Author Archives: Christina Wilson
I find The Evidence of Things Unseen, by Chinelo Onwualu to be a unique and thought provoking short story. It was published on the blog Brittle Paper: An African Literary Experience on October 21st, 2014. The story centers on a young girl who is working in a street market when she sees a man who doesn’t quite belong. She and a group of girls know that this man is “the one” and thus they mark him, follow him out of the market, surround him in a field, and when his true face reveals itself, they kill him. It seems that this is the young girl’s calling, and they have made mistakes about it in the past. The man is sometimes called The Destroyer or the Lord of Chaos, signaling that he takes different forms and has been doing so for ages. Reading this left me with a lot of questions about who/what exactly the man was, how this group of young girls has been tasked with getting rid of him, and if there are any hints of Nigerian folklore or myth interwoven in the story. It seems like it would best fit into a fantasy genre. I would love to read a more fully developed version!
Fear and loss are two emotions felt by nearly everyone at some point in life. In the reading A Private Experience, Chika and the Muslim woman are brought together, despite many differences, because of both fear and loss. Chika is a medical school student from another city, carries a Burberry handbag, and is staying with her Aunt who holds a well to-do job. These each insinuate that Chika is from a higher class of society. Chika is also a self-proclaimed Christian (supported by her wearing a rosary). These two crucial characteristics of her are the complete opposite for the Muslim woman in the room with her during the riots, who is Muslim and visibly less well off than Chika. However, while together in the room, they bond in ways two people of their differences probably never would unless placed together as they were. They not only bond over their fear of what is happening outside the building they are taking shelter in, but also of the fact that they have each lost somebody in the outside riots. Chika lost her sister and the Muslim woman lost her daughter. These two emotions are felt just as strongly by both women, despite their many defining differences and the acknowledgment of those differences. I believe this can be applied on a broader scale. In many conflicts, there are the extreme faction groups that emphasize the differences between one another and use those differences as a basis for conflict. However, there are often many people who do not include themselves within those groups. They instead recognize that while there are differences between them, they are each human and experience the same range of emotions and typically hold the same innate values. We see this discovery take form as Chika realizes it for herself in the room with the Muslim woman in this selected reading.
The film Yesterday was a very compelling movie that made me think further on several different topics, the most dominant topic being that of AIDS. The plot of the film focuses around Yesterday’s realization of and coping with the fact that she has AIDS, however, the actual word “AIDS” is only explicitly said one time during the film (that I caught, please point out another time it is said, if I am incorrect…), when Yesterday is telling the school teacher about a young girl a few villages away who contracted it and her village killed her for it. In each scene where “AIDS” would most likely have been said, it was indirectly filmed, cut out completely, or altered in some way. For example, when Yesterday is at the clinic the first time, the doctor is obviously concerned about something in particular and yet doesn’t say exactly what. This may be understandable, but when Yesterday returns to the clinic after her blood samples have been examined, the scene in which the doctor would explicitly tell Yesterday that she has AIDS is cut out completely, and we go straight to a scene of Yesterday’s facial reaction to the news that we are meant to assume. Additionally, when Yesterday goes to the mines in Johannesburg to inform her husband of the news, the scene of them speaking to each other (before he begins to beat her) is filmed indirectly, from outside the room, where we can’t hear what they are saying to each other, but once again we are meant to assume the word AIDS is used. Finally, when Yesterday is telling the teacher about the doctor’s diagnosis, both of them only refer to it as “the virus”, never explicitly as AIDS until she is speaking about the girl killed in another village. I believe this is a purposeful decision made by the director/screenwriter of the film, in order to convey the fear and possibly the lack of knowledge related to AIDS in South Africa. I also think it was done so that the focus of the film would not be predominantly on the disease itself but on Yesterday’s life and journey instead.
What are your thoughts?
I just finished reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah and have to say that it is one of the most intense and moving books I have read in a long time. From start to finish, the story provides an amazing personal account of what it was like to be a child soldier in Sierra Leone’s 11 year long civil war. Here is the link to my full review on amazon.com… http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/AQGZUJKRR2JP9/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!
Throughout my reading of The Memory of Love, I found myself (as a history buff) wanting to know more about the history of Sierra Leone. In particular, I wanted to better understand the civil war that is referenced throughout the novel. My research led me to the following information (there are also some pictures attached)…
The Sierra Leone civil war lasted for 10 years, 9 months, 3 weeks and 5 days (23 March 1991 – 18 January 2002) and left roughly 50,000 people dead. It began when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attempted to overthrow the government in power at the time. The RUF soon began to take control of large areas of land throughout the country. During this time over two million men, women, and children were relocated as the RUF attacked and pillaged villages, raping and murdering as they went. Young men, many still children, were recruited as RUF soldiers. This created even more internal conflicts, which as we mentioned in class were not ethnically or religiously based but more so everyone feared everyone. The government did not effectively respond until two years later when they pushed the rebels back to the Liberian border, but the RUF quickly recovered. In 1996 the country elected a civilian government and the RUF signed peace accords, however before the accords could be implemented, violence began again.
In 1997 the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was established after a coup d’état and became the country’s new government. The RUF and the AFRC joined forces, captured the capital of Freetown and thus a spell of crime, rape, and murder swept the city. This is the coup alluded to on page 184 of The Memory of Love. From 1999 to 2002 there were a series of interventions and peace accords, but many were ineffective due to weak RUF compliance. It wasn’t until the United Kingdom supported the weak government of President Kabbah, that the RUF was defeated, Freetown was no longer occupied, and Kabbah declared the long-lasting and devastating civil war over.
From the title of this novel, All Our Names, we can assume that there will be the theme of names throughout the story. However, after reading it we can confirm names are in fact a theme, yet not in the sense that we maybe first assumed. As we discussed in class, the names of everyone/thing throughout the story are left ambiguous. This applies to the main characters, some locations, and some minor characters as well. Examples of this include; Helen, whose father can’t remember why he chose that name for her, Isaac, who has no last name, and no real identity written on paper, Langston, which we know is not his real name, The President, who is never referred to by name, same as The Capital.
In addition, the names that are present, are extremely ‘un-African’. For example; Hope, Patience, Langston, Isaac, Helen, David, Dickens. This is an interesting tactic on the authors part, especially for an ‘African’ novel, in which names typically hold a high level of importance (mirroring their level of importance in the real world). My question is, why does Mengestu choose to have ambiguous and ‘un-African’ names? What purpose does this serve? Is it so the readers can better apply their own impressions of the characters? Maybe it’s because he wants the book to apply more to the America/ the mid-west, than to Africa? Or maybe it is supposed to symbolize a change of identity…two possible supporting examples of this are, when Isaac comes to the midwest and is assigned the name Dickens (symbolizing his switch from Uganda to America), and when Langston first comes to the capital and says that he is leaving everything from before behind him, including his family names, and then when he first meets Isaac, he is assigned the name Langston (symbolizing his switch from being with his family in his village to being mostly on his own in the capital). With that last option, I would like to end with a quote I find ties together the theme of names in this novel…
“…Isaac was their legacy to him, and when his revolutionary dreams came to an end, and he had to choose between leaving and staying, that name became his last an most precious gift to me.”
Nervous Conditions is categorized as a Bildungsroman, or a coming of age story. By simply having a female protagonist/narrator, gender issues are already at play, because of the tendency of Bildungsroman’s to center around a male lead character. However in this story, the possible male lead died and as a result, allowed Tambu, our female lead, to live out her coming of age story.
One example of gender dynamics is when Tambu presents her interest of earning an education through selling maize to her father, and he blatantly rejects it based on the sexist thinking that women cannot have entrepreneurial skills or make use of an education. These sexist interactions are also seen between Nyasha and Babamukuru, when the kids come back from the school dance and Nyasha stays outside alone to speak with a boy and gets beaten for doing so, while Chido is allowed to stay out late with a girl.
These instances, among others, influence Tambu’s relationship with many of the people around her, possibly creating her ‘nervous conditions’, as well as how she views herself, all because of the (negative) difference being a woman makes in her culture/society.
With those examples in mind of how gender played a role in Tambu’s Zimbabwe, I researched the issue of gender in present day Zimbabwe to see how it has changed since the days of colonial rule. According to The Gender Index, “Although Zimbabwe has achieved gender parity in primary school education, there remains a gender gap in secondary and tertiary education enrolments. Further, women trail behind men on measures of economic empowerment, such as labour force participation, wage equality and representation in senior positions.” However, there are current safeguards in place such as the Curriculum Development Unit, which is charge of vetting all textbooks after examinations for gender stereotypes. This block of gender stereotypes being taught in school is definitely a good step towards a more gender equal country.
In addition, here is a site that I found extremely helpful in understanding the ever present theme of gender, relating to the literature of Zimbabwe (including Nervous Conditions), and the traditional images of women.