4 African Writers Who Inspired Change with Their Works.
Words used to be transient, its power subjected to the memory of the hearer. In Africa’s earliest times, the oral tradition was revered and sacred, as this was the only way to preserve words, which basically was the culture of the people.
Written literature empowers words, giving it that permanence that makes it lethal, even more so with the advent of the internet and online libraries, creating an atmosphere where a body of knowledge or truth can be preserved for ages, thus creating a picture of mans history; where we came from and where we are headed. Our forefathers did not possess this power, therefore the infamous saying used to hold water ‘if you want to hide treasure from a black man put it in a book’. The predominant history of Africa available today were not written by Africans, little wonder it is mostly unflattering. The world spun throughout history, from hiding treasure from a black man in a book, to black people writing books themselves. After recognizing its power, that power was further harnessed and used as a tool to freedom, the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Below are African writers who used their pen better than the greatest swordsman.
Ngugi wa Thiong O; a Kenyan writer, born in 1938, into a society with so much baggage. The early years of Ngugi was characterized by various forms of struggle, the most dominant being the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya. Ngũgĩ used writing as a tool to show not just the problem at hand, but the long-term effect of the problem as well. his most popular book ‘Weep Not Child’ was a narrative centered around a child born in a society that changed as he grew, to a point where it was unrecognizable. He also at that time was an advocate for the abolishment of the English department in the University of Nairobi, writing mostly in Gikuyu, his native tongue. The book ‘Devil on the Cross’ was written during his time in prison, on a toilet paper. He is also known for his works in nonfiction, with his most prominent being ‘Decolonizing the Mind’.
Chinua Achebe: there is too much to write about Achebe and his influence in African literature, born on 16 November 1930 in Ogidi, Anambara, Nigeria, Achebe was a writer whose stories was greatly influenced by the Igbo oral tradition. Known for his renown book ‘Things Fall Apart’, He wrote to expose the conflict between the Igbo traditions and Christianity. Achebe’s works also exposes the ills of colonization and bad governance. His most famous works are Thing Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People and Anthills of the Savannah.
Alex La guma; La guma was an anti-apartheid activist, born on February 1924 in Cape Town, South Africa. He was very active, both in the Industrial and Commercial Worker’s Union and the South African Communist Party. La guma used his literary platform adequately in criticizing the South African apartheid system of government, writing books that captured the struggles of the native South Africans of that time. Some of his most notable works are A Walk in the Night, Nocturne.
Mariama Ba; she was born in Dakar Senegal, 1992. Born into an elite Muslim family, Ba was educated as a result of her father’s persistence. Her works centers on the tasks of the African woman in the African society. Refusing the role expected of her by a Senegalese Muslim society, Ba also refused to be referred to as a feminist, because she considered it loaded with western values. Her works are namely, So Long a Letter, Scarlet Song and The Political Function of African Literature.
As the reality of the cotemporary African is changing, writers are also evolving to cater for the needs of the continent, shaping it by their strong depictions of societal ills, thus attempting to carry on the legacy. So far so good.