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Style in African Literature

Essays on Literary Stylistics and Narrative Styles


Edited by J.K.S. Makokha, Ogone John Obiero and Russell West-Pavlov

Postcolonial and contemporary African literatures have always been marked by an acute sensitivity to the politics of language, an attentiveness inscribed in the linguistic fabric of their own modes of expression. It is curious however, that despite the prevalence of a much-touted ‘linguistic turn’ in twentieth century theory and cultural production, language has frequently been neglected by literary studies in general. Even more curiously, postcolonial literary studies, an erstwhile emergent and now established discipline which has from the outset contained important elements of linguistic critique, has eschewed any sustained engagement with this topic. This absence is salient in the study of African literatures, despite, for instance, the prominence of orature in the African literary tradition right up to the present day, and sporadic meditations on the part of such luminaries as Achebe and Ngũgĩ. Beyond this, however, there has been little scholarly work attuned to the multifarious aspects of language and linguistic politics in the study of African literature. The present volume aims to rectify such lacunae by making a substantial interdisciplinary and transcultural contribution to the gradual reinstatement of the ‘linguistic turn’ in African literary studies. The volume focuses variously on postcolonial and transcultural African literatures, areas of literary production where the confluence of several languages, whether indigenous and (post)colonial in the first case, and local and global in the second case, appears to be a central and decisive factor in the formation and transformation of the continent and its peoples’ cultural identities.

"The Original Explosion That Created Worlds"

Essays on Werewere Liking’s Art and Writings


Edited by John Conteh-Morgan and Irène Assiba d'Almeida

“The Original Explosion That Created Worlds” is the first book entirely devoted to the Cameroonian Werewere Liking, one of the most important writers and innovative artists of post-colonial Africa. The book includes a wide-ranging collection of essays by some of Liking’s finest critics addressing her life and work, from her earlier fiction and social criticism to her later experimental drama, which has been produced on stages around the world. Several essays also look at Liking’s culture-based entrepreneurial work, in which she has attempted to establish a new economic support for African artistic expression.
Liking’s excellent but little-known poetry and art criticism, her iconoclastic novels and essays are all the subject of close critical attention in particular studies. There is also consideration of the challenges that her original language and fictional forms present to a literary translator. Liking’s work has provoked an extensive commentary, in the popular press as well as in scholarly journals and her critical reception both inside and outside of Africa is carefully examined. The final important inclusions are two plays by Liking published here for the first time in English translations– Liquid Heroes and This Africa of ours...
“The Original Explosion That Created Worlds”: Essays on Werewere Liking’s Art and Writings may serve as an introduction to the work of one of Africa’s most important contemporary artists and one of the most astute commentators on the position of Africa in the new century. To those already familiar with Liking’s novels, poetry, plays, criticism or other cultural work it offers an expanded and deepened understanding of her working contexts and the amazing reach of her cultural expression. The book is of necessary interest to all readers, students, and scholars of postcolonial African literatures, of translation studies, and of gender issues.


Gregory F. Barz

Performing Religion considers issues related to Tanzanian kwayas [KiSwahili, “choirs”], musical communities most often affiliated with Christian churches, and the music they make, known as nyimbo za kwaya [choir songs] or muziki wa kwaya [choir music]. The analytical approach adopted in this text focusing on the communities of kwaya is one frequently used in the fields of ethnomusicology, religious studies, culture studies, and philosophy for understanding diversified social processes-consciousness. By invoking consciousness an attempt is made to represent the ways seemingly disparate traditions coexist, thrive, and continue within contemporary kwaya performance.
An East African kwaya is a community that gathers several times each week to define its spirituality musically. Members of kwayas come together to sing, to pray, to support individual members in times of need, and to both learn and pass along new and inherited faith traditions. Kwayas negotiate between multiple musical traditions or just as often they reject an inherited musical system while others may continue to engage musical repertoires from both Europe and Africa. Contemporary kwayas comfortably coexist in the urban musical soundscape of coastal Dar es Salaam along with jazz dance bands, taarab ensembles, ngoma performance groups, Hindi film music, rap, reggae, and the constant influx of recorded American and European popular musics.
This ethnography calls into question terms frequently used to draw tight boundaries around the study of the arts in African expressive religious cultures. Such divisions of the arts present well-defended boundaries and borders that are not sufficient for understanding the change, adaptation, preservation, and integration that occur within a Tanzanian kwaya. Boundaries break down within the everyday performance of East African kwayas, such as Kwaya ya Upendo [“The Love Choir”] in Dar es Salaam, as repertoires, traditions, histories, and cultures interact within a performance of social identity.


Josiah Walters

In A Grammar of Dazaga, Josiah Walters provides the first detailed description and analysis of Dazaga (a Saharan language) in the past half-century. Based on a review of previous work on Dazaga, and with his own more recent data, the author describes the phonology, morphology, and syntax of Dazaga. He provides a new analysis of the categorization of verbs in to classes, demonstrating the prominence of light verb constructions in Dazaga. His analysis of the syntax brings to light several striking features of Dazaga, including optional ergative case marking, mixed alignment of objects, a variety of causative constructions, and verb serialization. Throughout the work, the author relates his findings to work on related languages and to recent typological studies.


Peter Geschiere


The Return of Culture: Anthropology’s Temptations

An important turning point in African studies in the 1980s was the emergence of culture as a central concern in fields where it had been quite marginal until then. Development experts began to emphasize culture as crucial to any intervention or project. Economists came into the habit of invoking “culture” as a final explanation, turning it into some sort of black box that had the capacity to explain why African societies continued to falsify their neat models of how development should be realized.

For anthropologists, this new attention to culture was somewhat confusing. It had always been a central notion in our discipline, especially in US anthropology. So the sudden advancement of the notion in the development industry and elsewhere opened up promising perspectives. However, this came at the very time when leading anthropologists – again, especially in the US – began to warn against the dangers of our notion of culture, insisting that anthropology had to liberate itself from its ancestral heritage, notably of this central concept. James Clifford (1988), for instance, attacks the essentialist tenor of classical anthropology’s take on culture. In his view, this notion inspires a search for an authentic core that not only risks isolating the discipline from modern changes, but also turns culture into some sort of timeless mall in which people seem to be imprisoned. Similarly, Arjun Appadurai, in his Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (1996), pleads for a complete ban on the term culture – in any case as a substantive – since it could so easily inspire a “culturalist” approach in which cultural difference seems to be a given. Appadurai warns, moreover, that such a view on culture could be dangerous in the present-day world, where globalization processes seem to be closely int ertwined with ever fiercer eruptions of communal violence.


Anne Adams


Literary Pan-Africanism

Pan-Africanism is most often thought of in its political sense. This is the case whether one refers to the several Pan-African congresses, beginning in 1919, organized by W.E.B. Du Bois and colleagues from Africa and other parts of the Diaspora; or whether one refers to the Independence-era vision of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, in which the “hereditary significant other,” i.e. the African Diaspora, was invited to come and take part in Africa’s development. Yet, there are also well-known instances of cultural Pan-Africanism: the1940s Negritude movement, the journal Presence Africaine, and numerous writers congresses and cultural festivals, beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the present. So, indeed, the Pan-African impulse of writers and artists from the African continent to commune and share common cultural bonds with their counterparts in the African Diaspora has been manifested in cultural productive form at least since the 1940s. But it would not be until about the 1970s, and increasingly in the ’80s and ’90s, that the two strands of Pan-Africanism, the political and the cultural, would begin to converge. The Ghanaian Ama Ata Aidoo was the first African writer to explore a union between Africa and the Diaspora, with her 1969 play Dilemma of a Ghost. Roughly twenty-five years after Aidoo’s play, her compatriot Ayi Kwei Armah would play a variation on the theme of this book in his 1995 novel Osiris Rising, although with a more conscious vision of the partnership in the construction of Africa’s future. Equally significant as the texts written by writers from the African continent became texts by writers from the Diaspora itself. While Césaire’s Cahier evokes his image of Africa, other writers, notably Guadeloupean Maryse Condé, take on the Diaspora-to-Africa experience in its various realities. Indeed, for Condé, the Black Atlantic, Pan-African community is the context, psychological, if not geographic, of most of her fiction.

After "Rwanda"

In Search of a New Ethics


Jean-Paul Martinon

Is writing about peace after the Rwandan Genocide self-defeating? Whether it is the intensity of the massacres, the popularity of the genocide, or the imaginary forms of cruelty, however one looks at it, everything in the Rwandan Genocide appears to defy once again the possibility of thinking peace anew. In order to address this problem, this book investigates the work of specific French and Rwandese philosophers in order to renew our understanding of peace today. Through this path-breaking investigation, peace no longer stands for an ideal in the future, but becomes a structure of inter-subjectivity that guarantees that the violence of language always prevails over any other form of violence. This book is the very first monograph in philosophy related to the events of 1994 in Rwanda.

Separating the Magical from the Real

The Representation of the Barwa in Zakes Mda’s She Plays with the Darkness

Michael Wessels

that inevitably fail to coincide with the present. The changes in a postcolonial village are less marked perhaps but the passage of time can be read there too, and the village in Mda’s novel is no exception. The working of time, though, is most graphically illustrated in the novel in relation to the

Reading Our Ruins

A Rough Sketch

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

reckoning and acknowledgment—a witnessing. I scour these ruins in the hope of a more complete vocabulary of past, future, present, of me, of us, of other, of Kenya, of Africa, of the Commonwealth, of the world. You see, don’t you, that the prevailing world lexicon is incapable of naming and bearing all our

Witnessing the Ruins of Apartheid

The Women’s Jail (Johannesburg) as a Site of Encounter

Marie Kruger

of the present. The curators were interested in creating both sacred and liveable space; a site that invites the respectful commemoration of the experiences of apartheid witnesses while also offering secure and accessible public space; a place of refuge and a source of pride that appeals to diverse