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Exploring Life Through

African Literature
African literature consists of a
body of work in different
languages and various genres,
ranging from oral literature to
literature written in colonial
languages (French, Portuguese,
and English).
Literary Background of the
African Literature
The most notable literary selections
are those that capture the life and
struggle of the African people. There
have been significant struggles that
could have been left untouched, but
writers choose to face courageous
task of answering the call of pen, and
begin the process of social healing
through literature. Perhaps, it is this
brilliant characteristic of African
Literary Background of the
African Literature
The literary tradition of Africa became
richer than ever as it gained artistic
and sophisticated expression in
different languages. Traditional
languages became vehicles of cultural
thoughts. Poetry, drama, novel, and
short story flourished as the literary
genres. The peoples struggle to cope
with or oppose the changing
atmosphere of their homelands was
Literary Background of the
African Literature
Literature represents the breadth and
depth of universal experiences of
man. The texts for the study of African
literature shed light on controversial
issues such as racial discrimination,
apartheid, political conflicts, civil
wars, feminism and gender
sensitivity, and human rights issues.
These have given the selections the
flavor of relevance and universality,
A sudden grasp of racial
identity and of cultural
values and an awareness of
the wide discrepancies
which existed between the
promise of the French
system of assimilation and
Although Africans had been writing in
Portuguese as early as 1850 and a few
volumes of African writing in English and
French had been published, an explosion of
African writing in European languages
occurred in the mid-twentieth century. In the
1930s, black intellectuals from French colonies
living in Paris initiated a literary movement
called Negritude. Negritude emerged out of
"a sudden grasp of racial identity and of
cultural values and an awareness "of the wide
discrepancies which existed between the
promise of the French system of assimilation
The movement's founders looked to
Africa to rediscover and rehabilitate
the African values that had been
erased by French cultural
superiority. Negritude writers wrote
poetry in French in which they
presented African traditions and
cultures as antithetical, but equal,
to European culture.
:Literary Forms

Oral literature, also called as
orature, have flourished in
Africa for many centuries and
take a variety of forms
including folk tales, myths,
epics, funeral dirges, praise
poems, and proverbs.
Written literature
includes novels,
plays, poems,
hymns, and tales.
The African authors who produced
literatures in European languages
have been described as literatures
of revolt. These texts move away
from the project of recuperating
and reconstructing an African past
and focus on responding to, and
revolting against, colonialism and
corruption. These literatures are
more concerned with the present
With the period of Colonization,
African oral traditions and written
works came under a serious outside
threat. Europeans, justifying
themselves with the Christian ethics,
tried to destroy the "pagan" and
"primitive" culture of the Africans, to
make them more pliable slaves.
Oral literature, including stories, dramas,
riddles, histories, myths, songs, proverbs,
and other expressions, is frequently
employed to educate and entertain children.
Oral histories, myths, and proverbs
additionally serve to remind whole
communities of their ancestors' heroic
deeds, their past, and the precedents for
their customs and traditions.
Chinua Achebe
He is a prominent Igbo novelist
acclaimed for his unsentimental
depictions of the social and
psychological disorientation
accompanying the imposition of
Western customs and values upon
traditional African society. His
particular concern was with the
emergent Africa at its movement of
crisis. His works include: Things Fall
Apart, Arrow of God, No Longer at
Ease, A Man of the People, Anthills of
Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian novelist and
His groundbreaking novelThings Fall
Apartwent on to sell more than 12 million
copies and been translated into more than
50 languages.
Things Fall Apart, a work that in part
led to his being called the Patriarch
of the African novel.

This groundbreaking
novel centers on the
cultural clash between
native African culture
and the traditional
white culture of
missionaries and the
colonial government in
place in Nigeria.
The story's main theme
concerns pre- and post-
colonial life in late nineteenth
century Nigeria. It is seen as
the archetypal modernAfrican
novelin English, one of the
first to receive global critical
acclaim. It is a staple book in
schools throughout Africa and
is widely read and studied in
English-speaking countries
around the world.
Bessie Head
She described the contradictions
and shortcomings of pre- and post-
colonial African society in morally
didactic novels and stories. She
suffered rejection and alienation
from an early age being born of an
illegal union between her white
mother and black father. Among
her works are: When Rain Clouds
Gather, A Question of Power, The
Collector of Treasures, Serowe.
Bessie Head
Bessie Amelia Emery Head,
known asBessie Head, though
born inSouth Africa, is usually
considered Botswana's most
influential writer.
She is the child of a wealthy white
South African woman and a black
servant when interracial
relationships were illegal in South
Bessie Head
Bessie Head was one of the first female
authors from Africa to attract an
international audience. The stories she
told were sometimes the first glimpses
that people from other countries gained
of the strict and often life-threatening
segregationistpolitical system in South
Africa called Apartheid.
When Rain Clouds Gather
When Rain Clouds Gather is about a
troubled young man called Makhaya
Maseko who runs away from his
birthplace, South Africa, to become a
refugee in a little village called Golema
Mmidi, in the heart of Botswana. Here he
is faced with many challenges, one of
which is the fact that Chief Matenge does
not allow his presence in the village. He
meets a white man named Gilbert and
starts a whole new journey into the
Makhaya Maseko has suffered under the
Apartheid system in his homeland. Under
Apartheid, all black people had no rights
Okot PBitek
He was born in Uganda during the
British domination and was embodied
in contrast of cultures. He attended
English-speaking school, but never lost
touch with traditional African values
and used his wide array of talents to
pursue his interests in both African and
Western cultures.
Part of Ugandan football team;
Education in University of Bristol, Law
in University of Wales, and British
Literature in University of Oxford.
Okot PBitek
Okot pBitek,a Ugandan poet,
novelist, and social anthropologist
whose three verse collections
Song of Lawino(1966),Song of
Ocol(1970), andTwo
Songs(1971)are considered to
be among the best Africanpoetryin
Song of Lawino and
Song of Ocol Song of Lawino, addresses the
issue of the conflict ofcultures. It
is the lament of a illiterate woman
over the strange ways of her
university-educated husband,
whose new ways are incompatible
with traditional African concepts
of manhood.
'My husband's tongue is
bitter', is considered to a
timeless creation.
Song of Ocol is the husband's
reply, reveals him to be just as
predictably inadequate as his wife
had declared.
Two Songs
InTwo Songs, he
addressed other issues, in
the same style.
Song of a Prisonerdrew
on his reactions to
Kenyan politics,
Song of Malayadeals
with the life of a