Africa Writes Back to Self: Metafiction, Gender, Sexuality by Evan Maina Mwangi

By Evan Maina Mwangi

Explores the metafictional thoughts of latest African novels instead of characterizing them essentially as a reaction to colonialism.

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Extra resources for Africa Writes Back to Self: Metafiction, Gender, Sexuality

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They have also written metafictional novels since the 1980s, even if they have not endorsed postmodernism. In the texts produced in the 1950s and 1960s, colonialism is seen as having destroyed the integrated precolonial societies and caused alienation and anguish in the colonial subject. Waiyaki, in Ngu˜gı˜’s The River Between, is caught between tradition and modernity, and his attempts to synthesize the two modes of living almost destroy him. The novel’s sense of tragedy lies in the character’s failure to integrate modernity into African traditions in a society that is still polarized despite the desire for the synthesis of cultural values.

Even when disenchanted with the postindependence conditions of the 1960s, the writers were not antinationalist; rather, they bemoaned the failure of the nationalist dream. Powerful works in this category include Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) and Ngu˜gı˜’s The River Between (1965), which portray in a realist mode the weaknesses and strengths of precolonial Africa. In Achebe’s words, the African writer was attempting to educate the newly independent people about “where the rain began to beat us” (Achebe 1975, 44).

Ngu˜gı˜’s narrative thus “writes back” to colonial laws that arrogantly banned local practices 34 Africa Writes Back to Self such as initiation rites, but the story also criticizes the use of art to silence women in precolonial cultures. Important to note is that the European missionaries opposed to female genital cutting are not interested in empowering African women but in fighting what they consider pagan practices that have no biblical parallels. They are using the ploy noted by Partha Chatterjee in The Nation and Its Fragments, whereby the Europeans present themselves as chivalrous saviors out to liberate the colony’s women from its oppressive males but are indeed only interested in entrenching and rationalizing imperial domination (1993, 622).

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