Leading theoretician of Pan-Africanism.
Walter Rodney was born in Georgetown, Guyana on March 23, 1942. His was a working class family-his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. After attending primary school, he won an open exhibition scholarship to attend Queens College as one of the early working-class beneficiaries of concessions made in the filed of education by the ruling class in Guyana to the new nationalism that gripped the country in the early 1950s.
While at Queens College young Rodney excelled academically, as well as in the fields of athletics and debating. In 1960, he won an open scholarship to further his studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He graduated with a first-class honors degree in history in 1963 and. he won an open scholarship to the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In 1966, at the age of 24 he was awarded a Ph.D. with honors in African History.
His doctoral research on slavery on the Upper Guinea Coast was the result of long meticulous work on the records of Portuguese merchants both in England and in Portugal. In the process he learned Portuguese and Spanish which along with the French he had learned at Queens College made him somewhat of a linguist.
In 1970, his Ph.D dissertation was published by Oxford University Press under the title, A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800. This work was to set a trend for Rodney in both challenging the assumptions of western historians about African history and setting new standards for looking at the history of oppressed peoples. According to Horace Campbell:
“This work was path-breaking in the way in which it analyzed the impact of slavery on the communities and the interrelationship between societies of the region and on the ecology of the region.”
Walter took up his first teaching appointment in Tanzania before returning to his alma mater, the University of the West Indies, in 1968. This was a period of great political activity in the Caribbean as the countries begun their post colonial journey. But it was the Black Power Movement that caught Walter’s imagination.
Some new voices had begun to question the direction of the post-independence governments, in particular their attitude to the plight of the down-trodden. The issue of empowerment for the black and brown poor of the region was being debated among the progressive intellectuals. Rodney, who from very early on had rejected the authoritarian role of the middle class political elite in the Caribbean, was central to this debate. He, however, did not confine his activities to the university campus. He took his message of Black Liberation to the gullies of Jamaica. In particular he shared his knowledge of African history with one of the most rejected section of the Jamaican society-the Rastafarians.
Walter had shown an interest in political activism ever since he was a student in Jamaica and England. Horace Campbell reports that while at UWI Walter “was active in student politics and campaigned extensively in 1961 in the Jamaica Referendum on the West Indian Federation.” While studying in London, Walter participated in discussion circles, spoke at the famous Hyde Park and, participated in a symposium on Guyana in 1965. It was during this period that Walter came into contact with the legendary CLR James and was one of his most devoted students.
By the summer of 1968 Rodney’s “groundings with the working poor of Jamaica had begun to attract the attention of the government. So, when he attended a Black Writers’ Conference in Montreal, Canada, in October 1968, the Hugh Shearer-led Jamaican Labor Party Government banned him from re-entering the country. This action sparked widespread riots and revolts in Kingston in which several people were killed and injured by the police and security forces, and millions of dollars worth of property destroyed.. Rodney’s encounters with the Rastafarians were published in a pamphlet entitled “Grounding with My Brothers,” that became a bible for the Caribbean Black Power Movement.
Having been expelled from Jamaica, Walter returned to Tanzania after a short stay in Cuba.. There he lectured from 1968 to 1974 and continued his groundings in Tanzania and other parts of Africa. This was the period of the African liberation struggles and Walter, who fervently believed that the intellectual should make his or her skills available for the struggles and emancipation of the people, became deeply involved.. It was from partly from these activities that his second major work, and his best known — How Europe Underdeveloped Africa — emerged. It was published by Bogle-L´Ouverture, in London, in conjunction with Tanzanian Publishing House in 1972.
This Tanzanian period was perhaps the most important in the formation of Rodney’s ideas. According to Horace Campbell:
“Here he was at the forefront of establishing an intellectual tradition which still today makes Dar es Salaam one of the centers of discussion of African politics and history. Out of he dialogue, discussions and study groups he deepened the Marxist tradition with respect to African politics, class struggle, the race question, African history and the role of the exploited in social change. It was within the context of these discussions that the book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was written.”
Campbell also reports that
“In he same period, he wrote the critical articles on Tanzanian Ujamaa, imperialism, on underdevelopment, and the problems of state and class formation in Africa. Many of his articles which were written in Tanzania appeared in Maji Maji, the discussion journal of the TANU Youth League at the University. He worked in the Tanzanian archives on the question of forced labor, the policing of the countryside and the colonial economy. This work — World War II and the Tanzanian Economy — was later published as a monograph by Cornell University in 1976.”
Rodney also developed a reputation as a Pan-Africanist theoretician and spokesperson. Campbell says that “In Tanzania he developed close political relationships with those who were struggling to change the external control of Africa He was very close to some of the leaders of liberation movements in Africa and also to political leaders of popular organizations of independent territories. Together with other Pan-Africanists he participated in discussion leading up to the Sixth Pan-African Congress, held in Tanzania, 1974. Before the Congress he wrote a piece: “Towards the Sixth Pan-African Congress: Aspects of the International Class Struggle in Africa, the Caribbean and America.”
In 1974, Walter returned to Guyana to take up an appointment as Professor of History at the University of Guyana, but the government rescinded the appointment. But Rodney remained in Guyana, joined the newly formed political group, the Working People’s Alliance. Between 1974 and his assassination in 1980, he emerged as the leading figure in the resistance movement against the increasingly authoritarian PNC government. He give public and private talks all over the country that served to engender a new political consciousness in the country. During this period he developed his ideas on the self emancipation of the working people, People’s Power, and multi-racial democracy.
On July 11, 1979, Walter, together with seven others, was arrested following the burning down of two government offices. He, along with Drs Rupert Roopnarine and Omawale, was later charged with arson. From that period up to the time of his murder, he was constantly persecuted and harassed and at least on one occasion, an attempt was made to kill him. Finally, on the evening of June 13, 1980, he was assassinated by a bomb in the middle of Georgetown..
Walter was married to Dr Patricia Rodney and the union bore three children- Shaka, Kanini and Asha.
Rodney, Cabral and Ngugi as Guides to African Postcolonial Literature
Walter Rodney´s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
, Amilcar Cabral´s National Liberation and Struggle
, and Ngugi Wa Thiong´o
´s "Writing Against Neocolonialism" reveal the political, economic, and social circumstances that formed the sensibility of most African writers. Thus, they illuminate the various types of mentalities or ideologies that inform African literature. In addition, these works help the reader determine if a novelist´s portrayal of African society fully reflects its social relations, political arrangements, and economic factors. These critical writings also help in the debate on the definition of African literature. For they bring out the historical connections that make it possible to analyze African literature dealing with pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial phases of African history.
Rodney, Cabral and Ngugi claim that African literature exists in a historical continuum. For example, neocolonialism prevails today in Africa because of the continuation after "independence" of the economic, political and social practices established by colonialism. An analysis of the economic, political and social contradictions created by colonialism is, therefore, necessary in understanding and effectively countering neocolonialism. For the contradictions created by colonialism are still realities in contemporary Africa´s development.
Rodney´s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
analyzes the colonial relations of production -- and the economic and political contradictions -- that produced Africa´s underdevelopment and continue to plague Africa today. Rodney, who describes colonialism as a "one-armed bandit," claims that colonialism, more than anything else, underdeveloped Africa. According to him, colonialism laid the roots of neocolonialism in Africa by creating Africa´s economic dependency on the international capitalist system. The introduction of capitalist relations of production and distribution, -- for instance, the International Trade Commodity (ITC) exchange systems and values -- created such dependency. Rodney (1981: 244) asserts that "previous African development was blunted, halved and turned back" by colonialism without offering anything of compensatory value.
Many works of African literature record the kind of exploitation Rodney descrives. In Mayombe, for example, the Narrator notes that
My land is rich in coffee, but my father was always a poor peasant . . . In Dembos, men lived wretchedly in the midst of wealth. Coffee was everywhere, hugging the trees. But they stole from us in the prices, sweat was paid for with a few worthless coins. (Pepetela: 1986: 18/156)
Meka, the protagonist in Ferdinand Oyono´s The Old Man and the Medal
, and the other peasants grow cocoa for export to France; In Chinua Achebe
´s Things Fall Apart
, the opening of a trading post and selling of yams, marks the beginning and entrenchment of the capitalist money economy. Similarly, in Mongo Beti´s Mission to Kala
, The Poor Christ Of Bomba
and King Lazarus
, the production of cocoa for export marks the beginning of an international capitalist economic order, so detrimental to Africa. "Mono-culture," introduced by colonialism, made the African producer helpless in the face of capitalist maneuvers. There was little development of local industry (a trend that persists in contemporary Africa). In I will Marry When I Want
, Gicaamba says:
I wouldn´t mind, son of Gathoni,
If after selling away our labor,
Our village benefited.
But look now at this village!
There is no property, there is no wealth. (NGUGI: 1982: 36-7)
Rodney writes that "roads were built to make business possible" and argues that "any catering to African interests was purely accidental." For instance, in Mongo Beti´s Remember Reuben, the colonial road in Ekoudom is a symbolic means of the oppressive exploitation of the African. The narrator says that "the road was a world apart from ours, and it was chance alone which had made it brush against our city; it was certainly not by any wish of ours . . . " (1980). In Ferdinand Oyono´s The Old Man and the Medal, the road, constructed by forced black labor, symbolizes the visible exploitative means linking Africa to Europe. Rodney notes also that the social services in colonial Africa reflected the pattern of domination and exploitation geared toward the well-being of the settlers. In Mayombe the narrator says:
You earn twenty escudos a day, for chopping down trees with an axe . . . And how much does the boss earn for each tree? A pile. What does the boss do to earn this money? Nothing, nothing . . . So, how can he earn many thousands a day and give you twenty escudos? What right has he? This is colonialist exploitation. [Pepetela: 1983: 19]
What the narrator notes above, claims Rodney, is what resulted in the underdevelopment of Africa.
Rodney observes that the African dependency upon the European also ultimately produced neocolonial class stratification and Africans who manipulated the colonial economic structures for their own benefit. In Mission to Kala, the colonial authorities nominate the chief of Vimili who goes on to live an opulent life at the expense of the people:
The colonial Administration (who had nominated him in the first place) buttered him up. In return, he obeyed their commands like a robot and knew they would not throw him out. In the days of the forced labor gangs he had been feared by everyone because he betrayed fugitives to the authorities and acted as an informer. He used our traditional tribal hierarchy as a vehicle for his underhand intrigues, and flouted our laws and customs when he no longer needed them. [Beti: 1964:18]
Like the chief of Kala, he works in league with the colonial administrators to exploit the local society. Medza´s father also becomes rich from collecting money and livestock from his insolvent debtors. He is, to Medza, an epitome of the successful grafting of western hypocrisy and commercial materialism onto a first rate African intelligence. This class of petty accumulators and the educated black people form the basis of neocolonialism. They are the progenitors of characters like Gitutu Wa Gataanguru and Kihauuha Wa Gatheera in Ngugi´s Devil on the Cross, the corrupt civil servant, Obi Okonkwo, in Achebe´s No Longer at Ease, the honorable M. A. Nanga "the bush politician" and the young intellectual, Odili, in Achebe´s A Man of the People, the railway freight clerk in Armah´s The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, and Ahab Kioi Wa Kanoru and Ikuua Wa Ndikita in Ngugi´s I will Marry When I Want.
Rodney discusses at length the role of education in producing Africans to serve the colonial system and subscribe to its values. He notes that class stratification, which leads to neocolonialism, begins with the linking of colonial education to material gain. Rodney points out that
education is crucial in any type of society for the preservation of the lives of its members and the maintenance of the social structure . . . The most crucial aspect of pre-colonial African education was its relevance to Africans in sharp contrast with that which was later introduced (that is, under colonialism). . . . [T]he main purpose of colonial school system was to train Africans to participate in the domination and exploitation of the continent as a whole . . . Colonial education was education for subordination, exploitation, the creation of mental confusion and the development of underdevelopment.
In Mission to Kala, Medza´s colonial education makes him a privileged political and economic functionary in a colonial system that militates against the interests of his own people. Colonial education, therefore, creates a black elite to succeed it and perpetuate its political and economic interests in the post-independence period.
In discussing the role of colonial education, Rodney shows that the roots of neocolonialism lie in colonialism. This links African literature of the two periods because neocolonialism is the result of a historical process of class formation by colonialism. According to Colin Leys (1975), ". . . Absolutely central to neocolonialism, is the formation of classes or strata within a colony which are closely allied to and dependent on foreign capital, and which form the real basis of support for the regime which succeed the colonial administration." The neocolonial situation in Ngugi´s Devil on the Cross is a legacy and a logical consequence of the situation depicted in Beti´s Mission to Kala. Rodney also observes that the colonial machinery created a military elite that later became military dictators in the post-independence era. A good example is Sam, the military despot in Achebe´s Anthills of the Savannah.
Rodney also observes that
the educated Africans were the most alienated Africans on the continent. At each further stage of education, they were battered and succumbed to the white capitalist system, and after being given salaries, they could then afford to sustain a style of life imported from outside . . . That further transformed their mentality." 
Colonial education did more than corrupt the thinking and sensibilities of the African, it filled him/her with abnormal complexes which de-Africanized and alienated him/her from the needs of his/her environment. Colonial education has thus dispossessed and put of out the control of the African intellectual the necessary forces for directing the life and development of his/her society. The narrator in Dambudzo Marechera
´s House of Hunger
, for instance, is culturally alienated because of his Western education. In Mission to Kala
, Medza´s role model is America. Medza cannot make decisions in relation to the needs of his society nor have a new vision relevant to African society:
Then, to make my ideas more intelligible, I decided to illustrate them with an example. I found myself (somewhat to my surprise) telling these simple people about New York . . . It was child´s play to describe New York, probably because my only knowledge of it derived from the cinema. (Beti: 1964:65)
education taught Medza everything that is irrelevant to his African life. In Charles Mungoshi´s Waiting for the Rain
, Lucifer similarly feels alienated from his homeland because of his colonial education. In Song of Lawino
and Song of Ocol
, Okot P´Bitek laments a situation in which colonial education emasculates the emerging African elite: "my husband´s house is a dark forest of books . . . /Their manhood was finished in the classrooms, their testicles were smashed with big books." (P´Bitek: 1985: 117) In Decolonizing the Mind
, Ngugi observes that the lack of congruency between colonial education and Africa´s reality created people abstracted from their reality. Little wonder, therefore that the negritude poets try to achieve disalienation through identification with Africa, African values and African origins. They yearn for their lost identity and the lost African heritage. Leon Dumas writes that the whites "have stolen the space that was mine." Tchicaya U´Tamsi laments that the whites have left the blacks in "a dark corner somewhere . . . gone are the forests where sung and danced the inspired priestess . . . the great Western world holds me in fee . . . Something in me is lost forever."
Christianity, education, and colonial administrative systems
Rodney also analyzes the interrelationship between Christianity, colonial education, and administrative systems. In Homecoming, Ngugi says that to gain "acceptability and perpetuation, the colonialists enlist the services of Christianity and Christian oriented education . . . To capture the soul and the mind . . ." (1982). In Achebe´s Things Fall Apart, the newly converted Christians renounce their traditional lifestyle, thus advancing the cause of colonialism. In Oyono´s The Old Man and the Medal, Meka gives up his land to the priests:
And now lived in a small wretched hut in the village which has given its name to the mission and lay at the foot of the Christian cemetery. (Oyono: 1967: 9)
In Houseboy, Toundi renounces his natural father in favor of Father Gilbert, the head of the colonial church. In Beti´s The Poor Christ Of Bomba and King Lazarus, father Drumont and father Le Guen respectively use Christianity to consolidate their control over the indigenous people and thus maintain the security of the oppressor. Gicaamba in I´ll Marry When I Want notes that:
Religion is not the same thing as God.
When the British imperialists came here in 1895,
All the missionaries of all the churches
Held the Bible in the left hand,
And the gun in the right hand.
The white man wanted us
To be drunk with religion
In the meantime,
Was mapping and grabbing our land
And starting factories and businesses
On our sweat. [Ngugi: 1982: 56-7]
The European exploiters, oppressors and grabbers use Christianity as a tool to explain the manifest contradictions portrayed in African literature because of the
working out of broader historical forces.
Amilcar Cabral´s "National Liberation and Culture," which defines the relationship between culture and colonialism, explores the relationship between culture and social class. Cabral´s analysis aids the reader´s understanding of African literature by putting into its proper historical perspective the crisis of identity and its implications portrayed artistically by many African writers. Cabral defines culture as the result of economic and political activities as they appear on the ideological and idealist levels. Culture has its basis in a society´s level of productive forces and in the character of the dominant mode of production. Thus,
culture is the result, with more or less awakened consciousness, of economic and political activities, the more or less dynamic expression of the type of relations prevailing within that society, on the one hand between man (considered individually and collectively) and nature, on the other hand, among individuals, groups of individuals, social strata or social classes." [1980: 141]
Culture may be dynamic, but only in the sense of being a continuing record of a society´s achievements and an important element in sustaining resistance to foreign domination.
Colonialism´s Destruction of Indigenous Culture
Colonialism, however, denied Africa the right to cultural development and self expression and set up a state of siege that it justified with theories about cultural assimilation. In Oyono´s Houseboy
, colonial culture plays the role that Cabral observes above. The implications behind Toundi´s question, "what are we black men who are called French?", pervade the whole novel. He asks this when he becomes aware that his "French identity", imposed on him by colonialism, identifies him with the colonial culture and values of his oppressors. In Charles Mungoshi
´s Waiting for the Rain
, old Mandengu and Garabha´s drums with Uncle Kuruku´s ndungu become symbolic vestiges of an African culture besieged by colonialism. In Oyono´s The Old Man and the Medal
, colonialism perpetuates cultural imperialism by setting up "whiteness" and its values as a superior quality that deserves emulation. Cabral´s conclusion that National Liberation is an act of culture parallels Ousmane´s views in Man and His Culture
that, in tempestuous periods like that of the anti-colonial struggle, the only artistic expression is the armed struggle. Liberation struggle to Cabral rejects cultural domination by the foreign power by denying the culture of the oppressor. Thus, Cabral argues that the tie between a people´s identity and the reproduction and maintenance of the social system of a specific set of institutions affects both culture and the people´s intimate sense of selfhood.
Colonialism by "denying to the dominated people their own historical process, necessarily denies their cultural process." (Cabral: 142) In Mongo Beti´s The Poor Christ Of Bomba and King Lazarus, the structures that the colonialists introduce affect both the people´s culture and their sense of selfhood. In the two novels, Tala and Essazam societies respectively are culturally transformed by the introduction of the capitalist cash nexus, bourgeoisie religions, and European educational systems. Oyono, in Houseboy and The Old Man and the Medal, portrays colonialism as undermining and suppressing indigenous culture and its institutions. The alternatives colonialism provides for these are schools, stores, roads and hospitals -- structures that the colonialists use to impose and consolidate their own culture on the colonized thereby altering the African culture. Cabral argues that imperialist domination "for its own security requires cultural oppression and the attempt at direct or indirect destruction of the essential elements of the culture of the dominated people" (142).
Cabral also proves that culture reflects the aspirations of the "petty bourgeoisie," which, like those of all other classes, derives from their class. The new African ruling middle class is underdeveloped, has no economic power, and, therefore, reflects the culture of the metropolitan bourgeoisie with whom it economically allied itself to exploit the own people. Memebers of the new African ruling middle class have assimilated the colonizers´ mentality and regard themselves as "culturally superior." Their imitative culture reflects the political and economic dependence of this class on the metropolitan bourgeoisie and this has been the focus of many African writers who deal with the theme of cultural influence. In Xala and The Last of Empire, Ousmane criticizes cultural imperialism in the Francophone postcolonial state. In Xala, Ousmane satirizes Oumi N´doye´s worship of everything from France. Ousmane also uses El Hadji Kader Beye´s sexual impotence ("xala") to symbolize the lack of creativity and the economic impotence of the new middle class rulers who are not, in the words of Frantz Fanon, "engaged in production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labor; it is completely canalized into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and be part of the racket." El Hadji says to the Chamber of Commerce:
Are we businessmen? I say no! Just clodhoppers . . . We are nothing better than crabs in a basket. We want the ex-occupier´s place? We have it . . . Yet what change is there really in general or in particular? The colonialist is stronger, more powerful than before, hidden inside us . . . What are we? Clodhoppers! Agents! Petty traders! In our fatuity we call ourselves "businessmen"! Businessmen without funds. (Ousmane: 1976: 91-2)
In The Last of Empire, Ousmane portrays the young generation as avid to embrace the foreign colonial culture that the older generation had fought to remove. Mamlat Soukube has an extreme fondness for clothes from Europe and America. This is a clear demonstration of cultural imperialism that the shoes and jackets that Meka buys in The Old Man and the Medal also symbolize. Professor D. Westermann in The African Today (p. 331) writes that "the wearing of European clothes, whether rags or the most up-to-date style; using European furniture . . . Contribute (from the black man´s point of view) to a feeling of equality with the European and his achievements." In Devil on the Cross, Ngugi satirizes the worship, by the new middle class, of all that is foreign and their revulsion for all that is local. He portrays the new ruling class as reluctant to embrace the revolutionary culture of the masses because they have developed into an exploitative comprador class who want to remain unchanged. This artistic portrayal coincides with Cabral´s objective analysis that the class character of cultures gives National Liberation a positive or negative appeal to each class.
Cabral believes that, essentially the colonial country and the neocolonial country suffer from the same problem: "Violent usurpation of the freedom of development of the national productive forces." According to him, National Liberation frees the nation´s productive forces from all kinds of foreign domination. In other words, it destroys imperialist control. This helps to explain, in African literature
, the initial failure by the writers to distinguish between juridical and economic independence. Anti-colonial African literature like Achebe´s Things Fall Apart
tended to impute African society´s problems to color prejudice rather than class conflict. It was only after none of the promised benefits of independence occurred, that African writers began producing works like Ngugi´s Petals of Blood
that show African society´s contradictions to be rooted in class conflict. Cabral believes that among the peasants, who are "the repository of the national culture," are also the source of cultural resistance. According to him, contact with the rich cultural tradition of the peasants may transform the mentality of the "petty bourgeoisie" and make them play a leading role in the struggle for national liberation. The bourgeoisie must thus commit suicide as a class and then align themselves with the peasants. There is no better, more graphic example of this than the closing scene in Ousmane´s Xala
where the beggars spit on El Hadji.
The quest for identity and cultural dignity is peculiar only to the petty bourgeoisie. This accounts for the negritude poetry of Senghor and other works of cultural national struggle. Cabral also shows that the culture of the people is a culture of resistance and struggle and that it historically opposes the culture of the oppressor -- that of counterrevolution and violence. Thus, in Oyono´s Houseboy and The Old Man and the Medal, the colonized people´s culture of resistance expresses itself in the illegal brewing of beer, in lying to whites and in manipulating the aggressive structures of colonialism to further the struggle. In Ngugi´s Matigari, the main character wages a guerilla war against the neocolonial regime. According to Cabral, "the armed liberation struggle is an act of making history bear fruit, the highest expression of our culture and our Africanness. At the moment of victory, it must be translated into a significant leap forward of the culture of the people who are liberating themselves. If this does not happen, then the efforts and sacrifices made during the struggle will have been in vain. The struggle will have failed in its aims" (Cabral: 153).
Ngugi´s "Writing Against Neocolonialism" shows that African literature developed as a direct response to concrete historical conditions, which transformed the function and both ideology
of the African writer and the artistic forms used. Ngugi argues that the African writers who emerged after the second world war experienced three modal stages in their growth: (1) anti-colonial struggle, (2) independence, and (3) neocolonialism.
The Decade of Hope
The 1950s was the decade of hope during which most African countries gained independence as anti-imperialist movements triumphed. African writers born in this decade had an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, yet hopeful mood, which explains the assertive and optimistic nature of the writing of the period. Colonialism had tried to justify its oppression and exploitation by resorting to claims of racial superiority. The new African writer countered such claims by producing artistic works that showed that Africa had its own history, culture, and civilization that were equal if not superior to that of the imperialists. The writers saw their societies "put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self abasement imposed on them by colonialism." The most representative works of this period include Achebe´s Things Fall Apart set in Umuofia, an independent and "progressive" society before the intrusion and entrenchment of colonialism. However, while reshaping Africa´s distorted history, Achebe does not idealize it. He shows that African society had its own contradictions and spiritual crises before the intrusion of colonialism.
Achebe´s approach sharply contrasts to the negritude
writers of the same period, such as Senghor, Laye and others, whose artistic works idealize Africa. The ideological concerns of the African writer reflected the general mood of African nationalism. These writers erroneously analyzed imperialism and social situations from the standpoint of racial instead of class conflict. African writer remolded the English language to suit their subversive purposes. Thus, Achebe in Things Fall Apart
and The Arrow of God
used Ibo modes of expression to reflect Ibo culture. The development of the novel in Africa was also due to the rise of a class -- all the authors, Achebe, Laye, Ngugi, were members of an emerging educated African elite, and their works were directed at foreign audiences and local audiences who belonged to their own socio-economic classes.
The Period of Moral Critique
The rise of government by dictatorship throughout Africa, which characterized the 1970s, perpetuated the political, economic, and social practices of colonialism. The age of independence also witnessed the emergence of social classes and class contradictions -- a development that disappointed and shocked many African writers, who created artistic works expressing disillusionment with postcolonial African society. Achebe´s A Man of the People and Armah´s The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born -- the novels most representative of this period did not fully grasp the source of the manifest contradictions. They mistakenly argued that the cause of Africa´s problems lay in the new leaders´ lack of moral direction. At this time, writers therefore saw their role as that of transforming society (and its leaders) by means of moral enlightenment. The works of this period thus subscribed to a liberal humanist ideology that pleaded with the oppressed. In Oyono´s Houseboy, the protagonist, Toundi, dies because of the oppressive neocolonial system.
The writers of this period intended the pathos and emotive power of their works to instigate the oppressors to initiate a political and economic reorganization of society in the interest of the oppressed. However, some critics maintain that the intentions (of the pathos and bitterness of these novels) were to whip the emotions of the people into revolutionary action. The artistic forms reflect the ideological content, for writers used satire and ridicule as "corrective narrative techniques" to enlighten their society morally. The despair that pervades these works, which portray the oppressed as trapped and helpless, arises in the writers´ political misunderstanding.
The historical events of the 1970s revealed even more clearly the transition from colonialism to neocolonialism that had begun during the 1960s. Writers began to understand that the roots of social contradictions and conflicts lay in class differentiations not color. Some works representative of this period include Ngugi´s The Devil on the Cross, Pepetela´s Mayombe, and Sahle Sellasie´s Firebrands. These novels portray conflict in terms of class conflict and from the perspective of the oppressed -- the workers and the peasants. The writers delegate the revolutionary vanguard role to the people themselves. The authors were implicitly disgusted with the educated elite who cannot initiate a struggle and bestow their faith in the peasants themselves or suggest ways to solve Africa´s contradictions. The writer saw his or her role as that of instigating the people into a revolutionary struggle. There is also the realization that women are the most exploited in an aggressive society. Thus, Mumbi in Ngugi´s A Grain of Wheat, Sophie in Oyono´s Houseboy, Adja Awa Astou in Ousmane´s Xala, and Waringa in Ngugi´s Devil on the Cross, are all women exploited.
While socialist ideology form the basis for these works, the artistic forms of oral songs and other dynamic orature techniques show that they are directed to a new audience, the peasantry. The latter factor has led to a fierce debate about what constitutes African literature. Ngugi argues that writing in foreign languages perpetuates neocolonialism and that all African literature in English is really Euro-African literature and not African literature. Ngugi, in rebellion against foreign domination, wrote his novel Devil on the Cross in Gikuyu because "writing in Gikuyu does not cut me off from other language communities because there are always opportunities for translation" (On Writing: 155). Ngugi, however, overlooks the fact that something is always changed, added, or lost in translation." Ngugi´s insistence on Gikuyu also raises the problem of the "double audience" in African literature: Since the writer wishes to address both internal and external audiences, there has to be a neutral language. That neutral language is English, but then, Ngugi considers English a colonial language. According to him, the
In saying this, Ngugi overlooks two problems. First, can writers say effectively, through a "native" language, what they have to say? We have to consider that sometimes we cannot find the right word to express what we feel. Indeed, Ngugi himself is not well versed in the Gikuyu he brandishes as a weapon against neocolonialism. Second, even if writers can say what they want effectively, there is no guarantee that the readers will decipher the intended message.
African writer of the 80s has no choice but to join in the people´s struggle for survival. In that situation, he will have to confront the languages spoken by the people in whose service he has put his pen. Such a writer will have to rediscover the real language of struggle in the actions and speeches of his people, learn from their great optimism and faith in the capacity of human beings to remake their world and renew themselves . . . He must be part of the song of the people.
We cannot, however, ignore what Ngugi says about language. There is nothing wrong in theorizing on the use of a "native" language in literature, which works well in the theater; the problem is in its practicality. The one point on which I agree completely with Ngugi is his emphasis that African writers of the ´80s should align themselves with the masses, even if it means risking jail or exile. For the only alternative would be for the writer to become a state functionary via self-censorship.
In conclusion, a reading of the three articles makes African literature clearer and easier to understand for they bring out the truth about African literature. They examine the political, economic and social circumstances that impelled the sensitivity and ideologies of African literature and writers on colonialism respectively. They also discuss the historical connections that make it possible to analyze African literature dealing with pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial phases of African history.
Now the way forward. One way forward is for the middle class to "betray the calling fate has marked out for it." That is, its subservience to the bourgeoisie of the motherland and the exploitation of its own people that leads to a psychic split. It should put at its people¹s disposal "the intellectual and technical capital that it has snatched when going through the colonial universities." However, there is a gradual (globalization) and consequent disappearance of the middle class which according to Scott Lash and John Urry (1993: 300), has resulted (in western societies) from the "decentralization of population and industry; the declining attractiveness of mass organizations; the increased emphasis upon the Œlocal¹; the pursuit of sectional interests; the declining salience of class; and the transgression of fixed boundaries by a set of new cultural forms." In the light of this, another way forward (for the arts) is the formation of what Gramsci calls organic intellectuals -- writers who are in touch with the masses -- as opposed to the traditional intellectuals of the ruling class who write from sequestration. Having said this, literature or art in general, needs to be freed from politics and history. It must address the question of change - it must deal with the vagaries of virtual reality versus the humdrum of societies. It must adapt and become spontaneous in its response to things as they happen in society. It must write about today for today is tomorrow.
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