Tag Archives: African Literature

The Hat and the turbans (A Tribute) #Nigeria

Innocents lost to the battle of the Hat and the turbans

Where is the outrage?

Silence their store until own is lost

Morning’s hope extinguished on the altar of power


The turbans turn a blind eye

Where is the Hat’s agitation?

Rock’s comfort fears return to the Creek



Were they ghosts?

Did they travel the land unnoticed?

The two ears silent to the terror of their feet

Heartless, ruthless, and shameless!

Await the day your old walls fall on the anger of your subjects


Fearing turban’s wrath, the Hat wields not his sword

Dear Innocents, please haunt the souls of the silent

Plague their dreams with horrors coming

Until they fulfill oaths sworn



Who is an African Writer? (Part Two) #ALAconf2014

Those curious about Africa (and indeed any country, continent or culture) look to its literary writers and their works to get some grasp, however ephemeral, of its cultural mosaic. “Contemporary” – if we mean it to be writings by young African authors as opposed to fictional depictions of relatively recent times – Sierra Leonean literature makes writ large the continuing debate about who qualifies as an African writer; especially as it relates to the increasing literary stature of Aminatta Forna.

Mohamed Kamara (Washington &Lee University) in his reading of the works of Aminatta Forna and Yema Lucilda Hunter titled “Constructing a Nation and it’s Memory: Reinventing Sierra Leone’s Past in the Works of Aminatta Forna and Yema Lucilda Hunter” highlights how a nostalgic and determined Aminatta tries to discover the truth about her father’s hanging (a government minister) in 1960s Sierra Leone while inevitably providing a glimpse of that period in Sierra Leone’s history and nationhood. Relying on her journalistic experience, she provides an investigative, unemotional and arguably distant (a recurring theme) memoir that doubles as a reconstruction of memories lost (or perhaps vanishing) about Sierra Leone’s turbulent history. “The Devil that danced on the Water” relies on both written and oral history to document, albeit intentioned as a personal memoir, a period in “Salone” (local parlance for Sierra Leone) nationhood that is becoming increasingly contentious on account of lost historical documents during Sierra Leone’s hitherto long running civil war(s).

However, Eustace Palmer (Georgia College & State University), another Sierra Leonean, points out some historical inaccuracies in Aminatta Forna’s “The Memory of Love.” His presentation titled “Defining the Sierra Leonean Writer: The case of Aminatta Forna” highlights the particular instance (amongst others) of her depiction of mass excitement about the American landing of a man on the moon as an exaggeration. Palmer recollects muted excitement (and perhaps some ambivalence) in Sierra Leone – being as he was resident in Salone at the time – about that great American scientific feat (not that there wasn’t an appreciation of the epoch). Palmer therefore wonders whether Forna’s distant (and sometimes inaccurate historical assertions) but highly regarded fictional depictions of Salone life qualifies her as a Sierra Leonean (and African) writer just because she was born to an indigenous father.

In her commentary, Joyce Dixon-Fyle (Depauw University) argues Forna’s increasing acclaim cannot be removed from her position of privilege. Western-trained, born of a Scottish mother, married to a European and working (residing) in western citadels of literary excellence, Forna’s vantage position gives her significant access to the Western literary intelligentsia and arguably contributes to her acclaim amongst western literary critics. However, there was a consensus (with Dixon-Fyle’s concurrence) on the very high quality of her work. Aminatta Forna writes excellently well.

So, who is an African writer? Arthur Onipede Hollist (University of Tampa) wondered if Palmer’s drift towards a definition that requires birth and a minimum formative existence (that extends to advanced education and some working life) may not be too restrictive; especially since most of Africa’s writers reside, work and teach outside of the continent. What about the non-African but very excellent and highly-regarded Writers of African literature? Would such a definition not exclude these significant contributors? Dixon-Fyle nonetheless thinks there is an indigenous flavour that inevitably eludes the well-researched “African” literary work by a non-African (including persons born to African parents but without any meaningful formative experiences in Africa).

The definition of the African Writer remains an open question therefore and a very important one.



“Ruins, Remainders, Residues: Sierra Leonean Literature and the (De)Formation of Archives”

40th Annual Conference of the African Literature Association
“Texts, Modes and Repertoires of Living in and Beyond the Shadows of Apartheid”
Venue: Wits Professional Hub, Room 314, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Time: 15:30-17:00 (18:00) Thursday, 10 April 2014


Who is an African Writer? Ruins, Remainders, Residues: Sierra Leonean Literature and the (De)Formation of Archives #ALAconf2014

Is an African Writer one born in Africa?

Or should she or he have lived in Africa?

Is being born to African parents a qualification?

What about non-African but highly regarded African Writers?

Is it more about acceptance?

Acceptance by who? Western literary critics or the African literary intelligentsia?

Who is an African Writer?

Separation (A poem by Rafiq Raji) #ALAconf2014

Humans desiring distinction
By race, class, education, lineage
Created free, he binds himself to the notion of betterness
Dare not impale my paleness

Dishonouring origins for want of paleness
Is one free without roots’ pride?
Who then are your ancestors?
Debasing your ancestors on the plantations of life
Finding disciples in oppression of tribe, religion and ancestry

Occupiers of lands without right
Awake in mind to the reality of your curse
Never to know peace while usurpers of noble dreams
Thought to kill the spirit of your hosts
Asking why He should endow them so

Moving from land to land oppressed in spirit
Wanderings of a homeless spirit
Conscience long departed for fear of contagion

What then when there are no more lands to conquer?
What then when there are no more peoples to separate?
Redemption fears invitation
Should forgiveness meet someone so?

My Big House (A Poem by Rafiq Raji) #Nigeria

My house is now big

But my children are still hungry

Warring over trifles, what now

What do you mean what now

I say my house is now big


Guests to the land would know who I am

My children starve all you want

I say my house is now big


Though my neighbor has a stronger horse

I shall celebrate my feat

I say my house is now big


Shall I continue to wear my dear garments

Or should I shed them that my house might have peace

So what if the furniture gives way

So what if my children starve

So what if my children war over trifles

I say my house is now big


Perhaps I should feed my children

Lest the guests wonder about their hobbling gait

Perhaps I should educate them

Lest the guests wonder about their husky voice

I say my house is now big


Perhaps I should increase my labour

Lest the guests wonder about the horse next door

Perhaps I should save more

Lest I am forced to sell my house

Perhaps I should invest more

Lest my children tear down my house

I say my house is now big


Perhaps I should celebrate less

Lest the guests wonder why my children are sullen

Perhaps I should worry about my hangover this time

Lest my door ajar on the morrow reveals my misery

I say my house is now big


Why do the guests visit on my neighbour’s horse

Is my house not big enough

Is my horse not strong enough

What should I do

Should I celebrate or reflect

I say my house is now big