The Position of The Post Colonial African

This is the new scramble for Africa. The scramble for space. A hundred years ago it was us they were fighting over. Our land, our wealth, our soul (149).

In Aminatta Forna’s novel The Memory of Love, the position of the post colonial African is exemplified through subtle and overt representations. One subtle representation occurs when Elias Cole is recalling the night in which the first man set foot on the moon. This historic event is viewed by many as something to celebrate, while Elias and his colleagues analyze the implicit meaning of the act of the space race. Julius’ friend Kekura identifies that this achievement for the western world is another example of the power colonizers seeks. He compares the colonization of African countries to the race to achieve power based upon actions involving space. This comparison emphasizes the way in which western countries become obsessed with power but are quick to move to another source of achievement. His fellow counterparts validate with his observation by agreeing with his statement. Forna utilizes this moment to express and overlying theme throughout the novel. The novel depicts three different men in Sierra Leone in two different time periods. Regardless of their individual durations of time, each of the men represents a different version of the aftermath of decolonization. Elias Cole’s story takes place directly after the decolonization of the country as political tensions and civil unrest is beginning to emerge. His narrative reflects the initial burden that the country is left with following the United Kingdom’s decision to seek power elsewhere. Both Adrian and Kai are doctors in the country a few years after the end of the Civil War. In contrast to Elias’ position, the country is not struggling to thrive without it’s successor, but attempting to recover after the aftermath of abandonment without resources to thrive. Kekura’s observation acts as a thematic plot device that highlights the overarching theme throughout the novel of living in the aftermath of conflict.


About Maya Fernandez

My name is Maya Fernandez. I am a senior at American University studying Literature and Sociology. My pronouns are her, hers, and she.

Posted on October 16, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Though this wasn’t the focus of your post, I realized as I read through your thoughts that Forna’a novel is told through the perspective of two protagonists who are not as passionate about contemporary issues as the people around them. This reminds me of Nervous Conditions, when Tambu is an outsider to the most critical opponent to neo-colonialism: Nyasha. Similarly, Adrian and Elias are both outsiders/witnesses to more-passionate characters such as Kai, Julius, Kekura, and Ade. I wonder if these authors did this deliberately, perhaps to establish credibility with a neutral, reliable narrator, or if it’s a mere coincidence.

    Thanks for this post! Well done.

  2. I definitely agree, there is connection between Nyasha and Adrian and Elias. The quote evokes a sense of realization of the psychological damage of colonialism. Elias Cole in the beginning of the novel smears his blood on his clothing. An act that can represent the haunting of the blood shed of Sierra Leone and the critical condition of a society after neocolonialism. The realization in the quote differs a little from Nyasha because she developed a mindset that internalized the neocolonialist ideas. For the characters in this novel, the acknowledgment of neocolonialism is an idea to eradicate without losing self.

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