Modern African francophone and Anglophone Literatures date back to the era of the negritude movement. The pioneer African writer was confronted by the ugly past experiences of the inhumanity of the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Saharan Slave Trade coupled with the degradation of the colonial period. As a result, he decided to pitch his camp with his suffering people by prefering to portray this evil in his writings, creating awareness on ways forward and calling for reforms. His tool was the sociological method. He laid less emphasis on the German werkimmanenz, the French l’art pour l’art, the Russian Formalism and the North American close-reading. The African feminist writer also turned her back to the Euro-American version of feminism and preferred the home-made ideology termed Womanism and her sister acronyms such as Stiwanism and Motherism which maintain that men and women relationship and apportioning of roles in the society should be complementary and not rivalry-prone or confrontational, while condemning obnoxious cultural and anti-womanist practices. Hence African men and women should concert efforts in liberating the African continent which is still suffering from modern versions of Slavery and Colonialism.This research will apply a multi-disciplinary approach and invoke the womanist, psychoanalytical and existentialist theoretical frameworks inter alia to appraise the relevant works of Chinua Achebe, Aminata Sow Fall and Ahmadou Kourouma inter alia. Through their realist portrayals, these African writers have created awareness of the injustices perpetrated by African oppressors, both Euro-Americans and their African collaborators. This research is a call on African writers for more prophetic and liberating efforts in their creatic works and aesthetics. Liberation Literature should by so doing ursher in a GREAT REFUSAL of the status quo and a way forward towards the birth of the beautiful ones in Africa who will fashion out a home-made literary, political, economic and social transformation for the betterment of not only women, but also men as well as youths of Africa.
The 1959 Congress of Negro Writers and Artists in Rome was an opportunity for African writers to set standards and regulations as to the role of the African writer and critic. The Afro-centric criticism was given a vote of confidence as regards the expectations of the African reader vis à vis the duties of the writer/artist and the referee status of the critic. While appreciating the pioneering efforts of the Negritude which was not only a cultural and ideological phenomenon but also poetics, the congress committee on Literature faulted the Negritude on grounds of over emphasis on nostalgia for the African past, the romanticisation of the African poetry and the little regard for her literariness, present and future. Mostly castigated was the so called colonialist criticism, Larsonism and ethnocentric criticism. These criticisms were orchestrated by the Europeans and Americans who applied the so called universal canonization criteria of traditional plot and structure, classical appreciation and round characterization on African literature. These applied European philosophical ideas and techniques, appreciation of the picturesque and instructive reactions. They wrote from outside Africa and in their reception theories; they targeted Euro-American readers and audience. These Euro-American writers and Anthropologists wept louder than the bereaved since they had virtually no African experience.
The post Negritude and post colonial Literature called for a realist Literature of commitment – littérature engagée. But after six decades of African literary exercise, the African aesthetics on the one hand and the African artist’s solidarity for his people on the other hand are yet to be fully home-made and fruitful. Africa is still under new versions of slavery, colonialism and literary dependence. Papa Wempa, the Zairean creator of Lassapeur and Artist in an interview with the CNN on 9th Nov. 2012 bemoaned that after decades of the so called independence of African nations that “ in every African country there is always a foreign hand dictating the law”. The foreign Hand is also in every African nation dictating the canons of every literary theory or theories of literature, theoretical frameworks, course work-development, critical approaches to literature, indexing of journals, Impact Factor, the language of artistic expression, standardization regularities at all levels. We also look up to the same hands for grants, scholarship, international accreditation, sponsorship and ranking.At the end of every month, the African scholar submits his hard earned salary so as to have his journal articles published in Europe and America because he lacks the will power and sincerity to develop genuine home-made journals.
Since he who pays the piper dictates the tone, how free is the fellow or researcher in his academic investigation and commitment to a given cause? All these challenges have occasioned my research for an alternative literature of commitment and african authenticity – African Liberation Literature. Such a literature will interrogate the African humanist and literary scientist on the above issues and will mobilize them to discover some durable answers. One factor is clear: African literature, nay scholarship is still in bondage. African Literature is still to a great extent an exercise in mimicry, recycling and cyclostyling of Euro-American manuals and ideas.In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the one who mimicks or apes another suffers from inferiority complex just like the radical feminists regret that they have no phallus since they reason that the phallus is the symbol of masculine power. Hence the penchant for exagerated mimicry of masculine modus vivendi and modus operandi. Womanist ideology enters the stage to correct this abberation by stressing that biology has defined Gender as male and female. None should envy or ape the other. The one should complement the other.
The whole quest for an authentic African literature of commitment, combat or protest and independence takes flesh in African liberation literature.Literature in our context goes beyond literary esthetics and literary studies.We have hitherto had the ethno-centric criticism, the colonialist criticism, the Negritude, the Eurocentric criticism, the sociological criticism, the socio-political and socio-economic criticism, the neo-marxist and the neo scientific criticism. In all these, African literature has remained a dependent literature. The need to liberate the African writer, the African critic and the African reader from the Euro-American literary canons and standardization forms part of our present exercise and is refered to as liberation literature. We are over due for a Beyond Francophone and Anglophone literary aesthetics.
Similarly liberation feminism is that version of women’s consciousness that dissuades women from loathing motherhood and revelling in complaints instead of concerting efforts with the men to transform, reform the family and the community.For it is pitiful and defeatist for one to sit down producing nothing but only complaints, criticisms,labellings, murmuring and cries of woes.( Orjinta 2011:52):
Der Womanismus als Ideologie porträtiert das Bewusstsein der afrikanischen Frau, die ihre Interessen und Bedürfnisse anerkennt und dafür sehr diplomatisch und Gender-ergänzend in Anbetracht ihrer Berufung als Mutter und des Wohls der Familie (Mann und Kinder) und der Gemeinde kämpft.
Ogundipe Leslie in Adebayo(1996) brings in the idea of the stiwa thus: “Stiwa means social transformation including women of Africa: “I wanted to stress the fact that what we want in Africa is social transformation. It is not about warring with men, the reversal of role, or doing to men whatever women think that men have been doing for centuries, but it is trying to build a harmonious society. The transformation of African society is the responsibility of both men and women and it is also in their interest”. Hence in our womanist aesthetics, we centre our attention on what the writer, male or female, is doing as regards the above issues.
Literature and Sources
For our sources we shall exhaust all materials on literature of combat and militancy in Africa such as Swingewood’s The Novel and Revolution (1975), Fiebach’s Literatur der Befreiung (1979), Adebayo’s Critical Essays on the Novel in Francophone Africa, Orjinta’s Women’s Experiences in Selected African feminist literary Texts and Women in World Religion and Literatures. Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth (1963), Edith Iheakweazu’s Eagle on Iroko (1990), Richard Right’s White man listen (1995),Ngugi Wa Thiong’o : A grain of Wheat (1967),Nwoga’s Achebe’s vision of New Africa: Achebe as a Social Critic in Eagle on the Iroko (1990), Opata’s The Writer and a Sense of History, Telwell’s Telling the Truth is the only way in Eagle on the Iroko. Chodorow’s Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory (1989) and Nwala’s Critical Review of the great Debate on African Philosophy (1970-1990) 2009. These sources and the ones I have already listed under Bibliography have dwelt on our theme of discourse from different perspectives. Most of these fall under the Post Colonial Literature. Their efforts have not yielded the desired goals as we can see both in the African literary and socio-political terrain. This project aims at digging deeper into the quest for a result oriented role of the African writer vis à vis his wretched society. Our attempt is surgical in that we are beginning by calling on the writer to heal himself first before healing his society. The dependent writer or artist who suffers from colonial mentality will only engender a dependent art and aesthetics. This work calls for soul-searching on the part of the African writer as regards his sources of creativity, theoretical frameworks, methodology, stylistics, reception’s theory and criticism of literature.
This research, as earlier mentioned will apply a multi-disciplinary approach and invoke the womanist, psychoanalytical and existentialist theoretical frameworks to appraise the relevant works of Chinua Achebe, Aminata Sow Fall and Ahmadou Kourouma inter alia. Through their realist portrayals, these african writers have created awareness of the injustices perpetrated by African oppressors, both Euro-Americans and their African Collaborators. This humanist and society based criticism which saw the day in the 1920s began as a sociological approach for analyzing African oriented works. In the 1970s, it graduated as a neo Marxist criticism. For this criticism to be liberating enough under the conditions outlined above, it must first use ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary African philosophies like the ones of ancient Egypt (Ptahhotep 2414-2375 BC, Amenhotep IV, the Hermetian writings, Tertulian, Protinius, Origen, Negritude, Edward Wilmot Blyden’s African personality, Nkruma’s Consciencism and Nyerere’s Uhuru na Ujamma, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Philosophy of Neo welfarism etc. for its theoretical frame-work. African philosophy revolves around the principles of Humanism, socialism and communalism as opposed to Euro-American capitalistic and individualistic ethics. Elsewhere Placid Tempels worked on Bantu philosophy, while William Abraham dwelt on the Mind of Africa. Uzodinma Nwala attempts Igbo Philosophy and John Mbiti laboured on African Religions and Philosophy. Africa has therefore a wealth of philosophical thoughts and ideologies which predate the European ones we are using. These should be dug out, developed and harnessed for literary aesthetics.
This sociological approach in particular must appreciate the African core values such as intuition, feelings, emotion, patience, simplicity, music, folklore, nature, symbolism and empathy. It must also explore the explication de texte where texts are interrogated to yield their meanings. The realist touch must be so cinematographic and journalistic that the art mirrors the society in toto. (Ahmadou Kourouma: Allah n’est pas obligé, Quand on refuse, on dit non. Heinrich Böll : Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, Gruppenbild mit Dame, Ansichten eines Clowns, Frauen vor Flusslandschaft)
This research is a call on African writers for more prophetic and liberating efforts in their creative works and aesthetics. Liberation Literature, as mentioned earlier, should by so doing usher in a GREAT REFUSAL of the status quo and a way forward towards the birth of the beautiful ones in Africa who will fashion out a home-made literary, political, economic and social transformation for the betterment of not only women, but also men as well as youths of Africa. African literary criticism should therefore continue in the fashion of social criticism. It appreciates works written by Africans, male and female, for Africans and with African characters (as major actors), settings, plots and contents. According to the Présence Africaine ( nr. 24 -25), this responsibility is spelt out clearly:
The true expression of the reality of his people long obscured, deformed or denied during the long period of colonization. This expression is so necessary under present conditions that it imposes on the Negro artist or writer a singularly specific concept of commitment. The Negro writer cannot avoid taking part in the general movement outlined above.
Plan of work and Ideology of Liberation Literature
Aside from the introduction and the conclusion, this work will take cognizance of the following guiding ideas viz. the objectives, the need for the study, the literature review and the theoretical framework. Next, the historical and philosophical background to African literary criticism will be touched. We shall also mention the ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary African philosophies which have been copied or harnessed by Euro-American thinkers, repackaged and imported to Africa. Hitherto we erroneously tend to follow the Europeans by claiming that these literary theories emanated from Europe. These philosophies shall be dug out for possible use in our literary criticism, precisely in our theoretical frameworks. Thanks to the colonial master’s indoctrination tactics, the African child has been brought up in schools to loathe everything African and to have long-throat for everything European. The writer Abdoulaye Sadji Abdou (1958:72) documented in this context the past mistakes of the French: