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Architecture of a National Literature in Africa: Problematics of Identity and Structure Author(s): Michael C.

Mbabuike Reviewed work(s): Source: Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des tudes Africaines, Vol. 29, No. 3 (1995), pp. 482-495 Published by: Canadian Association of African Studies Stable URL: . Accessed: 20/04/2012 12:05
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Architecture of a National Literature in Africa: Problematics of Identity and Structure Michael C. Mbabuike

Literary historians and analysts continue to debate and quarrel over the concepts and definitions of literature in Africa. The general discourse revolves around the relevancy, possibility, and practicality of a national literature within or beyond the territorial confines of African countries. Quite often, great writers and literary philosophers of Africa propose divergent views of the meanings, functions, style, language, and architecture of African literature. Not only does the colonial heritage divide, but most importantly, ideological and local realities shape and influence African writers differently. The most obvious element in this balkanization of African literature is language, both European and ethnic languages. Leopold Sedar Senghor praises French, canonizing it as "the languageof the gods"; Chinua Achebe emphasizes the merits of English as one of the principal media of communication in a multiethnic nation; James Ngugi resolves to write only in his native Gikuyi, but teaches at New York University. The concept of a national literature in Africa, therefore,poses a difficult question. African literature, similar to the history and ethnographyof all Africa, is complex, large, and diverse. Also, along the lines of Africa's experiences in the last five hundredyears, it has undergoneextensive and debilitating marginalization and balkanization. The conference held in Berlin in 1884-85, under the aegis of Bismarck,finalized and consolidated the scramble for, and partition of, Africa. The act abolished existing demographic and national boundariesand creatednew territories,without considerationfor ethnic and ecstatic traditions. ContemporaryAfrica inherited these colonial creations of new countries and boundaries; different ethnic groups were forced to share nationalities; traditional kingdoms were abolished; in fact, nothing remained the same. It becomes very problematicto conceive a national literature within these newly carvedout countries, yet it is equally impossible to apply the term "national literature"to all of Africa. How, then, do we define a national literature?The term could mean the totality of literary creations of a nation, for example, of Senegal, Nigeria, or Kenya. This literature becomes national in the sense that all of the creators


Mbabuike: Architecture of a National Literature in Africa

of this literature have undergone a common experience since colonialism, and their works, written in the same language, discuss the same themes. However, national literature is also problematic when we consider that in an African country today, there are several ethnic groups, each with its own language, culture, and world view. Is it easier then, or ideal, to speak of ethnic literatures within the same country? The Berlin conference created a challenge to all of Africa. Africans, consequently, fought back. However, the bitter socio-political and military confrontations between the European and African worlds resulted in the political and econo-cultural domination of the continent by invaders who were determined to condemn and eliminate all that appeared different from their own understanding of the universe. The means to accomplish this were slavery, Christianization, euro-scholarization, secularization, and western imperialism. One rallying point for all Africa was their common fate and suffering under various colonial administrations. The first group of young Africans, from both Africa and the Black Diaspora, who were educated in various capitals of the West, became politically conscious of their situation in the world. They then started to ask questions. A painful and bitter socio-political and cultural struggle ensued, nationalism and Negritude becoming major weapons of combat for them. These young Africans, who wrote before and after the two world wars, became the fathers of African independence: Senghor, Aime Cesaire, Leon Damas, Azikiwe, Nkurumah, Nyerere, Kenyatta, and others. The war was waged in books, poems, novels, and dramas depicting Africa's past glories, protests, and claims. These fathers of African independence have bequeathed to their people great volumes of writing that form part of the foundations of contemporary African literature. However, as African countries gained independence and emphasized their territorial boundaries, the great militant lyric poetry that had prevailed in the pre-independence period disappeared. While post-colonial African novels, poetry, and drama give new scope and interpretations to African literature, post-colonial authors express their hopes, disappointments, and, especially, their undying attachment to mother Africa. Written works and objectives have both multiplied and changed. Africa has become the main focus of their work: Mongo Betti, Kamara Laye, Ousemane Sembene, Ngugi, Achebe, Cyprain Ekewensi, Wole Soyinka, and others. They provide incisive critiques of contemporary Africa. Most try to find a middle ground where the best of the West and of Africa can combine to fit the needs of new African nations. Politics, corruption, nepotism, poverty, and cultural hybridization have become the new themes and preoccupations of today's writers who are now the mouth, head, and conscience of their people. John Ekwere of Nigeria in his poem "Rejoinder" extols a major message in African literature: that


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contemporary African writers should now be concerned primarily with Africa and take part in correcting any anomalies that exist: Now no more the pale-facedstrangers with unhallowed feet. The heritageof our fathersprofane now no missioned benevolent despots bull-doze on unwilling race no more the foreignhawks on alien chickens prey. But we on us (1962, 68). For some of these contemporary writers, "national literature" is too limiting a term. They feel that the present-day territorial boundaries contradict their global or continental view of literature. The multiplicity of nations in Africa makes this notion even more problematic. Many countries harbor the same ethnic groups, use a European language as the lingua franca, and have undergone the same colonial experiences. Some such as Ahmadou Kourouma, author of Les Soleils des Independence, argue that it would make more sense to classify African literature in Euro-linguistic groups: Francophone, Anglophone, Arabophone, Hispanophone, and Lusophone. But the question here is whether a national literature peculiar to each country exists within a linguistic grouping. For example, is a common Euro-linguistic heritage sufficient to generate a national literature? Within these countries, ethnic languages start to emerge and dominate oral expression, giving birth to new forms of linguistic innovations: pigin French and a new form of English, which are based on local ethnic languages such as Kourouma in The Suns of Independence and Achebe in Things Fall Apart and other works. Also, can a common colonial heritage overcome differing ethnocentrism within these African countries? Again, how far are European languages apt to shape and express Africa national literature? Finally, who are the consumers of literature written in European languages? Many African writers worry about their audience: the majority of Africans remain illiterate and, therefore, unable to read and understand European languages. Audio-visual literature sometimes serves as a solution, but it has limited applications. In colonial Africa, filmed documentaries were often used to instruct people on the issues, history, and politics of Europe. Many of the documentaries were silent movietones, but some were spoken in European languages. Often, interpretations of the films' contents were given to natives who were illiterate in European languages and could only understand the films in their native ones. Contemporary African socio-literary activists - Ousemane Sembene, Momar Thiam, Mohama F. Traore, and Tidiane Aw - resort to audio-visualism to bring their works to the masses.


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They believe that their works have not arrived at their ultimate destinations unless they are appreciated and understood by the masses of the inner cities and the hinterlands. These novelist-cineasts maintain that the western-educated African audience is not sufficiently committed to socio-political justice to benefit from their novels. More often than not, this westernized audience, in addition to the politicians, is the enemy on the other side of national debates. Meanwhile, however, the popular masses continue to face the problems of both the written word and European languages. Language choice is a question that will never disappear from the pages of literary criticism of, and debate on, African literature. One must consider, after all, the economics of producing literature in the continent. Readership of written works continues to expand but, at the same time, eludes greater proportions of the populace. In West and East Africa, for example, more people read works written in European languages than ones in the vernacular. David Westley may be overstating the facts when he writes: Ngugi and many other Kenyans make a strong point for reaching the people through their own languagein a continent where most people do not know any Europeanlanguages,much less readthem (1992, 164). He further asserts that Ngugi's works are always confiscated before they reach the people. But then, one may ask, how many of Ngugi's people read and write Gikuyi? Ngugi's insistence on writing in his native tongue is laudable but not practical. Almost one hundred percent of sales come from the English versions of his works. All his students at New York University hear his lectures and read his books in English. The people-oriented African writers do not consider their works finished unless these works are turned into films whose decor, characters, and language are completely vernacular. These authors, including Sembene and Betti, have thus introduced audiovisualism to African literature. The native populations have been used to watching films and documentaries since colonial days; now they frequent modern cinemas in urban centers all over the continent. It is, therefore, the surest means of reaching the people and bringing both entertainment and a message to them. The politics of audio-visualism in Africa is such that the authorities deliberately select certain individuals to be friends of the government; they then offer these people assistance in the production of their films. Other authors, stigmatized by the regimes all over Africa, are left without any subsidy, often persecuted, and even physically eliminated for their radical, anti-estalishment views. One must remember that literacy on the continent is still very low about thirty percent in some areas and lower in others - and this problem of illiteracy is also vernacular. But the original authors of works that are filmed, produced on stage, or spoken in the local vernacular enjoy many advantages.


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For instance, the author talks directly to his audience - his own people who are very dear to him - whom he wants to entertain, inspire, and, especially, arouse to action. Only the native vernacular, which uses local decor, idioms, proverbs, and various nuances of the people's own language, can reach and touch them in such a manner. Ngugi realized this particular use of the vernacular among autochthons. Commending the reactions of villagers to his Nguahika Ndeenda, he attributes the play's success to the vernacular used it: the And because there was no languagebarrier, villagerscould also comment on the content of the play.There was no mystification of the play'smessage - they could now participatein correctingthe content of the script (Mbele 1992, 146). Language stands out, therefore, as one of the major factors militating against a national literature in any given African country. African intellectuals have mastered European languages, and most of them are obliged to write in these foreign languages as a means of reaching all ethnic groups in their respective countries. In addition, some critics and writers believe that because they write in European languages, African writers receive international exposure. Thus, both African writers and literature continue to be assessed and categorized by forces outside of Africa. Not only the subject of the work, but also the style and, specifically, language in which it is written, also continue to create numerous controversies all over Africa. The frequently asked, but never satisfactorily answered, question is whether European languages express and do justice to African thought and feelings. We should remember those prophetic words of Caliban to Prospero: You taught me language,andI know how to curse. The plague rid you Forlearningme your language. African writers, such as Achebe, Ngugi, Sembene, Soyinka, Buchi Emecheta, and others, have more than once delved into the language controversy involved in creating literature. The more militant among them earnestly believe that African cultural identity is being smothered by the increasing use of European languages to express Africa's reality. Although some writers do not consider "language" a major problem today, resentment abounds, particularly among those who claim that the rigid and inevitable use of foreign languages kills their mother tongues. They cite the ethno-linguist, Benjamin Lee Whorf, who claims that it is the language people speak at birth that shapes and structures their realities of life and sense of justice, good, and self. How, then, can a foreign language, more precisely European languages, express African realities and cultural nuances? For most Africans, European

487 Mbabuike:Architecture of a National Literaturein Africa languages, especially their written versions, are still unfamiliar.With thousands of ethnic groupsall over Africa and with each Africancountry harboring hundreds of ethnics, it might seem that Europeanlanguages satisfy the imperatives of political expediency and solve many of the socio-linguistic conflicts that would exist if one ethnic languagewere chosen over the others. Some critics would argue, however, that by adopting a Europeanlanguage as a lingua franca, an African country sacrifices its cultural soul and identity in favorof an artificial linguistic unity.
Alain Ricard (1976, 1987, 1993) explains that literary creation is, first of

all, a linguistic creativity and that in Africa, as in other places, it is not a question of overhauling linguistic heritage, but of exploring and exploiting all its virtues. Malchily Gassama insists:
Our black writers must first think in their maternal languagesand then transpose their ideas into a borrowedlanguage,a "foreign"languagelearnt not from birth, but at an age where their senses have been impacted upon by all sorts of
solicitations (1978, I9).

Willard Quine (1969) would argue that individuals do not think in borrowed languages. Rationalizations, thinking processes, and evaluative references are normally carried out in one's original language, and all efforts or exercises to express one's innermost feelings and values in a language other than one's mother tongue could only end in approximations(Quine 1960, 26). The application of such a line of reasoning would, therefore, jeopardize the expression of African ethnic literatures in European languages and further complicate the structure and identity of a national literature in any country of Africa today. Quine's theory would result in the excessive production of tribal literatures whose only audience would be members of that ethnic group. It would also limit both exchange and knowledge, as each people and race would keep to itself and its literary productions. Nevertheless, according to Quine, an ethnic, as opposed to a national, literature would emphasize the cultural patrimony of different ethnic components of a country or race. But this is obviously a literature of exclusion that will, instead of enriching, diminish cultural interaction. Literature in ethnic languages should exist equally in a language common to all members of the nation, despite the demerits of linguistic approxima-

tions. One of the proposed remedies for multilinguistic obstacles to a

national literature is the translation of all ethnic literatures into all the ethnic languages of a given country, including its borrowed European language. Apart from the various logistical problems of such an effort, numerous other handicaps would, if not completely destroy, greatly impoverish the texts. Many African countries do not even possess the financial and technological means to handle such adventuresome projects. And even when such massive


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translations are completed, the text would only be a linguistic and content approximation. Noam Chomsky would disagreewith the approximationtheory. Individuals are capable of thinking and expressing their thoughts in different languages simultaneously (Chomsky 1972, 81). Children and adults of multi-

cultural amd multiethnic backgroundsare equally fluent in all the languages to which they are exposed. Furthermore, Chomsky stipulates that all humans possess "common linguistic clues" that facilitate perfect multilingualism (Chomsky 1972, 66). It is, therefore, hoped that different ethnic groups in an African country, taking advantageof their common socio-economic and political situations, would increase and maintain interethnic, socio-linguistic socialization and that soon languagewould no longer be the barrierto a common literature- a national one. Some other critics maintain that since within African countries there are also ethnic minorities, writers of minority ethnic groupswould better serve their people by writing in European languagesfor exposure and wider audience. Forthese supportersof foreign languageuse, any author could write in any languageof choice. Forsome others, Africashould, while using Europeanlanguages,promote and keep African languages alive. Achebe writes equally magnificently in Igboas in English. Ngugi uses Gikuyi as comfortablyas he uses English. The African writer Africanizes a Europeanlanguage,manipulating the borrowed language to express his sociocultural needs, sometimes inventing unusual expressions that have not, until now, been found in European literature, often making mockery of the language, but, most importantly, reaching a wider audience internationally.Writingin The Growth of the African Novel, Eustace Palmer comments that Achebe alters English to reflect native Nigerian languagesin use. Palmerobserves:
Without seriously distorting the nature of the English, Achebe deliberately introduces the rhythms, speech patterns, idioms and other verbal nuances of Ibo.... The effect of this is that while everyonewho knows Englishwill be able to understandthe work and find few signs of awkwardness,the readeralso has a sense, not just of Black men using English, but of Black Africans speakingand living in a genuinely BlackAfricanruralsituation (Palmer1972, 6o).

In fact, the market demand for published works in Europeanor African languages determines, to a greater extent, the politics of publishing. Some critics argue that most African literature is published and sold outside the continent where readership is plenty. Many of the great novels of Africa have been translated into almost all European languages; then they are sold as sources of foreign exchange. These critics cite very few African novels translated into African languages. In fact, Anglophone Africans are often ignorant of Francophone and Lusophone African literature because of linguistic and

489 Mbabuike:Architecture of a National Literaturein Africa neo-colonial barriers. At the conference of the Dakar Biennial, held in December 199o, a committee was formed to look into this problem and to find the means of facilitating the translationof literaryworks into both other Africanlanguagesand the differentEuropeanlanguagesused in various parts of Africa. The ever fluctuating economic woes of Africa are responsible for the sad state of the publishing and translation industry. Inflation and the general indigency of the masses force writers into economic exile in Europe and America; this exodus contributes to the brain drain plaguing the continent. There is an obvious increase in the internationalization of the Africanvoice through the written works that arepublished in the industrializednations of North America and Europe.As long as socio-political and economic strife continue to affect Africanpeoples, African literaturewill, therefore,remain outside the continent; as Senghor would put it, this literature is "une jazz orpheline qui sanglotte, sanglotte, sanglotte" (an orphaned jazz which weeps, weeps, weeps) (Mbabuike1989, 30). In this way, Africa will continue to lose, because African literature, while treating universal themes, should benefit, first and foremost, all of Africa.While in exile, it exerts a minimum impact on the people back home, while forAfricansin both political and economic exile in terra aliena, it serves as a nostalgic reminder of what could have been, for some, a badgeof identity. African writers, following the traditions of their bardsand griots, serve as the pulse and mouthpiece of the people. Through their writing, they comment on socio-political subjects. The thematic thrust of their novels, poems, and plays explores Africa'srelationships with the outside world and Africa's handling of its own problems. Nationalism, negritude, and assimilationist policies have become an integral part of this literature of affirmation and protest. The sociopolitical and economic tendencies of the continent are depicted variously to correspondwith the different Europeancultural and linguistic divides of Africa. Soyinka, Achebe, Ngugi, and other Anglophone writers, for instance, would insist on that version of nationalism that reluctantly compromises with neocolonialist and neoimperialist interests in Africa. The Francophones,meanwhile, spend inordinate time and energy world order,and most writers begging acceptance into the French-controlled under South African regimes labor for either recognition or mere physical survival because of the persistent vicissitudes of diabolic apartheid, even years after its abolition. Even where there are common themes and concerns, the approachesto solutions conspicuously vary in the written and oral literature from the different areas of Europeaninfluence in Africa.Soyinka and some other Anglophone writers ridiculed the whole concept of negritudethat was spearheaded by Senghor,Damas, and Ceasair.The notion of "meti-culturalism"does not


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agree with most Anglophones who feel strongly that the Francophones have sold out. In this regard, they often cite as an example Senghor's "Pribre aux Paix," in which he declares that France occupies a special part in his heart and prays to God to specially forgive France. For them, the Francophone West Indians are often too angry, turbulent, and coercive, not having experienced the tranquility and continuity of growing up in the African ancestral land. Some critics argue that while African literature does exist, regional and national literatures on the continent reflect the multicultural and multiethnic diversity of Africa, and herein lies the beauty and strength of this literature. European literature, after all, also includes French, English, German, and Irish literatures, all of which are written in their languages. These European languages are greatly responsible for determining the real nature of European literature. The language question is, therefore, unavoidable. African regional literatures may thus be better served if written in their native languages. Francis Bacon would argue that, "men imagine that their minds have the command of language, but it often happens that language bears rule over their minds" (Churchill 1986, 61). However, others maintain that it does not matter what language a writer uses; instead, what counts is how he makes use of that language. These critics claim that a language is universal. Abdelhak Serhane, in his clumsy attempt to universalize language, thus asks: Which language?They don't know that you write in your own language.It or another one is always your homeland. You are the languagethat you use. But doesn'tbelong to anyone. It doesn'thave boundyou arenot its slave - Language aries. It belongs to everyone who uses it (1992, 189). One may agree with Serhane that by loving a language, a writer can use that loved language better, but if that language is foreign to the writer, it may not be capable of expressing all the intricate cultural and socioreligious minds of the writer, nor of the writer's people. The debate will always ask the question whether a foreign language can really "express all the passion, all the anguish, all the elements, all the suns, all the memories.. ." (Serhane 1992, I89). One is inclined to cite as examples very successful writers who have used foreign languages most creatively: Achebe, Soyinka, Diop, Senghor, and others. These writers may agree with Achebe when he concludes: The Africanwriter should aim to use Englishin a way that bringsout his message best without alteringthe languageto the extent that its value as a medium of the international exchange will be lost. He should aim at fashioning out an English which is universal and able to carry his peculiar experience (Achebe
1975, Ioo).

It is now said that the world is becoming such a universal village where language barriers may soon be a thing of the past. Until this happens, however,


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the Wolof "Nagedef" and the Igbo "Iputago Ula" will continue not only to shower ceremonial greetings, but also to go beyond words to each ethnic group's sense of respect, love, and brotherhood. Another critic, K.R. Angogo, praises Achebe's "ability to shape and mold English to suit character and event and yet still give the impression of an African story" (1983, 19). Ahmadou Kourouma, in all his writing in French, and especially in Les Soleils des Independences, uses copious idioms, proverbs, and rhetorics of the Malinke ethnic group. Malinke words and expressions are used exactly as they are in the language of his people, in a word-by-word translation into French. Achebe addresses this problem when he explains his own thinking on the language controversy: ... Of course there areareasof Africawhere colonialism dividedup a single ethnic group among two or three powers. But on the whole it did bring together many peoples that had hitherto gone their severalways. And it gave them a language with which to talk to one another.... What I do see is a new voice coming out of Africa,speakingof Africanexperience in a world-wide language.So my answer to the question "Can an African ever learn English well enough to be able to use it effectively in creative writing?" is certainly yes. If on the other hand you ask, "Canhe ever learn to use it like a native speaker?" should say, I hope not. It is neither necessarynor desirI able for him to be able to do so. The price a world languagemust be prepared to is submission to many different kinds of use .... He [the African writer] pay should aim at fashioning out an English which is at once universal and able to carryhis peculiar experience"(1975, 10x). Further, Senghor's attachment to French language is more than a passing fancy, but an integral part of his multicultural experience. In postscript to "Ethiopique," he sings his love for the French language: I know its [French]resources from having tasted it, chewed it, taught it, and I know it is the languageof the gods. ... It is in turn, or simultaneously, the flute, the trumpet, the tam-tam, and even the cannon. And Frenchhas given us the gift of its restrictedwords- so rarein our mother language- where tearsbecome precious stones. With us our words are naturally haloed with blood and strength;the tones of Frenchglitter with a thousand fires, like diamonds.Rockets that light our night" (Senghor1964, 355). We may not agree completely with Senghor's evaluation of French, especially with his comparison of French to his African language; nevertheless, Senghor succeeds in using French to express and emphasize his cultural heritage and his burning negritude. But Daniel P. Kunene, in his essay on "African Language Literature: Tragedy and Hope," underscores the importance of European and African languages in African literature. Kunene further warns


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that if African critics do not take charge of their own fate and their own languages by promoting the use of the vernacular in African literature, these African critics will have themselves to blame. Kunene insists "that there are two streams of literature on the African continent, namely literatures in the European languages ("African" Literature) and literatures created in several hundred African languages spread throughout the continent" (1992, Io). Discussing the nature of African literature in European languages, Jean Paul Sartre, in his Black Orpheus, suggests: "Since the oppressor is present even in the language that Africans speak, they will use that language to destroy him" (1963, 24). Many pan-Africanists such as Nkrumah, Nyerere, Azikiwe, and others would agree with this view of Sartre regarding the use of the European language to fight euro-imperialism, but Kunene and others would argue that such unity belongs to political demands and not to the artistic creativity needed for producing literary works. African literature written in African languages has a much better effect on the people than do works written in European languages. This is especially evident when we compare the reactions of two groups of Africans who have read the same work in different languages, the vernacular and a European language (Ngugi 1986, 44). Akinwumi Isola, discussing the importance of using, promoting, and sustaining African languages in African literature, warns: The rich resources of African languages,Literature,religion, culture, and Philosophy are being tappedonly to be hurriedlytranslatedand given literaryform in a foreignlanguage,where they remainforeverinaccessible to the originalproducers of these materials.Under such circumstances, the traditionalpurposeof literature is being bastardizedin contemporaryAfrica(1992, 17). Some other African writers have condemned the use of European languages, complaining that their native languages are disappearing and giving their place to European languages, thus increasing cultural hybridization among Africans. The only viable way to combat this linguistic and cultural marginalization, according to such writers, is to refuse all foreign languages and write only in native languages. Niyi Osundare expresses his thoughts on the language issue in these soul-searching words: The way out of the problem is surely not a furtherdesperate,but all-too-often thwartedstriving formastery in the white man'slanguage,but ratherin an honest and single-minded cultivation of the indigenous languages by plumbing their artistic depths and discoveringtheir expressive possibilities. The creative writer should be right in the forefrontin this vanguardfor linguistic homecoming. Ngugi has alreadyshown the way. The future of Africanliteratureand culture belongs to African languages; European languages may peep from the


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Caliban not periphery, certainly the center.Forno matterhow heroically may he canneverhopeto beatProspero his own linguisticgame(1992,88). at try, This type of attitude concerning the use of Europeanand African languages further exacerbates the incongruities surrounding a national literature in any given African country. When literature is written in an ethnic language that excludes almost all the other ethnic groupsin that country, the question then is whether this promotes ethnic, tribal literatureor literature of exclusion. Would such a practice then make African literature a loose confederation of independent ethnic literatures?The importance and impact of ethnic cosmology are indisputable factors in characterformation. It is culture that gives the writer "the depths of experience"(Said 1989, 205-25). Senghorwarns that writers of African descent must write to paradetheir Africanity- in terms of style, diction, and themes - no matter what language they use. He insists that Africanpoetry must drawits resources and inspiration from native roots and cultural milieu. Senghor expresses it thus: "It is enough for me to name things, those elements of my childhood kingdom, to prophesy the City of Tomorrow that would be born from the ashes of the Past, and that is the mission of the poet" (1961, 34). The critic Thomas Melon emphasizes this vital bond of the writer to his universe: The importance the land that sustainsthe naturallanguage of need not be It the that fromall directions, proved. explains intensityofemotions oftenspurt it delimitsGeography, circumscribes localfieldinsidewhichthe influence the of a traditional and are sphere, cosmology, religion senseof belonging practiced as well as the deepforceswhichformandshapethe infantilepersonality. We discoverit againin Mythology. otherwords,in the highestformsof local In
color (1970, 43).

Many Africanauthors have successfully used the experiencesof their "childhood kingdom" to write their great works, even in European languages. Senghor,for example, writes in French and translates his people's tales and fables into French. His writing is living testimonial of bicultural and bilingual experiences. Okigbo wrote about African, or more exactly, Igbo themes and values in classical English. Laye,Kourouma,Oyono, Awoonor,Ekwensi, and others have also used Europeanlanguages well enough to underscore their negritude. Have these novelists, poets, and dramatistscreated national literatures in their respective countries?Again, must a national literaturebe determined by the nationality of its writers, the nationality of its audience, or its themes and events as experiencedby the entire nation or country? We are confrontedwith diverse and differingopinions on a national literature in Africa. Some believe that a national literature comprises all the literary works by writers of the same country written in the same foreign

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language, or in an official language of the state, a type of lingua franca. All

African nations can pride themselves on having a national literature, even if

all the writerstreatopposing differing and themes.Otherswouldarguethat

colonization has balkanizedAfricanliteratureand that no country can right-

the Is fully claim the existenceof a nationalliterature. a nationalliterature

totality of all works of literature - written or oral, contemporary or traditional - produced in different languages, but within the same territorial boundaries of one country? Questions still abound, unanswered and pressing. Senghor, and others would wish that all of African literature, with its mosaic of cultures and values, glow under one umbrella of Africa, that classification and categorization by states end, and that African literature become one and the same literature of all of Africa. Edward Said, Homi Baba, Benedict Anderson, Achebe, Ngugi, and many others have painstakingly discussed the linguistic structure and context of African literature. Their "sermons," while casting some light on the issue, nevertheless sow more confusion, create more contradictions, and leave readers and critics not only with feelings of hopelessness and emptiness, but also with a burning desire to comprehend the very meaning of African literature.

Achebe, Chinua. 1975. MorningYetOn CreationDay. New York:Doubleday. Angogo, KanyoroR. 1983. Unity in Diversity: A Linguistic Surveyof the Abaluyia of WesternKenya.Wien:Afro-Pub. Chomsky, Noam. 1972. Languageand Mind. New York:HarcourtBraceJovanovitch. Churchill, RobertPaul. 1986. Becoming Logical.New York:St. Martin'sPress. In Ekwere,John. 1962. "Rejoinder." Reflections:NigerianProseand Verse,edited by F. Ademola. Lagos:AfricanUniversities Press. Gassama, Malchily. 1978. "In Kuma:Interrogationsur la litterature nagre de langue frangaise."Nouvelle Edition Africaine (Dakar/Abidjan): 19. Isola, Akinwumi. I992. "The African Writer'sTongue."Research in African LiteraLiterature: Kunene, Daniel P. 1992. "African-Language Tragedyand Hope." Research
in African Literatures 23, no. I: 7-17. tures 23, no. i: 17-26.

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