Why African Literature ?

Over the past couple of years, I have spent a big chunk of my reading-life, reading and even sometimes re-reading books authored by Africans. This has got nothing to do with me being over-patriotic or too nepotistic but rather in a nutshell as a means of self-rediscovery, or in other words rediscovering my African-ness. I have gotten much enthralled along the line and the relish with which I jump unto my next book or at an opportunity to buy quality African books at a bargain price has grown fervently if not dramatically with time. The question on why African literature is important, is one that has lingered in my labyrinth of mind for quite sometime and I find this medium offered by afrikult requisite to word my thoughts on this very topic.

A couple of months ago, I chanced upon at my local library “The African Trilogy”, a compilation of three novels written by the late Chinua Achebe, namely Things Fall Apart, No Longer At Ease and Arrow of God. I once again jumped at this opportunity and borrowed the book, even though I had already read all the three novels, separately on different occasions. One would ask why would I decide to read novels I’ve already read. The introduction of this trilogy by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie somehow answers this question. In her introduction, she clearly re-emphasizes on the legacy of Mr. Achebe’s writings, the opportunities and the priceless inspiration he has inadvertently given to writers like herself. She further reiterates that “the strangeness of seeing oneself distorted in literature – and indeed of not seeing oneself at all was part of my childhood. My early writing mimicked the books I was reading: all my characters were white and all my stories were set in England. Then I read Things Fall Apart. It was glorious of discovery. I did not know in a concrete way until then that people like me could exist in literature. Here was a book unapologetically African.” African literature arguably is a journey to self rediscovery and the mannerism, diction and sometimes proverb-filled nuances are a spectacle to behold and this relay how exhilarating African literature is and sometimes the only option left is to read the story again.

Literature is a very indelible compartment of a community’s culture. It plays a huge and formidable role in the way of life of a particular group of people and that is exactly what African literature does. It holds the fibre of the society together. The themes of African literature mimic in every sense of the word the true Africa, they may differ from country to country or from sub-region to sub-region but the stories’ african-ness is always noticeable. African literature brings into light, the daily life experiences of the average African, from various angles and through different nuances which can be as blunt as it can be. These stories can be either real or fictitious and each of the aforementioned has its own sparkle it brings to the whole piece. African literature therefore portrays through the eyes of a native to the outside world what the real Africa is all about, our dreams and innovations, our successes and challenges.

More over, African literature serves as a means of education and entertainment. A new word has even been carved “edutainment” and that says it all. African literature began since time immemorial, from our ancestors telling folk tales every night, while children sat around log fire to get the elephant share of the story till today where every potential idea is being properly documented. It educates us on various aspects of our heritage and the state of affairs of our continent, pointing out categorically to the everyday issues. The imaginations and nostalgia birthed after reading these stories are simply priceless and our creative impetus are being further enhanced.

As culture is integral to the existence of a particular group of people, so is African literature very indelible to all and sundry. The best we can do as a people is to continue to patronize African literature and this will obviously help both the established writers and the up-and-coming writers not to give up on their trade. With all that said, I cogitate also that we make good use of the available materials and platforms that we are very much privileged to have in this generation.

To end this piece, here’s just a line from NoViolet Bulawayo‘s debut novel We Need New Names, “he doesn’t tell Aunt Fostalina she looks good, like I’ve heard other people do; he tells her she looks like sunrise” and that’s the kind of spark African literature brings to the conversation. African literature will forever be as important as ever.

POWER CRISIS IN GHANA

A couple of days ago, I rang a relative in Ghana to have just a usual conversation on random issues that a typical weekend telephone call would give rise to. As a result of the recurring inter-continental time difference, it was around 21:00 GMT at my end and 19:00 GMT in Ghana, in the course of our conversation, she said that everyone was asleep by then, so I was a little bit taken aback and wondered why everyone would be asleep by that time, so I enquired and her response was that there was no electricity power or in a contemporary educated Ghanaian English, the lights were off. This prompted me to pen down this piece on the current power crisis facing the country.

Upon the announcement of the low-shedding exercise in 2008: when every community had an apportioned but very familiar schedule with regard to its own electricity supply. Almost everyone was well-informed about the exercise and how we would be affected, as at then, temporarily till it was resolved. At least everyone knew when he/she would have electricity supply.

Later, as a precautionary measure, the construction of the Bui Dam was announced and it was promised that it’d reduce if not fully, partially our dependence on the Akosombo Dam which was commissioned by the late Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1965. Despite the commissioning of the Bui Dam in 2013, the country still faces electricity shortages which is having a dampening effect on the livelihood of the ordinary Ghanaian.

Not too long ago I heard that some local musicians and actors have been advocating for change and feasible solutions to the present power crisis which has engulfed the country. Some people have misinterpreted them and have gone to the extent of affiliating them with various political parties. This has created a whole hullabaloo on its own, birthing derogatory and squalid remarks, even from people in higher positions. That came certainly as no surprise to me, in a country where partisan politics overrule ‘common sense’ and the need for progressive thinking. Ghana has been in the news recently for all but disheartening reasons; firstly, the IMF bailout plans and now the power crisis. The average Ghanaian is looking for improvement in his livelihood. No one is expecting everything to happen overnight but the least the incumbent government could do is to lay out feasible plans to tackle this and many other issues confronting the nation.

The power crisis is having a debilitating impact on our image as a country, scaring off potential investors while small-and-medium scale enterprises are being dragged off to collapse. Everything in Ghana is but political. ‘Common Sense’ has to be our guard if we are to make conscious progress or perhaps aim at bringing improvement to our livelihood. If we allow ourselves to be derailed from the actual facts of the matter, then we are doomed and it is certainly the future generation who will bare the shocking brunt of our concerted inaction. We should not allow petty partisan politics to overshadow the disheartening state of our country.

As a concerned citizen, I hope that relevant and feasible measures could be laid out in the shortest possible time, to utter an iota of confidence to the masses in light of this despicable phase we are all experiencing as a nation. Our independence would be meaningless if we fail to correctly steer the affairs of our nation while everyone remains but sad-browed.

IF ONLY ROBERT MUGABE AND OTHER DICTATORS ARE READING THIS.

Time is running out for those who think that posterity is something that can be averted, either by influence or by affluence. Quite recently, I heard the comments made by Robert Mugabe, the ‘dictator’ of Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), on the state of affairs in Ghana. I cease to address him as a president for various obvious reasons. I gather from sources and conversations that he described the West African nation of Ghana as a country which has not undergone any major changes since the early 60’s. Upon hearing these comments, I was deeply fascinated and somehow triggered to ponder about his nuances; in order to see where he’s coming from and where he’s heading to. In the following, you’ll find my interpretation of his remarks, my connotations on Robert Mugabe and my message to all the other remaining dictators around the world.

Although Ghana has not undergone any tremendous development since the early 60’s, there’s no way the above-mentioned can compare the ‘credibility’ of his 34 year tenure to that of Ghana. I still stand to be corrected if only there are noble facts and figures to refute my stance. Ghana is a country that has witnessed three successive change of power. Although I stand in no position or whatsoever to either represent or defend any Ghanaian political party, as a concerned global citizen, I find Robert Mugabe’s remarks ironical in various ways. What he isn’t aware of is that the wind of change is susserating under the feet of his citizenry. Interestingly, there’s one trait, mutual to all dictators, the thought of lasting forever. I concur that the West African nation of Ghana is arguably in hard times, with corruption scandals, misappropriation of funds and what have you, hindering growth. Although the credibility of Ghana may be cast in doubt, I still reiterate that that of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is also not to be trusted, let alone to be viewed as credible.

Robert Mugabe seems to be ruling his country with ‘professional deftness’, steering and manipulating the state of affairs. I find it difficult to understand how on earth can the people of Zimbabwe sit so idle. To witness first-hand corruption sagas and deceit. How on earth can one individual be allowed to rule a country since independence till today? This and many others are the questions that remain unanswered. In a country where a selected few ride in venturous success while others live in abject poverty. With the value of its currency constantly depreciating. I wonder how come the citizenry see these lads as innocent of the protocol. It is ‘them’ against ‘us’, a selected few versus the rest and the privileged versus the underprivileged. How can Robert Mugabe not be defined as greedy or a dictator if he’s been in power for 34 years and still counting? In a country where no credible elections have ever been organised.

These dictators should take into consideration that time is running out for them. In a new world, where we witness technological advancements daily, I can say that there has never been a time like this in human history. The wrong guards must be changed. Others may argue that after the ousting of Muammar Gadhaffi, Libya is now in shutters. But it’s also worth recounting that his actions were somehow the direct opposite of what the majority wanted. A selected few cannot be enjoying the riches of the land while others are sent to prisons for coming out with constructive critiques. The subject of Libya, either as a nation in transition or as a failed state would be for another day. A few months ago, the youth of Burkina Faso rose up to the challenge in ousting another dictator. This is a signal that the wind of change as I earlier stated, is susserating under the feet of the citizenry. In these times, we are witnessing major uprisings against oppressions and dictatorships. It’s just logic that the guards must be changed after so many a year. These dictators should be held accountable for their actions. The youth of today should realise that their future lie in their own hands and that they will be responsible as to whatever the world becomes. We all as global citizens shouldn’t sit idle and mime our own business in a tongue-in-cheek posture if we are bent on bringing change.

Until then, I hope Robert Mugabe and all the other remaining dictators will rethink their actions and pick and choose the remarks they utter on the state of affairs of the world because they have no slightest clue or whatsoever.

MY WRITE-UP ON CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S BOOK ‘AMERICANAH’.

 ‘If something bigger than the farm is dug up, the barn is indeed sold’- as does this Igbo proverb reiterate. I have off-late been sparked up and revitalized on reading more books by African  writers. Upon the positive inroads by African writers across the length and breadth of the globe, I find it just logic and reasonable that I read more books by them. Over the years, we’ve witnessed the exploits by Nigerian writers on the international arena and even with the passage of time have increased in numbers. Mentioning of names would not be of much significance. I believe that Nigeria is arguably the main powerhouse of sub-Sahara African literature. As a fellow writer who is always ready to evince myself up to both the old and contemporary forms of literature, I am somewhat driven to fortify my labyrinth of memory and as said by the Nobel Laureate the late Nadine Gordimer, in order to write, you must read. I began Americanah by reading the blurb which gave me a fleeting idea of what the book fully entails. I got enthused with the theme and plot of the story. I knew certainly that the book would live up to its billing. I relished how the writer interplays the various settings of the story which span through three continents.

That makes it very breathtaking and as someone who is fairly abreast of the lives of Africans around the diaspora, I read the story through a crystal retina. In certain instances, the manner in which the writer relays the mood of the various characters makes it humourous and very much event-filled. The specimen of hope in the eyes of the characters makes it worth-while. The writer brings also into play the recent-past history of Nigeria’s ex-military government. It is just like supporting the figures with facts, and as in this case with occurrences.

In an instance, she reasserts that race is embroidered in the fabric of history and I cogitate that it seems to be sarcastically carpeted to the sustainability of man. The theme of the story portrays that of despair and rediscovery of the African self. The diction of the writer in my view appeals more to African readers than to non-African readers. Being an African, it truly gave me a vivid picture of the life of the African in a far-away land. I know with no shadow of doubt that the story is perhaps an eye-opener, that is, in a positive sense to non-African readers. But be that it may, the reader is certain to be thrilled by the theme, mannerism and the camaraderie of the various characters, of which that of the persona is no understatement to the story in its entirety. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every chapter of the book ‘Americanah’ and I would recommend it to both young and seasoned readers.

Cover Photography used © Amazon.com