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

By Evan Maina Mwangi

Explores the metafictional innovations of up to date African novels instead of characterizing them basically as a reaction to colonialism.

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Press and Ndebele variously aver that contemporary African art’s reluctance to follow a clearly realist mode or to serve an overt political program does not detract from its forcefulness as a political object. That is, the use of nonrealist modes is not a call for the abandonment of political engagement in favor of hermetic aestheticism. Ndebele underlines that “technique does not mean a rarefied, formal, and disembodied attempt at innovation for its own sake” (1991, 72). The artistic mode is a means of provoking the reader to reassess his or her experience of the world.

The national universities set up in the 1960s, at the onset of independence, were also bearing fruit; the locally trained graduates were not only venturing into writing but also providing a market for books. The enrollment in colleges shot up dramatically in the 1970s to over 600,000 in 1980. 75 million in 1995 (Mama 2005, 98). The universities were more regional and national than universal in their political and intellectual orientation. This translated into the demand for, and the consequent production of, a literature that was more inward-looking, as opposed to the universalist colonial literatures affecting cosmopolitanism while promoting European interests.

The whole effort to deconsecrate Eurocentrism cannot be interpreted, least of all by those who participate in the enterprise, as an effort to supplant Eurocentrism with, for instance, Afrocentric or Islamocentric approaches. On its own, ethnic particularity does not provide for intellectual process—quite the contrary. (1991, 26) Here, Said would prefer an approach to literature that exposes the atrocities of colonialism and neocolonialism while, like much African literature (especially that emerging from Anglophone Africa), accepting the culpability of societies in their own predicaments.

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