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. in general.” Actually. bespeaks a conditioning by experiences acquired in the contemporary South Africa” (27). The traumas of the protagonist’s personal domestic history .Afroeuropa 3. Although Marechera was in Oxford when he wrote his works. 1981:9). 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. he still dwelt perceptively on the ‘trouble’ in his motherland. except perhaps Lessing or Head. AFROEUROPA . love. with particular reference to The House of Hunger and Black Sunlight. All these issues are effectively blended into the story of an individual consciousness developing in a society. in particular. This is in support of the assertion of Mark Afadama (1988) that Marechera’s “imagination. are made known. the typical African life. alienation. for them to see the need for a better tomorrow. so that the various problems facing the entire Africans. and second. The anonymous protagonist of the story grows through experience. Marechera creates an intense degree of alienation – so severe that the protagonist occasionally suffers mental disturbances which often develop to full-scale mental derangement. The House of Hunger captures. His life and literary vocation manifest in the context of neocolonial decadence. The House of Hunger. social marginalization and betrayal of trust. its source.
The issues portrayed take place in the context of war and racism in Zimbabwe. woman in African also comes under the burden of sexism. The treatment of sex in the text is an aspect which provides clues to understanding the nature of life and interpersonal relationship. Marechera. Marechera. in the story.Afroeuropa 3. dwells on gender-violence unleashed as a signifier of neocolonized dichotomy of another generation. 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. Marechera’s nihilism about the conditions of his society. and on person-to-person relationship. which was inundated with wars and many other violent actions at that time. apart from being a victim of racial machinations. It is also revealed that. In the text. Sex. a text that deals with the effects of great events of the external world on individual people. above all. becomes a metaphor of the socio-political realities of the novelist’s homeland. ranging from his family. places and persons are recalled and commented upon in an irregular manner. Immaculate. Actually. in his search for thematic preoccupations. in particular. and so dehumanizing. However. so crippling. “sweet and childish and big with his sperm. thus. so obvious. The House of Hunger is. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. political and social function. to the streets and to the bush. Peter. but on their effects on the individual soul and the individual mind. even more shattering than what the avowed pessimists like Armah or Ouologuem can achieve. it also performs artistic. Marechera presents the protagonist in a number of sexual escapades. in general. is not significantly different from those of other African writers who are at drastic odds with their individual societies. his brand of pessimism differs significantly. Its value is more than literary. but Marachera focuses the reader’s attention not on the events as abstractions. 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. AFROEUROPA . The story opens with a young revolutionary. whose young woman. and Africa.” is flogged night and day until she is reduced to a ‘red . Narration in The House of Hunger hinges on the intermittent retrospection of a ‘psychotic mind”. to his dormitory. Familiar events. has often turned his attention to the subject of oppression in postcolonial Africa.
Again. offering a macroscopic portrait of the black race from a perspective of the Zimbabwean experience. in general . Black sunlight chronicles the daily experiences in Zimbabwe. the relationship between her and Peter signifies the problem of betrayal of trust which is a pervading social phenomenon in neocolonial Africa. Marechera is disillusioned with the past. thus. In fact. the future of African continent. . anarchy and disorder. to the destruction that societies impose on the people they claim to serve. a press photographer is depicted roving across the span of a society that is in disorder. she. present. In this work. this form of verbal male violence is indicative of her father’s irritation at his own ignorance. however. Christian. becomes a motif in Marechera’s fiction. To Susan. in the dichotomy between the colonized man and woman. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES stain’ (2). The brutality inflicted on Immaculate is sexually motivated. Black Sunlight is an expansion of the socio-political problems of Africa already initiated in The House of Hunger. when he tells her to “shut up” after making love to her. dreams of a better future because she is pregnant. The issue of sociopolitical betrayal of women by their men. The story signifies that. two generations of men have betrayed Susan in curiously similar ways. The problem of sexism recurs in Black Sunlight. and deductively.Afroeuropa 3. Here. The experience of colonialism lingers on in the society through the binary dichotomy between men and women in the neocolonial period. AFROEUROPA . The text is couched in a fragmentary manner. in particular. showing that the society he depicts is in an era of turbulence. if not identical. giving hasty glimpses of the chaos. the colonized man becomes ‘the coloniser’ in a very specific sense. and the entire black world. Susan draws a similarity between her father and the protagonist.the story of the black race under the siege of socio-political intrigues and multiple forms of institutionalized violence. In the text. Using the trope of photography. Marechera gives a vivid view of the new strains and tensions plaguing the African society. For instance. Susan recognizes the violence inherent in her chosen task as similar. Therefore. 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.
Also. classes and rhetorics. regulations and codes” (1994:256). the politicians or the . He catalogues the sufferings of the downtrodden masses in the hands of their leaders. The above signifies the fate of the black masses in the hands of their neocolonial leaders. the views of women. Marechera still contributes to the debate on the quest for a viable political leadership in Africa through his works. Where. A careful reading of his texts reveals that leadership should be a selfless service devoid of all traces of corruption and brutality. AFROEUROPA . This suggests that the burden of the average African man is a double yoke. With courage. is the hope of African masses? The above highlighted episode suggests that despite his physical absence from his motherland. brutally murdered extra-judicially. 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!). This corroborates the opinion of Helene Cixous that “women… must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions. The image of the African masses depicted in the text is that of people being exploited. The masses of the society depicted in the text wallow in poverty. He was oppressed by the white colonialists and now by his own brothers and sisters. unemployment and socio-political alienation. in the novel. hanged or detained. What new madness had struck this messenger? White men indeed! The chief removed his fit from my head” (1). Marechera enunciates some instances of man’s inhumanity to man among the peoples of Africa. as black as human beginnings. These are apparently the skulls and finger bones of his victims. In Marechera’s fiction. starvation. The following scene in the text captures these gory experiences of the masses in Africa: “The chief. exemplified by Susan. then. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. 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). pondered. sexism and capitalism are portrayed as patriarchal concepts which can be dismantled only by women who are as brave as Susan. Susan is able to wreck sexual and rhetorical partitions in order to give birth to a new history. Therefore. gender dissonance in Black Sunlight is more eloquent and complex than the dream-versus-social-reality dialectic we encounter in The House of Hunger. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES In Black Sunlight. are not as trivial as the political perception of Immaculate in The House of Hunger.Afroeuropa 3.
a student to whom she had been engaged since she was eleven.Afroeuropa 3. the ‘mad-woman’ stereotypes that emerge when an African woman tries to resist patriarchy. Thus. to Jeremy Nwabudike and Alice Okwuekwu Emecheta. she was married to Sylvester Onwordi. At a tender age. His fiction produces a feeling of hollowness. Emecheta’s fictional cosmos is on the sexual exploitation of African women and the ‘monster’. he permits reality to comment on itself. Nigeria. she engages the trouble with her motherland. post-realist texts” (Neil Kortenaar. including child . 1944. even though he was in exile. What he has offered in his prose texts is a unique form of realism. she was orphaned. 1997:25). The marriage which was blessed with five children was an unhappy. In 1960. and it hit the rock in 1966. at the age of sixteen. 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. in Yaba. 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. he succeeded admirably in bridging the gap between the functional use of literature and the ability to stir humanity as a whole. Sylvester and Buchi moved to London. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. He does not comment directly on reality. AFROEUROPA . He also despises military dictatorship for being too assuming and over-zealous. She was conferred with the prestigious Order of the British Empire in 2005. Buchi Emecheta: Reversing the Image of the African Woman Florence Onye Buchi Emecheta was born on July 21. oft-violent one. 3. his works are “solipsistic. near Lagos. Here lies the hallmark of his fiction. In her texts. the ‘witch’. and she spent her early-childhood years being educated at a missionary school. After their marriage.
The liberal English setting obliges her to exercise certain rights. In addition. Her thematic leaning towards a redefinition of African womanhood is purposeful. we detect an increasing emphasis of the woman’s sense of self… (34). Lloyd Brown (1981) comments on the status of Buchi Emecheta as an African woman writer. This is informed by her personal agonizing experiences of male victimization and the single-mindedness with which she has successfully countered such hostilities. female independence and freedom. one notices an apparent ambivalent strain evident in her brand of feminism. For instance. she was able to obtain a divorce and gain custody of her children. However. In the Ditch and Second Class Citizen are feminist works in the tradition of Edna O’Brien and Kate Millet. She. motherhood. Buchi Emecheta of Nigeria has been the most sustained and vigorous voice of direct. therefore.Afroeuropa 3. especially in her non-autobiographical novels. her domicile in England has contributed immensely to her feminist growth. Only Bessie Head of South Africa compares with Emecheta in a certain intensity and directness when describing sexual inequality and female dependency. Says he: Of all women writers in contemporary African literature. exposes the harmfulness of patriarchy in her communities. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. AFROEUROPA . In most of her prose texts. she denounces the negative aspects of her traditional culture rather than celebrating its positives. The African society is predominantly patriarchal and would have greatly inhibited . This is as a result of her exposure to two cultures –African and European. dissipating the message of emancipation of the African womanhood. Actually. we have a depiction of the oppression of Igbo women in connection with the claim that colonialism. Since the suppression of women is a global phenomenon. classism and sexism are intertwined in the African women’s experience of oppression. Emecheta appears to be a frontline feminist. Emecheta’s first two novels. Writing from outside her native culture offers Emecheta a conducive atmosphere to dwell on the problem of cultural. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES slavery. In Emecheta. economic and gender oppression that African women are subjected to. feminist protest. the African woman is also on the march towards liberation in the literary sphere.
she extends it to the emancipation of the males. “Titi is only a girl” (71). my profession and my country (1981:2582). or any man who could represent a father to her. her personal victimization by the patriarchy and her exposure to the works of other feminists. They are just what the apparatus decree. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. In a traditional patriarchal society like Nigeria. this concept strongly persists.Afroeuropa 3. Emecheta says: Some people have said that a talk which I gave at the Africa Centre a few weeks ago is unpatriotic. Therefore. the narrator. Exposing further the status of the girl-child in Africa. or when she grew up a husband. as a writer cannot afford to tell my people what they want to hear.68). Second Class Citizen. Emecheta derives the title of her second novel. Consequently. She further muses on the inessentiality of the female when she observes unenthusiastically. So. The phobia for male children is further heightened in the reaction of Adah’s parents at her . he defines woman in relationship to himself. This idea is articulated in Emecheta’s The Slave Girl. Emecheta does not stop at cataloguing male hostilities. was not her brother the rightful person to decide the fate of little Ojebeta? (30). Emecheta. states through. Hear her: A girl needed men to guide her: her father. If I start doing that I would be betraying my conscience. The African society is depicted as a patriarchal world where man is the reference point. husband or brother. Sociology. from Simone de Beauvoir’s phrase. Her field of study. further exposes her to the sufferings of womanhood in various cultures. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES such actions by a woman. Her brand of sexual politics is not mediocre. she goes on to fight them. in The Slave Girl. the African women are portrayed as finding themselves perpetually trapped in this eternal triangle of the patriarchy. a combination of factors – her diasporic identity. but I.sharpen her consciousness. Commenting on her consistent narration of the woes in her motherland. that “a boy is like four girls put together” (p. one is aware that she is furthering the female cause. In reading her novels. This heightens her concern for this disadvantaged subgroup and awakens her urges for politics of the female plight. AFROEUROPA . The female has no autonomy outside the male who may be her father.
In marriage. one thing that binds Francis to Adah is her money. tasks erroneously supposed to be fulfilling. This novel attempts a denunciation of women’s entrapment between the expectations of the Igbo traditions and those of modernity. It is also significant that it is Ojebeta’s brother. an animal or a slave. in Second Class Citizen. since Francis has an aversion to work. such as a piece of furniture. Okolie in The Slave Girl. she was born when everyone in the family expected a male child.Afroeuropa 3. . A man purchases a woman in marriage as he would any item. The Slave Girl is. Okwuekwu Oda. she still would have been given away in marriage. Marriage is usually profit motivated. The actual marriage negotiation of NnuEgo and Amatokwo is solely conducted by the males of the family. The fact that the patriarchy regards the female as an object of amusement further reinforces his conception of her as a piece of property. Emecheta attempts to conscientize African women and make Africans redress their contributions to the subjugation of African women (Sarah Anyang Agbor. 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. her arrival was such a disappointment that her birth was not recorded. Had Ojebeta’s father. The word ‘possessing’ is significant in the context because what one normally possesses is a piece of property. 2008). REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES birth. who sells her into slavery to Ma Palagada. It is with ignominy that NnuEgo relinquishes her position as the head wife. they are both versions of slavery because they impede economic independence and self-expression. indispensable. in The Joys of Motherhood. is subjected to. to this effect. In this novel. It is ironic that a father is usually a very active participant in the drama that enacts the sale and subjugation of a daughter. In fact. the woman takes care of the home and bears children. In fact. Adah is the breadwinner and. been alive. Therefore. AFROEUROPA . bearing children is highly valued. Either way. When Francis. thus. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. These instances serve to highlight the disregard which plagues the female from infancy to adulthood in a patriarchal society like Africa. his father reassuringly reprimands him by observing that he should count himself lucky for ‘possessing’ such a wife. feels threatened over Adah’s pay packet. Childlessness in African society results to the type of mental agony and shame NnuEgo.
However. In her reaffirmation of feminism in Double Yoke. The female questing for independence is a victim of the duplicity of life. The myth of the “acada” (bookish) woman. 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. In the Ditch and Second-Class Citizen set in London. To Francis. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. Emecheta’s persona in Second-Class Citizen. Adah. in Double Yoke. marriage is depicted as an extension of female enslavement. characters considered from a historical perspective and placed in a rural context. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES In addition. Nko. Adah is like “a yoke-fellow whose labour was crucial if he were to prosper” (14). Emecheta creates a “new African woman”. Emecheta . At this juncture. One of Emecheta’s most recent texts. a woman remains under patriarchal dominance. The male characters are portrayed in negative images.Afroeuropa 3. Willful and persistent Emecheta counters male subjugation and achieves ‘selfhood’. the double standard morality pervading the African society is exposed. Invariably. sisterhood. she creates a literate female who successfully counters patriarchal victimization in the more modern and liberal atmosphere. thus reaffirming her feminist ideology with which she started. It also thematizes the issues of community. it is worth reiterating that Emecheta is a feminist writer as evinced in her autobiographical novels. experiences slavery in marriage in its crudest form. an emancipated female. as well as the sexual victimization that some females encounter is also explored in the text. In dealing with the preliterate African characters that are not extensions of herself. Through the metamorphosis of the heroine. her husband. kinship. also dwells on the modes of patriarchal suppression of the female in African society. AFROEUROPA . Emecheta’s feminism becomes ambivalent as in The Slave Girl and The Joys of Motherhood. In fact. the female is assessed by either whose daughter or whose wife she is but never by who she is. Emecheta advocates that the liberated woman grows simultaneously with the modern African man. In addition. that is. in the text. Her father sees her as a means through which his desired ends can be achieved. Married or single. 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. Kehinde. multiculturalism and shifting identities as they affect Nigerians both at home in the Diaspora.
Thus. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. In this way.E. What Emecheta embarks upon in Kehinde. is ready to return home on the prompting of his sisters. her hope dream is not fulfilled as she is given only a secondary position in relation to her husband. in Kehinde. is more pragmatic and realistic. which she finds more comfortable and convenient than her original home. an idealist. The husband (Albert). the eponymous heroine of the text. but the wife (Kehinde). Kehinde feels isolated and ridiculed during her stay at her father’s household. She does not feel comfortable in her home country after a long absence: “she found herself once more relegated to the margin” (Kehinde. Nigeria. therefore. London is. 97). However. 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. her perception is inevitably shaped by her hybrid consciousness which is a feature of post-colonial writing (M. in a conservative patriarchy as African’s. in exile. . The protagonist. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES dwells on the predicament of African woman in the postcolonial period. her home. she does not miss Nigeria. with a view to arguing that in Kehinde. AFROEUROPA . when she gets back to London. Adjustment will certainly occur in the consciousness of the male who eventually will have to accept the “new African woman”. Consequently. is a bold and remarkable quest.M Kolawole. Emecheta has lived in Britain for more than four decades. dreamt of visiting a nation (Nigeria) which would not relegate her to the margins. therefore. Nigeria is depicted as a nation where dreams and hopes are shattered. prefers to stay behind at her ‘home’. She.Afroeuropa 3. Her redefinition of African womanhood in the text is both positive and radical. her identity is always open and surprising to those who expect coherence from her (82). Kehinde. Emecheta’s narrates herself: Kehinde’s feelings could be a reflection of Emecheta’s ambivalence towards Nigerian and English – or Western – societies. The text dwells on the ideological conflict between couples. 1998). Thus. She takes what she thinks is the best for her from both worlds and stays in the transition area. Ana Arce (2000) comments critically on the possible link between Kehinde and Emecheta. This is an appropriate ideological posture that aims to rock the patriarchal foundation on which the stereotypic female portrait is set.
marginalize and contrive to enslave women. Akachi Ezeigbo (1996) also corroborates Davies’s evaluation of the utilitarian value of Emecheta’s fiction. Conclusion The foregoing discussion has revealed that the prevailing point of view in the fictions of Africans in Europe is critical and rather pessimistic. but feel they are fulfilling a social function. they are sensitive and exciting artists who are not “dancing to receive gifts”. Actually. Whatever the influences of the writers may be. 4. For instance. an Osu or slave descendant . To Ezeigbo. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. therefore. Carole Boyce Davies (1981:9). Emecheta’s fiction “exposes the injustices lined up against women so that society could be restructured in a more equitable manner”. at the forefront of defending the rights of African women. It is our contention in this paper that Marechera and Emecheta’s prose texts do lead to precisely such a powerful. profound and evocative (re)assessment of the individual author’s motherland. AFROEUROPA . an outcast from the society. but surely not negative. Aku-nna. the texts examined in this paper. In fact. They transmit a vivid picture of the socio-historical realities of their enabling . Emecheta offers a biting critique of Igbo cultural traditions that oppress. cast a critical and sardonic look over the social physiology of the continent. 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. She also articulates protests against the overwhelming power of tradition in African societies. One easily notices the familiar distaste of the writers for the ‘gleam’. The future fills the continent with foreboding and apprehension. delusion and unfulfilled expectations of the present social period in postcolonial Africa. rebels against the oppressive tradition of her society by choosing her own husband regardless of societal rules. the protagonist of The Bride Price. but it hopes to arrive.Afroeuropa 3. Her effrontery to choose Chike Ofulue. Emecheta’s fiction examines African “societies for institutions which are of value to women and reject[ing] those that work to their detriment”. She is. like many other fictions of the African Diaspora. is Emecheta’s way of exposing on the social foibles of her motherland.
Despite the disparity in individual experiences. Their artistic mission is to present an image of Africa that is ruined by the rancour of decadence. although distinctively different from one another in that they convey different personal experiences of the same neocolonial disillusionment.Afroeuropa 3. what remains unchanged is the agonizing historical cum political epoch of Africa itself and its inscription in the mental register of a continent. The narratives of Africans in Europe. sociohistorical and political realities are foregrounded in literary texts through the employment of certain images and metaphors” (35). AFROEUROPA . Ayo Kehinde (2008) makes a similar observation about African fiction: “in the various periods of African literature. and they are meticulously interrogating the conditions of human existence and (un)recorded history of African neocolonies. are still joined by the need to express such memories and expose the misdeeds of the African neocolonial rulers to the world. 1 (2009) Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved ISSN: 1887-3456. African fiction writers in Europe are truly translating reality into language. . Therefore. REVISTA DE ESTUDIOS AFROEUROPEOS JOURNAL OF AFROEUROPEAN STUDIES REVUE DES ÉTUDES AFROEUROPÉENNES milieus and offer an insight into various aspects of the realities.
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