African Women Writers
To understand the sociology of a culture and where its women stand within it, one may turn to its literature for it acts as a reflection of the structure, development, and functioning of society. Originally, when it comes to African literature, it has been passed down orally by “literary soldiers” such as warriors, priests, and other story tellers. In Nigeria, oral traditions are sacred since through them, stories and cultural beliefs become imprinted in the minds of many generations.
In her article “From Orality to Writing: African Women Writers and the (Re)Inscription of Womanhood”, Obioma Nnaemeka (1994) women have played a significant and active role when it comes to oral traditions. Women have participated in reciting poetry and are expected to be skillful in the art of lamenting by singing somber songs which express great grief. Moreover, women have been regarded as excellent storytellers for their styles of narrating have captivated and influenced many. However, when written literature has come into the picture, men have taken the field by storm for most have had the advantage of knowing the colonizers’ languages and haven’t been subjected to the values of Victorian colonial education. Despite being hindered by societal rules, biased publishing houses, and male critics, African women have fought in order to show their side of the story by producing written literature which exposes facts that have been hidden from the world by their male counterparts. Instead of pleasing the status quo in order to get published, African women writers have decided to reveal the long history of sufferings of African women and their experiences with patriarchy, war, and social injustices.
Nonetheless, in contemporary times, some African women writers have been inspired and motivated by African male writers to produce their own written literature such as Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie whose driving force to write has originated from reading “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. Achebe has played an important part in Adichie’s upbringing for he was literally present in every corner of her life. Coincidence or not, Adichie claims that she has grown up in the exact same house Achebe’s family was staying at before they moved out.
Moreover, she states that reading his books has made her feel that people who look like her can live in books. But, just like many African women writers, Adichie uses her platform to shed light on the state of women in African countries in hopes to create social change. A renounced feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written several books such as “We Should All Be Feminists”(2014), “Americanah”(2013), and “Half of a Yellow Sun”(2006), describing and narrating Nigerian women’s positions in society and the internal and external struggles they face throughout their lives. Despite sociopolitical growth in Nigeria, a strong bias towards men is evident to this day for women have become perceived as inferior and a liability. Being a patriarchal country, Nigerian societies have practiced acts of injustice towards women such as female circumcision and polygamy. However, nothing has hurt African women more than the institution of marriage. In Nigeria, married women lose their status and their freedom, becoming enslaved by their husbands, sons, and other male figures in their lives. Moreover, not only women lose their identities by changing their surname to their husbands’, but they are addressed throughout their lives as the “mothers of their sons. ” It is crucial to state that African women have had an active sociopolitical and economical presence in precolonial Africa.
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