In the African context, there exists the ‘myth’ that orality means tradition. Written and oral verbal art are often regarded as dichotomies, one excluding the other. While orature is confused with ‘tradition’, literature is ascribed to modernity. Furthermore, local languages are ignored and literature is equated with writing in foreign languages. The contributions in this volume take issue with such preconceptions and explore the multiple ways in which literary and oral forms interrelate and subvert each other, giving birth to new forms of artistic expression. They emphasize the local agency of the African poet and writer, which resists the global commodification of literature through the international bestseller lists of the cultural industry. The first section traces the movement from oral to written texts, which in many cases coincides with a switch from African to European languages. But as the essays in the section on “New Literary Languages” make clear, in other cases a true philological work is accomplished in the African language to create a new written and literary medium. Through the mixing of languages in the cities, such as the
Sheng spoken in Kenya or the bilinguality of a writer such as Cheik Aliou Ndao (Senegal), new idioms for literary expressions evolve. The use of new media, technology or music stimulate the emergence of new genres, such as
Taarab in East Africa, radio poetry in Yoruba and Hausa, or Rap in the Senegal, as is shown in the section on “Forms of New Orality.”
It is a great achievement of this second volume of
Versions and Subversions in African Literatures that it assembles contributions by scholars from the anglophone and the francophone world and that it covers literary production in a broad spectrum of languages: English, French, Hausa, Sheng, Sotho, Spanish, Swahili, Wolof and Yoruba.
Some of the authors and cultural practitioners treated in detail are: Mobolaij Adenubi, Birago Diop, Boubacar Boris Diop, David Maillu, Thomas Mofolo, Cheik Aliou Ndao, Donato Ndongo–Bidyogo, Hubert Ogunde, Shaaban Robert, Wole Soyinka, Ibrahim YaroYahaya, and Sénouvo Agbota Zinsou.
Literary representations of the body from Africa as well as narrative strategies of writing the body have only recently begun to receive wider critical attention. The reflections on body, sexuality, and gender in African literary texts brought together in this volume do not consider these three terms as separate entities but instead as closely related to each other, each term questioning the other: bodies and sexualities that are transgressing concepts of gender, gender that is probing body and sexuality. With regard to Africa, the three concepts form a particularly contested space, because body and sexuality are not only subjected to power relations in terms of gender, but also in terms of race, ethnicity, and the legacy of colonialism. While the sections “Gifted Bodies” and “Queered Bodies” show new developments in viewing body and sexuality as creative powers, the sections “Tainted Bodies” and “Violated Bodies” comprise essays that investigate the exposure of the body to physical aggression and other traumatic experiences. Some of the authors treated in detail are: Ama Ata Aidoo, Mariama Bâ, Calixthe Beyala, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Bessie Head, Sheila Kohler, Flora Nwapa, Promise Okekwe, Yvonne Vera; André Brink, J.M. Coetzee, K. Sello Duiker, Nuruddin Farah, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Dambudzo Marechera, Arthur Nortje, Ben Okri, Shamim Sarif, and Williams Sassine. Contributors: Akachi Adimora--Ezeigbo , Susan Arndt, Unoma N. Azuah , Elleke Boehmer, Monica Bungaro , Lucy Valerie Graham , Jessica Hemmings, Sigrid G. Köhler , Martina Kopf , Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi , Marion Pape , Robert Muponde , Sarah Nuttall , Drew Shaw , Alioune Sow , Cheryl Stobie , Alexie Tcheuyap