Crossroads.Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda

5185z3fsyql“The two women who raised me never read books and had little education (…) but each told me in these exact words: ‘Be whatever you want to be. Go wherever your fantasies take you, as long as that place exists.’

For me, that place is in the literary world, where my name won’t trigger any evil suspicions, and I will be accepted for what I am, just like Chinua and Ngugi.

My name is Nakisanze Segawa.”

(from “My Name” by Nakisanze Segawa)

Fifteen stories about women’s statuts, life, ambitions and fears.

Fifteen testimonies of today’s life in Uganda where, like anywhere else, writers shape their own world and want to make a difference in people’s way of thinking.

In these autobiographical stories, some of which are gripping by their sharp observation of everyday life, what is ultimately challenged is narrow-mindedness: from the status and life of single women in small communities where marriage is compulsory, to high education; from male abuses to lesbianism; from pre-defined identities to literature as the free open space of defining oneself.

The authors’ voices are imprinted with a journalistic clear and insightful sense of observation which gives the stories a universal dimension, in spite of their obvious geographical focus. While reading them, one realizes that many injustices are closely linked to the misunderstanding of “culture”; each author gives a personal explanation of their own vision of culture and of how it should help people to evolve and open their minds to the world and themselves, rather than imprison them.

Finally, it is through writing that these female writers manage to create a space of freedom and introspection. It is yet another proof that language and discourse are ways of endlessly reinventing the world.

Crossroads. Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda

9781507680223 / Christopher Conte Editor/ 2015

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English to high school students in France.

Wandering Feet on Pebbled Shores

36008689Of the road ahead no one told him though,

how it bends like a snake, like an English old lane

on and on it goes without end. (…)

Tell the child fearful of vesperides and mirages,

(…) that the road not travelled will remain quiet paths

like voices, buried as silences, in the sepulcher of narrow throats;

but the road trodden will reveal ancient legends and secrets

which no travaler tells but which everyone grow eager ears for.”

(“Migrant Feet”)

No clear origin or destination.

The road as the main focus and as the best mentor.

Eyes and ears turned towards the effervescent world unfolding all around, and soul opened to people.

So sounds and sings the voice in the poems of Godspower Oboido; a voice of a generation born between worlds and between identities, a generation searching for ways of understanding its multi-faceted image rather than accepting pre-defined identities.

The speed with which the poet makes the reader change his place and perspective is quite spectacular: we go from Lagos to New York, from Kano to London and the Russian countryside; we wait and watch the world go by in the Amsterdam airport; we go to the seaside and come back to the buzzing city.

Godspower Oboido builds a journey out of language, in which words and sounds mirror the place they create: “the waters dans/ for our thrill and to the rhythm of tides./ The sand and the sea, they call us.” (“The Sand and Sea”).

International critics and editors have put Godspower Oboido in the line of Christopher Okigbo and Leopold Sédar Senghor as a prominent Nigerian voice of the African contemporary literature. From Lagos and the native region of the Niger Delta to the northern Kano, the poet mirrors his native country with words both tender and sharp, as he tries to see the multiple faces of the places and of himself.

However, besides that, he is also a voice of the international literature, of what Tayie Selasi calls Afropolitans; he is a voice of the famished road echoing Ben Okri’s marvellous world, of the endless journey back and forth, where the origin meets the end; where what matters is to discover one’s selves; where, finally, what matters is to wander and wonder.

Wandering Feet on Pebbled Shores by Godspower Oboido
9781942956419 /Lamar University Literary Press / 2017

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France.

 

Homegoing

30070018-_uy200_Effia
The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound. It moved quickly, tearing a path for days. It lived off the air; it slept in caves and hid in trees; it burned, up and through, unconcerned with what wreckage it left behind, until it reached an Asante village. There, it disappeared, becoming one with the night. (…)
The villagers began to say that the baby was born of the fire, that this was the reason Baaba had no milk. Effia was nursed by Cobbe’s second wife, who had just given birth to a son three months before. (…) “

In modern-day Ghana, in Fanteland, in the seventeenth century, Effia and Esi are born of the same father, but will have completely opposed destinies. One becomes a slave during the slave trade, the other- the wife of a slave trader. For the next three centuries, on each side of the Atlantic their descendants will struggle to make their own way into the everchanging New World where their ancestors were brought and forced to fit. From mine-working to jazz-playing, from slavery to academia, African- Americans become despite themselves a part of a foreign land and their stories are mostly about how to fit and become what they are meant to be.

Like an enchanted tale told by a griot, the story begins with fire taking over the Fanteland, the story of Effia and Esi’s descent mixes traditional Fante and Ashanti folk stories and the American history of slavery in a wonderfully mastered prose. Between Africa and North America, the characters are first torn, then resentful, then accepting their cultural heritage.

Yaa Gyasi excels in entagling the private stories of the characters with the bigger History which both lifts and suffocates the characters; story and History, slave trade and family dramas, the characters of the novel embody how fragile individuals are in the face of history, but also how time helps them go back to their origins. Time cannot heal the wounds of past abuses, but it can offer the chance to the youngest descendents of the old Ashanti-Fante families to make peace with their bruised lives and start over.

Once you understand and accept who you are, you can return home.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

978-0241242735 / Viking / 2016

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France.

Nqobile: The Story of Becoming

What does the world look like through a foreign student’s eyes ?

What happens when, while going to the Promised Land, you find not the dream you had in mind, but much more and in a much more different form ?

Thus begins Mandhla Mgijima alias Sipho’s novel, like a modern fairy tale : the young Nqobile goes to South Africa, then to America. He likes English-language fiction, befriends white men; he is young and enthousiastic and sees the world as he wished it to be.

Nqobile had successfully forged another relation with white people, an achievement that made him silently proud. Internally, he was glowing. This was something he had managed to do seamlessly throughout his private high school with its white majority. He understood them well and held as a rule that mostly good came out of relations with white folk, and so he had made it a habit of actively engaging with them, especially at his American university.” (p.21)

Then comes the time when he gradually becomes more politically-aware and discovers the complex faces of the American society. The novel constantly refers to contemporary events (the campaigns #Blacklivesmatter in the United States and #Rhodesmustfall in South Africa, the terrorist attacks in Paris) and personalities, like Steve Biko- yet the profound meaning of the narrative lies elsewhere : this realistic scenery is home to a modern tale about how the notions of white and black shape our imagination, our judgement on people and our projects.

The book traces Nqobile’s transformation from an admirer of white men to a man fully aware of himself who has created his own philosophy on race, acceptance and life priorities. It is through the character of Nolwazi, Sipho’s South African publisher, that we learn how Nqobile reaches this awareness. It is also through her eyes that we learn how power relations work in everyday life between students of different countries and cultures. It is, finally, an image of what anyone could achieve if one stopped speaking in the name of truths one doesn’t really believe in.

Nqobile: The Story of Becoming by Mandla Mgijima

ISBN : 978-0- 7974- 8760- 4

Publisher : David Kaplan, Freelanceeditors.co.za , 2016

Review by Ioana Danaila


Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France

The Day Ends Like Any Day

In 1990s Nige9781910688298ria, Sam, a young man, begins his life’s journey in O. situated east of Port Harcourt; as the “lazy stroller” he calls himself, he moves constantly in and out of the text in a cinematographic way. He introduces us to Pa Suku, Ma Ike, Ricia, Dora, Osagie, Margaret and all the other characters that mark his path. From the small crowded flat in which he lives with his family to the Delta State University in Abraka he later attends, Sam’s excursion through life guides the reader through past (the Biafran war and some events occuring back then) and present (President Sani Abacha’s years).

Timothy Ogene’s beautiful novel is a new form of Bildungsroman, in which the theme of coming of age becomes a coming of language: Sam’s story is also a journey through books and memories, so much so that a life’s journey is not only oriented forwards, but also backwards.

Like Sam, the reader is constantly going back and forth to the past through words and the images and sometimes the physical sensations they leave in our lives. As the title suggests, the days become not a flow of time-limited sequences, but an eternal present that shrinks or expands through the power of our own mind.

Ogene revisits the age-old theme of identity and transposes it into a world in which identities are constantly rooted out to be planted elsewhere, both never really free from their native soil and enriched by the foreign adoptive soils. The founding encounters in Sam’s life are also the encounters with his own past and his old self, now reshaped and revisited by the passing of time and the inevitable questioning of what life actually means:

Old Jumbo’s flowers were not as unkempt as I remember them. (…) State School One was east of the blocks. But in my head, in my recollection, it is positioned west. What else do I misremember? (…) It does not matter anymore. I remember what I remember, or what I consistently made myself remember. We are, indeed, wired to remember in twos: duplicates and originals. The original loses its composition the farther away we are from it.” (p.145)

The Day Ends Like Any Day by Timothy Ogene

978-1-910688-29-8  | Holland House | 2017

Review by Ioana Danaila


Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France