Sunday, March 31, 2013

UWAKE - A New Poetry Group

Dear Poetry Admirer
At Soma Book Cafe <> in Regent Estate, Morocco this coming Tuesday on the 2nd of April we're starting a poetry group.
It's called 'UWAKE" you're kindly invited, we know of your love for poetry through your attendance in Fanani Flava and or in Soma's previous poetry meetings. 
The session will start from 6pm at the book shop. Please bring your favorite poem to share with the group and a cushion for comfortable seating as we'll be seating on mats.
P.S. Find attached a document detailing the aim of UWAKE
Directions: SOMA Book Café is on the 2nd right (AAR Clinic) from the Morocco Junction as though you're going to Victoria from City Center. Then it's the first left then again first left. There'll be an empty yard go to the end, then on your right is SOMA...Karibuni  

Sincere Regards
Caroline Uliwa

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Scholarship as Liberation?

Scholarship as Liberation?

“We find little evidence for modernization theory”-Willa Friedman et al.

Chambi Chachage

Willa Friedman, Michael Kremer, Edward Miguel and Rebecca Thornton's (2011) article on ‘Education as Liberation?’ reignites the debate on impacts of formal education. Based on a follow-up survey of a randomized girls’ merit scholarship program in Kenya it provides empirical evidence on the efficacy of modernization theory vis-à-vis empowerment and liberal views in explaining gendered impacts of education.

As someone who has worked in a non-governmental organization that advocates for the right to access education, known as HakiElimu, in Kenya’s neighboring country of Tanzania after being trained by a professor of international education, Kenneth King, I find the findings particularly interesting. On the one hand one of their overall conclusions that they find that there is little evidence for modernization is startling as far as gender is concerned. Since gender is very central in Friedman et al.’s survey – as the scholarship program is primarily about uplifting the girl child in an education system that is still modernist – any compelling evidence of such uplift would be a significant affirmation of modernization. In fact the researchers confirmed that the program persistently raised the girls’ test scores and secondary schooling. However, by associating the link between democratization and education without unpacking the nature of patriarchy and the type of democracy that has been promoted in Kenya the researchers tend to conflate modernization, empowerment and liberal views in their explanation on the social and political impacts of the program as evidenced below:

We find that exposure to the program reduces young women’s acceptance of the right of men to beat their wives and children and there is evidence it reduces the likelihood that parents are involved in choosing their daughter’s spouse. These findings are broadly consistent with both modernization theory as well as the view that education promotes a desire for autonomy and empowerment, but are harder to reconcile with the claim that education tends to reinforce existing patterns of authority (Friedman et al. 2011: 4-5).

The empowerment view, at least in the ways it had been advocated by the likes of Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, Paulo Freire and even Julius Nyerere, all of whom the researchers quotes, was not centered on liberal democracy that is at the heart of the political dispensation in Kenya as it is in its education system. When this is unpacked one can locate the following findings within such a liberal conception of democracy:

The evidence on attitudes beyond the household is not consistent with a modernization perspective but is more readily explained by the empowerment view of education. In particular, there is no evidence that the human capital created by the [Girl Scholarship Program] GSP leads to more pro-democratic or secular attitudes, or weakened ethnic identification. In fact, there is suggestive evidence that ethnic identity grows stronger among program beneficiaries, despite the Kenyan school curriculum’s stated aim of promoting feelings of national unity (Friedman et al. 2011: 5).

On the other hand, however, the researchers provide a compelling innovating way of unpacking confounding explanations on causality. They used experimental designs to measure, by way of separation, the impact of the program on acceptance of authority, that is, in such a way that the possibility of reversal causality as thus illustrated is controlled: “if those who are less willing to accept authority are less likely to stay in school, cross-sectional correlations between education and acceptance of authority will confound the causal impact of education on willingness to accept authority with the impact of acceptance of authority on education” (Friedman et al. 2011: 5). They thus strongly show the evidence that “education reduces willingness to accept authority” (Friedman et al. 2011: 26). But, again, their reluctance to unpack liberal democracy as highlighted above leads them to interpret this as affirming that ‘there is little support for the direct impact of education on ‘modern’ values” (Friedman et al. 2011: 16).

In line with the researchers attempt to combine experimentation and non-experimental literature it is recommended that they also rigorously engage with critiques of liberal democracy in Africa. Such critiques, particularly those emanating from transformative feminism, unpack the ways in which patriarchy continue to manifests itself through the imposition of liberal democracy and market fundamentalism in the social sectors such as health, water and education to reproduce gendered patterns of domination. In such a setup a seemingly benign educational program could promote empowerment with one hand and take it with another hand. What one may observe as the fostering of individual autonomy could actually be an imposition of another form of authority.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Africanity or Christianity?

In Praise of Authenticity? Reflections on ‘The Task of African Traditional Religion in the Church’s Dilemma in South Africa’

“Africa is in search of viable political institutions but also of indigenous-oriented church institutions ” – G.C. Oosthuizen (2000: 280) in Jacob K. Olupona (Ed.), AfricanSpirituality: Forms, Meanings and Expressions, (pp. 277-283).

Chambi Chachage

G.C. Oosthuizen’s (2010) brief, 7-paged chapter on ‘The Task of African Traditional Religion in the Church’s Dilemma in South Africa’ is a sermonic call to practitioners of Christianity in Africa. Published 6 years after the end of Apartheid in South Africa, and in the context of a dramatic growth of the African Independent Churches (AICs) by an anti-Apartheid activist, it naturally gravitates towards a radical discourse of decolonization and indigenization. In a way it is a summary of a personal journey of the late founding director of the Research Unit for New Religious Movements and the Independent Churches (NERMIC) who, as minister, had to resign from the Dutch Reformed church that was the main Christian face of Apartheid’s institutional racism.

The chapter is divided into three interdependent sections: ‘Western Theology and African Alienation’; ‘Mission Christianity and Identity Crisis’; ‘African Challenge and Indigenous Christianity’. Throughout these sections the author, finding it hard to totally abandon Christianity for the sake of Africanity, vacillates between a radical, African-centered critique of Western practice of, and scholarship on, religion in Africa and a moderate, Christian-centered defense of African religion. It is within this context, of hanging between the radical Okot p’Bitek and moderate John. S Mbiti, that this reading report locates Oosthuizen as it summarizes and explicates his text.

Section one opens with a sweeping claim that even though the meaningfulness “of any theology rests on its relevance to the life of the members of the communities where it is applied” many “of the theologies that spun out from and were nourished in the Western intellectualist context have no roots in the life of the communities in Africa and thus ‘became useless verbiage’” (p. 277). For him this “is because Western theology has in many respects been indifferent to the church getting rooted in Africa, its longing for Africanization”. Convincing as it may be to an African-centered reader, this assertion does not explain why the Christian churches, at least in the places where they were planted by missionaries before and during colonialism, were widely and stably embraced in Africa even though “Western theology”, as he correctly puts it, “has been the intellectual foundation of the Western-oriented churches” (p. 277). If indeed “these disposition blindfolded theology to the issue at the gut level of Africa’s authentic existence” and “smothered what is positive in the traditional African context” (Ibid.) what then attracted many Africans to the theologies and structures of the Western-oriented churches? Coercion? Services? Materiality?  If they were of no theological and cultural relevance to Africans why did they continue, statistically, to grow rapidly in Africa after 1960, the celebrated year of Africa’s independence?

What Oosthuizen does is to conflate the post-colonial and post-Apartheid histories of the ‘Christian church’ in Africa. This is very problematic as it results in an ahistorical analysis of more than 40 years of post-colonial history of the church. When he writes during 2000, that not “only is the theology of Western-oriented churches in Africa becoming progressively more suspect but also the structures of the Western-oriented churches” and that the “imposition of Western values and institutions on indigenous African systems is seen as a major cause of the retrogression of the so-called mainline church” (Ibid.), he is addressing a specific case that may even be peculiar enough to feed into the contentious claims about South Africa’s ‘exceptionalism’. His otherwise strong argument about the AICs becoming more attractive to Africans in post-Apartheid South Africa because it is meeting their social, cultural and spiritual needs end up being superimposed on Africa in a way that essentializes culture and religion.

This discourse of ‘authenticity’ and ‘purity’ is evident in claims such as these: “The organization of the church as institution became more important to missioners than the traditional inborn sense of African religion” (p. 278). It is very surprising for such a claim to come from a former minister of a Christian church in a country where Afrikaner nationalism was almost synonymous to Dutch Reform Christian fellowship and who knows that the central message of the Bible is ‘Christian fellowship’ as thus summed up in this call in the first epistle of John chapter one and verse three: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ”. It is particularly difficult to understand why Oosthuizen is sidestepping the question of race and racism in the church in explaining why there was a dramatic decline in the membership of the so-called mainline churches and a dramatic increase in the AICs.

But even statistics that informed his analysis do not paint a simplistic picture. He is using figures from 1981 to 1991 and contrasts them with those of 1950. But in the latter case Apartheid as an official system was only two years old whilst in the former period it was crumbling and the struggle against it was increasingly becoming identified with churches whose members were not predominantly ‘white’. When one consults the South African Census conducted in 1996 and 2001 s/he will observe that even though there was a dramatic increase of ‘black African’ membership in the AICs there were non-AICs that had a significant increase of ‘black African’ membership in that period. For instance, their membership in “Pentecostal/Charismatic churches” increased from 1 652 829 in 1996 to 2 589 886 in 2001. Their membership in what are classified as “Other Christian churches” increased from 883 377 to 2 189 663 at the same time (See Does this mean they have also resolved the “crisis of African alienation” and “new dualism”?

I happened to live in South Africa between 1999 and 2004 and belonged to one of those ‘Other Christian churches’. Indeed there was an increase of black Africans and an exodus of white members but this was mainly attributed to race and racism as well as migration of Africans from other African countries in post-1994 South Africa. This church, at least in the ‘white’ side of South Africa, maintained a “Western type of church institution”. In the ‘black’ part they continued with “Western ecclesiastical structures” while fostering their cultures that were actually – and ironically – fused by the Apartheid Bantustan system of separate growth of ‘blacks, whites and coloreds’.

Thus when the author claims that the “Western type of church is not seen as the ideal from a functional point of view” (p. 278) one wonders why then are big church structures increasingly erected in diverse places in Africa and why other churches that are neither mainline nor the AICs are also dramatically growing in South Africa. One also wonders why only fellowship, a cardinal teaching of Christianity as far as the Bible is concerned, is the same notion that is thus used to explain the AICs’ growth:

One begins to wonder why people feel satisfied gathering in houses, shacks, shelters made from motorcar boxes, in open spaces, and a small percentage in school classrooms. This should not be interpreted merely as a reflection of poverty but as the inner need for fellowship: the need for small-scale church communities which reflect the extended family system in the ecclesiastical context. Western secular structures as well as Western ecclesiastical structures resulted in a sense of alienation with many in Africa. The vast sums spent on these Western-oriented constructions remain an obstacle to the African concept of religion as a sharing and caring phenomenon (Ibid.)

Section two picks the baton from the previous section and reiterates the grievances of radical African-centered scholars against Euro-centrism. “The missionaries and anthropological literatures”, Oosthuizen reasserts, “ has presented African religion in a most negative manner, as if is overruled by or infested with beliefs in magic, fetishes, spirits, ancestors, and so on” (p. 279). “Taking on Christianity” within this context, he further reaffirms, “has often led to a crisis of identity” (Ibid.). However, he singles out “the so-called mainline churches as not being absolved from this crisis” (Ibid.) whilst it has, so he claims, been “addressed with the emergence of the African Independent Churches (AICs)” (p. 278). It should be noted that what the South African Census cited above ‘calls’ the mainline churches “include reformed churches, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches and the United Congregational Church of South Africa”. This “crisis of identity”, Oosthuizen further claims, “lies” in what he refers to as “the fact” that  “many of their members wish to receive the benefits of traditional religion, such as their spontaneity in liturgy and their healing procedures (p. 280-281). This big claim that overlooks processes of the domestication of Christianity and multicultural interpretation of the Bible across the centuries and the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is thus used to make this other big claim to explain what is so tied to racial-cum-class struggles in South Africa: “In this the AICs have” become “a significant factor, as many of their members are the children of the identity crisis; in and through them the crisis has been ameliorated and even solved” (p. 208). But if they have indeed “become masters in solving the dualism between empirical Christianity and African traditional religion” (Ibid.) why are they still practicing ‘two religions in one’? Why is it Christianity?

If the “AICs are managing this dualism on their own in a masterly manner without being schizophrenic” (Ibid.) why are they still classified as being part of the Christian religion and not ‘African traditional religion’? What then makes them so spiritually decolonized if they are still bound within the double bind of a ‘modernity’ associated with ‘Christian civilization’ and a ‘tradition’ associated with ‘African religion’?

Section three makes a rather agile and ironic move from ‘purity’ and ‘authenticity’ espoused in previous sections to acknowledge the reality of cultural dynamism. In as much as the author tries to further his argument, by claiming that through the AICs “the fundamental principles of traditional African religion have been analyzed and integrated into the Christian context” (p. 282), he does not deny the fact that “African cultural life has also changed and can never be the same again” (Ibid.) But trapped between the modernity-tradition dichotomy that he is trying to transcend he pleads:

Certain demands of modern society cannot be met in the traditional context, especially on the scientific and industrial level. The efficiency and imagination of modern civilization should, up to a certain level, be accepted, but Africa should not be overpowered by them (Ibid.)

One of the conceptual hurdles that makes Oosthuizen waver between the dualism of Christianity and Africanity that he claims the AICs have addressed effectively is that without stating openly he is erroneously using this faulty equation: Christianization = Westernization. In other words, he does not want to throw what to him is the baby of Christianity (i.e. Modernization) and the bathwater (i.e. Westernization). It is in this regard that he even invokes, by way of lamentation, a retreating African socialism, as embodied in the concepts of Ubuntu and Ujamaa, and calls for its rejuvenation since to him the “failure of its development was due to the misunderstanding of the African concept of humanity, which was based on a deep sense of interhuman relationship” (p. 280). Thus for him “Africa is in need of organizing its social and political institutions, including the church, on the basis of genuine human fellowship (Ibid.)

But human fellowship is a universal concept in Christianity, Biblically defined. So what Oosthuizen is, in fact, wrestling is the Westernization of Christianity and he thinks its Africanization is the solution. Christianity, as it has been noted, began as a community, when it moved to the West it became an institution and when it went to the new World it became an enterprise.  It is this decadency of modernity that remains a challenge. This is the case in the ‘two countries in one’ that post-Apartheid South Africa is. The AICs’ emphasis on “special methods of sharing and caring in situation of rapid change” (p. 283) is universal among Christians who are facing “challenges of the modern world” as it has been since the times of the Apostle Paul. The role of the AICs, impressive as it is, in decolonizing ‘the souls of black folk’ is thus overstated. 

*The picture above has the following caption: "Gaudencia Aoko, or Mama Mtakatifu (Holy Mother), in western Kenya was a Luo girl aged 20 when called after the death of her two children in 1963; soon after, her movement seceded, broke from the Catholic Church and formed the Legion of Mary Church"

Myths About Land-Leasing in Tanzania?

The Minister for Lands, Housing
& Human Settlements Development, Professor Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, to the Tanzania Agribusiness Investment Showcase Event

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hatimaye Haki Iliyochelewa Yapatikana

Mwaka 2008 Udadisi ilichapisha humu mada hizi tatu : Mwekezaji Anapotumia Wanakijiji Kukutisha,  na Fatal Wildlife Attraction na Ardhi Isiyo Ya Mtu - 'No Man's Land'? Pia Udadisi ilishiriki katika utafiti huu Wildlife Conservation for Tourist Investments or Villagers' Livelihoods? A Fact-Finding Mission Report on Vilima Vitatu Village Land Dispute - Babati District kuhusu sakata hilo lililozaa kesi. Udadisi imefarijika sana kupata taarifa hizi kuhusu ushindi wa Wanakijiji katika kesi hiyo:

"Please see the attached document of the Court of Appeal decision in Civil Appeal No. 77 of 2012. It the first time in history of Datoga pastoralists' community land struggles. They have won the legal battle in a case famously known as the "Vilima Vitatu Case". The Case was between Udghwenga Bayay and Others v Halmashauri ya Kijiji cha Vilima Vitatu and Jumuiya ya Hifadhi Wanyamapori – Burunge (“Burunge WMA”). This is a success for all who participated in different ways to make sure that Datoga secure their land rights (You may also read a fact finding Mission report done way back in 2008 at" -

"Kwa taarifa ni kwamba ule mpambano wa kesi ya Wabarbaig kuhamishwa pale Maramboi tumeshinda. Mahakama ya Rufaa imeamuru wananchi wasiondolewe kwenye lile eneo kwa kuwa taratibu za kuwahamisha hazikufuatwa...wamefurahi sana" - Mwanaharakati

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dr. Ben Carson on Scholarship for Service

 When you Forward Dr. Ben Carson's Video Clip Above to 13:24 Minutes you Will Hear What is Transcribed Below:

I don’t like to bring up problems without coming up with solutions. My wife and I started the Carson Scholars Fund 16 years ago after we heard about an international survey looking at the ability of eight graders in 22 countries to solve math and science problems, and we came out No. 21 out of 22. We only barely beat out Number 22 – very concerning.

We went to these schools and we’d see all these trophies: State Basketball, State Wrestling, this, that and the other. The Quarterback was the Big Man on Campus. What about the intellectual Superstar? What did they get? A National Honor Society pin? A pat on the head, there, there little Nerd? Nobody cared about them. And is it any wonder that sometimes the smart kids try to hide? They don’t want anybody to know they are smart? This is not helping us or our Nation, so we started giving out scholarships from all backgrounds for superior academic performance and demonstration of humanitarian qualities. Unless you cared about other people, it didn’t matter how smart you were. We’ve got plenty of people like that. We don’t need smart people who don’t care about other people.

We would give them money. The money would go into a Trust. They would get interest on it. When they would go to college they would get the money, but also the school gets a trophy, every bit as impressive as a sports trophy – right out there with the others. They get a medal. They get to go t a banquet. We try to put them on a pedestal as impressive as we do the All-State athletes. I have nothing against athletics or entertainment. I’m from Baltimore. The Ravens won. This is great – okay. But, but – what will maintain our position in the world? The ability to shoot a 25 foot jump shot or the ability to solve a quadratic equation? We need to put the things into proper perspective.

Many teachers have told us that when we put a Carson Scholar in their classroom, the GPA of the whole classroom goes up over the next year. It’s been very gratifying. We started 16 years ago with 25 scholarships in Maryland, now we’ve given out more than 5,000 and we are in all 50 states, but we’ve also put in Reading Rooms. These are fascinating places that no little kid could possibly pass up. And uh, they get points for the amount of time they spend reading, and the number of books they read. They can trade the points for prizes. In the beginning they do it for the prizes, but it doesn’t take long before their academic performance begins to improve.

And we particularly target Title One schools where the kids come from homes with no books and they go to schools with no libraries. Those are the ones who drop out. We need to truncate that process early on because we can’t afford to waste any of those young people. You know, for every one of those people we keep from going down that path – that path of self-destruction and mediocrity, that’s one less person you have to protect yourself and your family from. One less person you have to pay for in the penal or welfare system. One more taxpaying productive member of society who may invent a new energy source or come up with a cure for cancer. They are all important to us and we need every single one of them it makes a difference. And when you go home tonight read about it, carsonscholars,


Saturday, March 23, 2013


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Friday, March 22, 2013

Achebe (1930-2013): A Gendered Literary Legacy

I was brought up on the likes of Chinua Achebe as far as African literature in English is concerned. This was also the case with previous generations of post-colonial African writers and readers. As a tribute to him I present below an abridged/adapted version of an essay I wrote in 2003 on his influence and the gender critiques of his works.


“The new literature in Africa is aware of the possibilities available to it for celebrating humanity in our continent. It is aware also that our world interlocks more and more with the worlds of others. For, as another character in Ambiguous Adventure says to a Frenchman: ‘We have not had the same past you and ourselves, but we shall have strictly the same future. The era of separate destinies has run its course’ (p. 79). If we accept that, and I don’t see that we have much choice, then we had better learn to appreciate one another’s presence and to accord to every people their due human respect” (Chinua Achebe, 1991, p. 10).
Chambi Chachage

“ The Nigerian novel could rightly be said to thrive on diversity and complexity. The first generation of Nigerian writers seemed fascinated by Achebe and imitated him in subject-matter, technique, and style"  (B. E. C Oguzie, 2000, p. 143).

The publication date of Chinua Achebe’s (1958) famous novel, Things Fall Apart, is arguably the starting point of modern African literature as expressed in European languages (See Florence Stratton, 1994 & Ernest N. Emenyonu, 2000a). This, and the subsequent fascination of the novel in both the Western and African imagination, arguably renders Achebe the father of (modern) African literature (in English) and African writers as the following quote testifies: 

You [‘Achebe’] have through your works touched and changed many lives. You have been a caring frontiersman and a generous brother’s keeper both in Africa and the African diaspora. Nuruddin Farah says that he and many of his contemporaries ‘owe a great deal to you, many having learnt the craft from you,’ as ‘Africa’s best novelist and craftsman, and one of the world’s greatest, living or dead.’ Mariama Ba told you in 1980, before her tragic death in 1981, that she ‘started writing after reading Things Fall Apart.’ Toni Morrison has thanked you for ‘door which you figuratively opened for her.’ To Jerome Brooks you are the ‘necessary angel who restored for us [Africans in the diaspora] something slavery took from us.’ James Baldwin held you in such high esteem that at his death his family presented to you his most priceless possession as a writer, his briefcase, believing that ‘he would have wanted you to have it’(Emenyonu, 2000b, p.10).

Such was/is Achebe’s influence and it is not surprising that a lot of first generation non-Nigerian African writers, like their Nigerian counterparts Oguzie (2000) talks about, were also fascinated with Achebe and imitated him in subject matter. And what ‘was’* Achebe’s main subject matter? Surely if Joseph Conrad could rise from the dead he will claim that it was neither gender nor patriarchal oppression. And indeed the horse’s mouth would, at least in this one case, agree with his literary and racial nemesis as the following personal anecdote indicates: 

But also in Ghana I met a young woman teacher who immediately took me to task for not making the hero of my No Longer at Ease marry the girl he is in love with. I made the kind of vague noises I usually make whenever a wise critic comes along to tell me I should have written a different book to the one I wrote. But my woman teacher was not going to be shaken off so easily. She was in deadly earnest. Did I know, she said, that there were many women in the kind of situation I had described and that I could have served them well if I had shown that it was possible to find one man with enough guts to go against the customs? I don’t agree, of course. But this young woman spoke with so much feeling that I couldn’t help being a little uneasy at the accusation (for it was indeed a serious accusation) that I had squandered a rare opportunity for education on a whimsical and frivolous exercise (Achebe, 1989, p. 42: Emphasis supplied).
Achebe’s main subject matter was - as it has been for most of us, his unwearied sons, who have been so preoccupied in our quest to move the center of power and knowledge from its hegemonic Western base - indeed in line with what Abiola Irele (2001, p. 68) has referred as the primary dimension of African discourse - “the preoccupation with the racial question. This is underscored by what the horse's mouth - with the power and knowledge invested in him by the classical missionary education and western institutions such as universities and publishing houses, which had/has a tendency of excluding African women more than they excluded African men - went on, in the 1960s to, claim as his main subject matter just after trivializing the gender-sensitive message from the above Ghanaian female teacher: 

Here then is an adequate revolution for me to espouse – to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of years of denigration and self-abasement. And it is essentially a question of education, in the best sense of the word. Here, I think, my aims and the deepest aspirations of my society meet. For no thinking African can escape the pain of the wound in our soul. You have all heard of the ‘African personality’; of African democracy, of the African way to socialism, of negritude, and so on. They are all props we have fashioned at different times to help us get on our feet again. Once we are up we shan’t need any of them anymore. But for the moment it is in the nature of things that we may need to counter racism with what Jean-Paul Sartre has called an anti-racist racism, to announce not just that we are as good as the next man but that we much better (Achebe, 1989, p. 45).

Achebe’s marginalization of gender at the expense of race led Florence Stratton to use Achebe’s own tools to seriously question Achebe’s famous novel, i.e. Things Fall Apart, as well as his discursive position as a ‘patriarchal African writer’: “ Does Achebe attempts to restore ‘dignity and self-respect’ to African women? Does he tell his female readers ‘where the rain began to beat them’?” (Stratton, 1994, p. 24) In her gender analysis of one of Achebe’s (1958, pp. 18-19) passage that depicted Nwakibie’s wives as objects of “abject servitude,” Stratton offers the following insightful rhetoric question and its problematic answer:

 But where in this passage is the gendered African reader to locate herself? For while she will immediately recognize the strength and self-assurance of the male culture of Umuofia, she will have no such experience of its female culture. Might she not wonder if the abject servitude of women is the hallmark of a ‘civilized society’? In its representation of male-female power relations, this passage is emblematic. For with the notable exception of Chielo, the powerful priestess of Agbala, Achebe’s women are, indeed, ‘down on one knee’, if not both, before their menfolk and they are regularly making an exit, no doubt ‘in their proper order’, form all the spaces in which power, economic or otherwise, is exercised (Stratton, 1994, p. 25).

Stratton go as far as to summon the service of Achebe’s fellow Nigerian and Igbo, the famous African feminist scholar Ifi Amadiume, to disprove the authenticity of Achebe’s masculinization of the water goddess by referring to her as a ‘god of water’. It is saddening and disturbing to realize, as the following quote proves, that actually Achebe, in his quest to counter “conventional colonial practice of feminizing Africa and Africans with a representation in which African society is masculinized”, was/is guilty of dispossessing Igbo’s women of a symbol of their power within the Igbo society: “ In his most recent novel, Anthills of the Savannah (1987), Achebe himself acknowledged that he was in error in assigning masculine gender to the deity. For he devotes a chapter to the water goddess Idemili” (Stratton, 1994, p. 27).

This is the Achebe (1958) who has provided African discourse and “African writers after him with a dominant theme which has been sustained for half a century” (Emenyonu, 2000a, p. 239). Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1993), who was also helped by Achebe in the beginning of his literary career, is one among many of unwearied sons/brothers of Achebe. He has managed to militantly combined race and class analysis – and to some extent gender analysis - in his literary and ideological criticism as well as in his novels. Since most African women, like the African America women Patricia Hills Collins (2000) write about, have experienced an intersecting oppression- of race, class and gender which is different from their male counterparts due to the gender factor, it would be interesting to see in the next section if there would be any difference in their expressions within the African discourse and reactions to their expressions.

“Africa has produced a much more concrete tradition of strong women fighters than most other societies. So when we say that, we are refusing to be overlooked we are only acting today as daughters and granddaughters of women who always refused to be quiet” (Ama Ata Aidoo in Buchi Emecheta, 1988, p. 183)

What happens when the daughters write back? As long as the daughters adequately produced and reproduced knowledge that foreground race vis-à-vis Africans there is no problem with  literary patriarchy but woe unto them when they forget about it let alone challenge it. Contrast the way Achebe paternally commend the “brilliant Ghanaian writer” Ama Ata Aidoo for advocating his main subject matter and the way he patronizingly cross-examine an unmannered ’ yet “a much advertised” author’s deviation from the ‘African norm’ of defending Africannes by any means necessary:

The Brilliant Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo wrote a short masterpiece, Our Sister Killjoy, in sequences of fine prose and muscular poetry, which she explores the [ragged and poor] condition of African sojourners in London. … Ama Ata Aidoo does not pull her punches, either. But she is on the right side, on behalf of the poor and the afflicted, the kind of “nothing people” Naipaul [2001’s Nobel laureate] would love to hammer into the ground with his well-crafted mallet of deadly prose (Achebe, 2000, pp. 93-95).

 Here is what a much advertised author living in London said in 1986 about her fellow writers toiling away in Nigeria: Writing coming from Nigeria, from Africa (I know this is because my son does the criticism) sounds quite stilted. After reading the first page you tell yourself you are plodding. But when you are reading the same thing written by an English person or somebody who lives here you find you are enjoying it because the language is so academic, so perfect. Even if you remove the cover you can always say who is an African writer. But with some of my books you can’t tell that easily any more because, I think, using language every day and staying in the culture my Africannes is, in a way, being diluted. My paperback publisher, Collins, has now stopped putting my books in the African section[Achebe ends this quote that he takes from an interview with an endnote which is the only place in the whole book, including the index, that mention the name Buchi Emecheta i.e. the interviewee]
That does it for all those beleaguered African writers struggling at home to tell the story of their land. They should one and all emigrate to London or Paris to dilute their Africannes and become, oh, “ so academic, so perfect.” The psychology of the dispossessed can be truly frightening (Achebe, 2000, pp. 70-72: Emphasis supplied).

I am not happy with what Emecheta said above but I am equally unhappy with the way Achebe have depicted her even though I agree with the notion of the psychology of the dispossessed. The ‘transgressive’ daughters, as Aidoo (1988) has aptly shown, have indeed received serious bashing from male critics. They have also received them from some of their fellow African sisters who view them as prodigal daughters who are attempting to break the African sisterhood and African identity that Achebe and his literary children have toiled so very hard to build. The following - from Antonia Akpabio Ekpa - is one of the typical bashings :

Amazed by the general [negative] portrayal of women… Emenyonu declared in late 1970s that writers were yet to discover ‘the other woman’ in society….The ‘other woman’ that has emerged in the novels of Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Ama Ata Aidoo, Bessie Head, Nuruddin Farah, and Mariama Ba has come out assertive, individualistic, daring and sometimes outright careless about how she achieve her goals. This new woman is a hybrid of Africanism and Westernization…. This woman of the 1980s is propelled by a Western feminist force that drives her further away from the African she is. How far she rotates is our concern here. It is our duty as African critics to arrest her spirit and turn it away from the West towards and African or black identity…. In spite of its gain, feminism has yielded some quite undesirable results which makes its procedures questionable…. We are worried that black feminism has become synonyms with lesbianism, violent confrontation, militancy, and aggression, as is evident in the writings of Molara Ogundipe Leslie, Ama Ata Aidoo, and Buchi Emecheta…. It is time for African writers to focus on the strengths of African sisterhood. Rather than promote the stereotype of the antagonistic woman, writers must explore co-operation, love, assistance, and understanding among women… We recommend that African feminism should have recourse to and portray African life styles, values, and concerns. Secondly, the complementary that is germane to our gender systems must be focused upon… This complementary also extends to an acceptance of male writers who through their writings have identified with the woman’s search for self-actualization. We propose that feminist approach the male-authored text, like Hevi’s Amavi, with an awareness that discovers the woman not as abused, but the powerful force to be reckoned with. Hence, new readings must be made of texts in which the woman remains the subject of male abuse. There must be a decentring of discourse and experience… This is the feminism Africa will appreciate, embrace, and promote as we arrive at the dawn of a new century (Ekpa, 2000, pp. 30-37: Emphasis supplied).

While I don’t buy the idea that Ama Ata Aidoo (1988) is simply championing lesbianism, polygamy or the battle of the sexes, I assert that a writer cannot ignore the reality of his/her society just for the sake of creating a romantic and an ideal picture of what he/she would want his/her society to look like. The paradox is that in order to be a mirror of its society, African discourse needs to be both realistic and ideal – no matter how mutually exclusive these terms might appear  in its quest to empower humanity as they attempt to close the gap between our realistic society that is still based on inequality and the ideal society that is based on equality. The above bashing reminds me of the following statement which show how it can be difficult to wage a war against a hegemonic macro-discourse, which only privilege certain of its micro-discourses:

 Every theoretical and methodological framework of knowledge production has implicit values and assumption about the nature of society, and will be resisted by those who not have the same position… However, resistance and hostility are exceptionally obvious in the case of feminist inspired works....(Ayesha M. Imam, 1997, p. 2)

“ But to say I am going to be a feminist writer, I am going to take a position vis-à-vis that man, I am going to shoot him. That upsets me. I think I should appeal to us to keep the African house-hold intact at the end of the day…” (Taban lo Liyong in Buchi Emecheta, 1988, p. 83).

In ‘our’ father’s house, that is Africa, there are indeed many genres and many categories of social difference. This house, as diverse as it is, is a part of our non-static world that is still structured in the following manner that is aptly described by Charmaine Pereira: 

 Women and men not only experience the same world in different ways, they occupy different worlds as well. But our understanding of these worlds and experiences is distorted by the male-dominated nature of knowledge production and social practice. In its claims to be ‘neutral’ and ‘value-free’, mainstream knowledge denies and thereby avoids the implications of its being gendered…. Whether knowledge can be used in oppressive or in emancipatory ways will depend on the kinds of knowledge produced, who use it and who is disempowered or empowered by its use (Pereira, 1997, p. 219). 

The diversity of our house should be seen as an opportunity and not an obstacle in engendering African discourse so that we can have a more inclusive discourse that produces a better picture of African societies. It is a challenge that offers a space for both particulars and universals hence recreated African writers need to take seriously Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1993) plea to create a space for a hundred flowers to bloom.

Although the previous sections have, to a certain extent, painted a bleak picture of patriarchy’s oppressive power and paternalistic knowledge-production within African discourse, it is worthwhile to commend how ‘gender struggle’ without and within the discourse itself has and is transforming the discourse. With some exceptions, such as in the case of Oladele Taiwo (1986) whose old gender-insensitive literary critique is still being reprinted (i.e. reprinted in 2002) and Richard Msechu (1999) who at the close of the 20th century was still using a very sexist language in his novel The Pretorian Agenda which primary preoccupied with race wars, many novel writers and literary critics - both male and female - have taken and are still taking gender more seriously than before.

Here I particularly have in mind Chinua Achebe’s (1987) gender and class conscious portrayal of Beatrice Okoh and Elewa in the Anthills of the Savannah; Ama Ata Aidoo (1988) pioneering work on the meaning of being an African woman; Ernest N. Emenyonu’s (2000a) gender-sensitive literary criticism and his gender-inclusive organization of International Conferences on African literature and the English language. I also have in mind Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1982) whose portrayal of Jacinta Wariinga in the Devil on the Cross is a testimony that gender consciousness or analysis “does not preclude analysis of class and other aspects of social division” (Pereira, 1997, pp. 219-20). This is what he wrote way back before this novel had materialized and I believe it is a testimony of how African discourse can make conscientious effort to overcome its Achilles heel**:

Because the women are the most exploited and oppressed section of the entire working class, I would create a picture of a strong determined women [Jacinta Wariinga] with a will to resist and to struggle against the conditions of her present being. Had I not seen glimpse of this type in real life among women of Kamiriithu Community Education and Cultural Center? Isn’t Kenyan history replete with this type of woman? Me Kitilili, Muraa wa Ngiti, Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru? Mau Mau women cadres? Wariinga will be the fictional reflection of this resistance heroine of Kenyan history (wa Thiong’o, 1981, pp. 10-11).

It is in the light of the above background, and the old adage that claim that literature is the mirror of the society, that I now approach what I consider to be one of those Achebean’s (1991) new literature that offer a paradigmatic shift from the tradition of privileging one socially constructed section of humanity in its quest to educate humanity i.e. Elieshi Lema’s (2001) ParchedEarth. This novel, written by someone who is both a female publisher and an author who is ardently dedicated to the furthering of knowledge among children and youth, artistically oscillates between a rural setting and an urban setting in Tanzania. It is interesting to note that in the very first chapter she employs her main character, Doreen Seko, who by no mere coincidence happens to be a primary school teacher in a typical Tanzanian primary school were female teachers are “the majority” and underpaid, to confront the nature of knowledge production and gendered as well as classed access to education and careers in the Tanzanian politico and socio-economic system:

I sit in front of the class watching the children hew knowledge from the quarry of my words…. I did not come to this job by choice. Like many other girls, I wanted to go to secondary school but my grades did not allow. I was among the many girls in our school that got our second choice. “Your grades did not allow you to go further,” the teacher had said, simply, cutting off any complaint that had started showing in my eyes. Being a teacher was the only available opportunity, which I took with gratitude to God and felt luckier than my brother Godbless who got no chance at all, having failed his exams (Lema, 2001, pp. 1-6).

It is interesting to note how Lema deals with what I consider to be the major paradoxical question that face writers who seek to produce an empowering knowledge and image of African women i.e. how can a writer simultaneously depict two dialectical images: an image of a universal/particular African woman as an agent of social change and not a victim of the hegemonic social order, and an image of a real patriarchal society with real negative images of, and material effects on, women? Lema, artistically oscillating between strategic essentialism and anti-essentialism as well as between the universal and the particular, does not shy away from using her main character to say that this is how the patriarchal society was/is; and, yes, sometimes it appear/appeared, and one feel/felt, as if an African woman was/is a victim but she is still an agent of social change:

When grandmother ran mother out of the house like a mangy dog and grandmother stood aside and let him do it, she could not imagine that such a thing could happen! She had not found words, in that state of confusion and shock, to appeal to her mother’s protection. Her mother had closed herself inside the house and let the father chase his daughter away. It was too hard for mother to accept the terrible truth as she trudged along the path leading to Great Aunt Mai’s house, her stomach full of growing Godbless.... Even as she entered Great Ant Mai’s house without announcing herself, she could not speak or say what had brought her here. She joined the aunt by the fire where she was cooking the evening meal and sat down, tears flowing down her face without restraint. Great Aunt Mai did not ask why she was crying, what she had come to do or who sent her. She knew the crime and the punishment. She knew too, her structured role in this matrix [‘the matrix of social organization’] and so she let her cry. Later, a healthy baby Godbless was born (Lema, 2001, p. 94).

Only sometimes she [‘My mother’] would be in certain moods that made her talk, then she talked to me about the life of a woman. She talked about how important it is for girls to aspire to learn and know new things of the world. ‘If I had enough education, you think I would be here?’ she said… ‘ Girls should learn to work hard, always. Hard work will be their salvation.’ She told me that the world has very little to give girls for free, that they should never, never let people walk on their heads and kill their spirit before they know who they are. Mother spoke generally about girls, as if I was different from the rest of them, as if I was just a girl to whom she was offering advice. She was never specific about herself either. She would talk above the life of a woman as if what she said affected her only generally, not specifically. Nothing she told me was specific to me! I understood her clearly much later, after I was married. I came to know that my life as a woman would be realized ultimately, and in so many ways, in relation to other women. She meant that my life would always be a landmark for a girl growing up, or for other needing a role model. She was telling me that my life must strive to give meaning to others need it. When my life was dissolved into Martin’s family life, so easily, like sugar dissolves in water, I realized with a pang, that my mother was saying that I will always live out my struggles in relation to other women, women’s life and their perceptions of it, their society and their niche in it, their relation with men (Lema, 2001, pp. 49-50).

This patriarchal society, as she aptly portrays it, is not a timeless, ahistorical or static society but rather it is a society that is comprised of dynamic beings and therefore it is a dynamic socio-historical society. Although its “matrix of social organization” has very powerful oppressive “social laws” yet, just like the “spider’s web”, it is “a system” that has pores. These pores are permeable and with every act of gender, class or even race struggle, no matter how small it is, there is a widening of these pores that shakes its foundation of politico and socio-economic inequality. Note how Lema portrays the intersection of class and gender, and the way their shift/mobility can play a major role in imparting a “sharper consciousness”, not only to her character, but also to the readers and especially those who are abused, like some of her characters, because they are “naïve”:

That is when I realized that I had supported my mother in upholding a system of favoritism I had been unaware of. I was an accomplice in this process of shaping life, building attitudes and manners even without my knowledge.... I did not know then about a system that deprived some people for the benefit of others. None of us knew. Mother was just being mother and we were her children. All those years, I never questioned why mother left the house to me to manage and care for others even when I was not the eldest…. When I went home on leave, it was with a sharper consciousness that I observed mother. I love her for sacrificing her life so that we did not have to beg food or starve. I loved her, yes, but I also felt hurt. Why should she love the boys more and not care enough for me? Yet, I did not raise those issues, I held my peace, but after that, I took over the role of apportioning food. One day I said, “Let me,” and took away the serving spoon from her hand and served food to everybody. I thought she would defend that role as hers not to be usurped. I was surprised at the lack of resistance she showed.... My eyes opened further and I looked at her in a new eye.... Could she have known that it was a matter of time for me to be ready? Did she know why I took over? Was she waiting for this time to come? Was there an unvoiced code between us that we reacted to subconsciously? When she let go the role, I could feel that it was her way of showing me that we were partners in this role of nurturing. We were partners at the hearth and she trusted that I would understand the role. When my rations did not follow her pattern, she did not object or even try to influence me. She followed my movements, checking carefully with her eyes. She followed the boys’ reactions but did not interfere in my response. And she ate all the food I put on her plate! She complained that it was too much, but ate all of it finally.... Why then had she done what she did? After I finished school and became a teacher, I partially took over maintaining the home by sending her money....My coming home made everyone happy.... Earlier on, mother had even stopped me from getting too close to the hearth, saying that the smoke was not good for me! When did she learn that I too could be spoilt a little? (Lema, 2001, pp. 85-87)

The novel also unravels the oppressive power of what she calls the “male order” i.e. patriarchy on the men themselves: Martin who could not help but abandon the wife he loved just because she seemed not capable of bearing a baby boy as, ostensibly, her womb could not obey the order that declared that “boys are as special as fathers” and not girls; Sebastian, i.e. Doreen’s father, who was “ trapped and tamed” by this order to such an extent that he could not challenge his father who decided who he would marry regardless of who he, Sebastian, loved; Godless, though relatively privileged by the order as compared to his sister, still had to painfully face the order’s imperative that one need be “a man enough”/”a real man” and also had to deal with the burden of class structure. 

Lema's (2001) Parched earth is indeed a historical novel that traverse generations of African women and their relation to their respective men as it illuminates how the pores of the social web change with each jot of knowledge that is added to it. It starts with the generation of the Great Aunt Mais who adapted to the “social web” and could ‘victimly’ say “ that is how things are” but yet ‘agently’ “undermine” in a subtle way that “law which made things that way.” From there it moves to the generation of the Foibe Sekos who, building on the knowledge of the pervious generation, could add more weight in the gender struggle. From there it moves to the generations of the Doreen Sekos who, standing in the shoulders of these ‘giantress’ of gender struggle, could see some changes in the social laws. Finally, it ends with a hope for a more gender equitable society as envisioned in the generation of Doreen’s daughter, Milika. Without resorting to an attempt to offer any negative criticism of this novel, I would like to end this section by appropriating the following quote from the Awarders of Lema’s (2001) novel:

Parched Earth is a groundbreaking novel on the Tanzania literary landscape. Carefully constructed, it explores the complex relationships between men and women in society as defined and shaped by patriarchal ideology. The complexity unfolds in the life of Doreen Seko as she contends with forces of what is and what should be, the magical and the ordinary, alienation and acceptance. Parched Earth is rich with imagery, characters are well constructed and believable. Its edge is its emphasis on complimentarily rather than fatalism which reflects a new political, historical and cultural consciousness.

The above discussion has revealed that the task engendering African discourse, just like that of engendering African Social Sciences, “ is not a simple development of knowledge, but is also necessarily and simultaneously profoundly a political struggle over power and resources” (Imam, 1997, p. 2). Moreover, it requires a conscientious effort to create and recreate gender conscious writers and literary critics as well as accessible publishing houses. And whether Imam’s (1997) statistical assertion that at least half of humanity is of feminine gender is true or not, we still need an African society that will strive to ensure that there is an even distribution of resources regardless of gender, race, class or any other social category. Much more we need an African discourse that would simultaneously reflect both this ‘ideal society’ and the ‘current society’ in its criticism. When I see the kind of knowledge production that emanates from Parched Earth and the power mobility that has led its author to co-start a successful publishing house that is directed by women, I feel proud to claim that in the midst of the impediments that have clouded African discourse there is hope. 

Achebe might have had his gender shortsightedness as far as his earlier novels were concerned but he should be commended for how he used his power and influence in the hegemonic publishing world to empower and kick-start a lot of African writers such as Flora Nwapa.  As the first African woman novelist to be published in English and the first African woman to set up her own publishing house, Flora Nwapa knew first hand about all these hopes and impediments engendered in African discourse. She knew and experienced how gender and gender politics played a major role in the relationship between power and knowledge in Africa. No wonder she said, “Let our men believe what they like, Buchi, what does it really matter? It’s all politics.” (Flora Nwapa quoted in Buchi Emecheta, 1998, p. 31).

**This is to emphasize that Achebe, who played a major part in the creation of a gender-blind African discourse, is not a static/ahistorical/timeless being or writer. Surely he must have gained something from the knowledge produced by gender conscious criticisms and writings as the following quote indicate: “ Certainly, Chinua Achebe’s attitude towards women in Anthills of the Savannah published in 1988 [sic] is a far cry from his portrayal of women in Things Fall Apart published in 1959[sic]” (Marie Umeh, 1998, p. 669).

**In this essay I am arguing, in the light of the gender sensitive works of Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (1997) on history; Amina Mama (1997) on cultural Studies and Charmaine Pereira (1997) on psychology, that the preoccupation with that famous/infamous Du Boisian*** problem of the twentieth century, namely the problem of the color line, and its related problems has been the Achilles heel of African discourse as far as gender is concerned. In other words, I would look at how gender analysis and/or criticism had/has been marginalized by racial and/or class analyses/criticism that have been championed by some classical African writers/novelists and how this is, and has been, contested by both male and female African and non-African writers in their quest for a gender-balanced knowledge production in Africa.

***In his preface to that book [Hopes and Impediments], Achebe notes that the great African American W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in The Souls of Black Folk that the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line (Ann Charters, 1999, p. 1411).

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