Author Archives: jihannicole
The following is from an African poetry blog on Tumblr. I don’t know why it just occurred to me, but it’s important to acknowledge outlets such as tumblr as a source of uncensored creativity.
This is a short account of how a man Ishmael Beah became a child soldier in Sierra Leone when he was only thirteen. I think this is really important because it shows how people who are subjected to becoming part of and taking part in such inhumane violence are affected.
This is a very short video about outrageous superstitions in Nigeria. It’s really funny, and reminded me of the weird superstitions we came across in our novels.
This poem resinated with me after our talks about Jude Dibia’s work. It paints the picture of a brief night, filled with many changes in a short amount of time. I think that the tone is intriguing, in that it sounds sad, reflective, and accepting. It’s unclear whether the speaker in the poem is actually a prostitute or a casual one-night stand, but I think it is metaphoric as well. As I read it, the tenderness and acceptance the speaker feels from his partner could be societal acceptance, which is taken away by the end of the night, sending the speaker to cower into the darkness and find his way on the train.
This short story is one that mimics the financial banality we’ve seen in previous texts. Beginning with the tragic death of his mother, which seems to have occurred during a bus trip the two took to Kampala, it follows the main character, Vincent. A single guy who appears to have a girl friend, but no kids of his own gets a call at 6:30 am from his father. Initially, he assumes it’s his father calling to notify him of the death of a family member, but it ends up being a conversation about money. Specifically, his two younger siblings (twins) need 5 millions shillings in four days to pay their tuition. Their father cannot afford this amount because he’s been waiting for his retirement for ten years, since the social security office doesn’t believe he is who he says he is since his name has two alternative spellings. Unfortunately, even his retirement checks wouldn’t be enough to cover the full amount. In the end, Vincent has to turn to a colleague to borrow the amount and promise to pay a fourteen percent interest on top of the amount in three months. The story concludes by saying “at least your brother and sister will not drop out, they will get somewhere too one day, not so mutabaani?”
The following link is to an article about Nakhane Toure’ who is an African singer who is also homosexual. He’s unique because his last album got overwhelmingly positive feedback, even though he is opening homosexual. Additionally, he comes from an important family, with his uncle as the current chief of their chiefdom. Although he is from South Africa where the society and laws are a bit more lenient on those who identify as queer, I think this article provides hope that spheres such as music can bridge the divide. (I also think Jude Dibia would find this to be pretty cool. )
After listening to Dibia talk about the Homosexual experience in Nigeria, I was struck with the opening of the passage we were assigned for Tuesday. After a car accident, Adrian describes the experience as if he’s in a war, with soldiers looking at the accident as if a bomb went off, and he feels anxious to get to safety. What’s so ironic is that he isn’t anxious for safety from rounds, but the safety of the relief he will feel when he tells his wife about his past. Clearly, he’s too late, and his worse nightmare comes true. Reflecting on another passage that Dibia read at his presentation, he describes a flashback from Adrian’s childhood in which he is to be baptized. Describing the people who were confronted and pushed down in the water by the Bible the pastors wield in their hands, Adrian recalls the drowning feeling he has when he dips into the water. This
feeling of “letting go” is echoed in the opening passage about the car accident. Besides this feeling, what do these two scenes have in common?
For me, both scenes have an eerie current of violent that seems to to have undertones of banality. The car accident is certainly not an out-of-the-ordinary experience, but the way the author describes it gives off a combative feel. Even the way the author describes the way in which the pastors use the Bible in the Baptism ceremony gives off a muted violence. While baptism is not uncommon, it seems as though this particular ceremony meant something different to Adrian: a chance for a new identity.
Relating this to Dibia’s explanation of the homosexual experience in Nigeria, he drew a clear distinction between identity and sexuality. And so in looking at these two scenes, the subtle undertones of violence suggest that this is a banality that has become part of the homosexual experience; one that tries to make sexuality and identity one in the same. The accident represents the violence gay people face, while the baptism represents the identity Nigerian society attaches to the gay community.
In class, we broached the subject of misplaced anger. In the second half of the novel, there are many instances in which this is seen, but I think one scene in particular illustrates one of the effects of this displaced anger. In a dramatic scene in a Mokolo market, during a Jehovah Witness’s public testimony, a woman falsely accuses an innocent onlooker of stealing her wallet. The resulting riot that ensues afterwards, is chaotic. The most interesting part of this particular scene is the vigor and violence with which the entire crowd pursued the accused. Considering our discussion about binal violence ( like selling non-existing train tickets), I didn’t quite understand what made the crowd go after this particular man, and not the police authorities who abused their power. But along with my surprise, I noticed how this riot ensued in the midst of a “man of God” telling people that they needed to repent for their sins during the crisis. To me this was very ironic, since talk of God should bring comfort and hope, instead of engendering violence. It is this religious presence that finds its implications in the passage on pages 157-158. “Fists flailed behind him,trying to catch him, to grab his shadow.” “The officer stepped aside and let him pass. Then the policeman took his revenge on the anxious crowd, which wanted to follow in the steps of the last witness. He shut the gates of the police station as if they were behind the locked fence….found myself right next to the seat of the final judgement (158).
This scene is significant, because it’s full of ironic details. Firstly, its ironic that a supposed criminal is running to police for help. Secondly, its ironic that the police started to entertain the problem, especially since no one was paying them to quell the problem. Thirdly, referring to the gates of a prison as the gates of heaven seems like a very misplaced likening. Fourthly, it is interesting that a crowd of people who mistrust the corrupt policemen are described as “following the steps of the last whiteness.”
The significance of these ironies is the comparison it makes between the binality the citizens go through and the implications of Heaven, Limbo, and Hell. Looking at this particular situation, it seems as though the binality the crowd is trying to escape from is like a limbo, from which they are ready to move on from. In many ways, the state of their condition, brought on by the crisis, is worse than hell, because there is always the hope of things improving. The conditions of the crisis are illuminated by the resolution of this scene. The man’s innocence is returned ( a piece of individual heaven), the policeman acts as God ( even though he’s far from) , and the crowd turns on the woman it went to bat for. Everything returned to normal ( Limbo).
As the novel progresses, we learn more details about some of Adrian’s patients. Some of the ailments include PTSD and epilepsy, but there is another ailment that gets tacitly addressed throughout the second section of the novel: racism. While on the beach with Illeanna, Adrian is approached by two American girls. The passage goes something like this: “I thought you looked saner than the rest of us…You haven’t heard the joke? What’s the difference between a tourist and a racist? Two weeks!” I don’t know about you all, but this passage made me very uncomfortable. I then looked back at the rest of the page and was struck by the way the two women ignored the two men trying to sell trinkets. In response to their presence, the red head remarks, “Don’t bother, they never give up” ( 170). To me, the details of this page are an embodiment of an ailment. I think that the ailments people suffer from in this novel are a metaphor for racism, and instead of blatantly calling out the discrimination Westerners had against the Africans, Forna instead talks about ailments. In this way, Forna is able to address racism, without explicitly calling out white people. The casual way in which the young woman makes the joke says to me that it is easy to find many things wrong with Sierra Leonians. Moreover, it says that three weeks is enough time to determine that Africans are beneath white tourists. When she tells Adrian that no matter what he says to the sellers, they won’t go away, I found it ironic, because I felt she was talking about herself, and the views other racist people like her held. No matter what hardships (the war) people in Sierra Leon went through, their suffering was irrelevant. The ailments they suffered from because of Westerners ( Europeans and Americans) were their own faults. And because the people in power ( most whites) held on to this opinion, Westerns for the most part were “never going to give up” this condescending view of African people. This passage made me think of “ailments” as racism. Do you all see any parallels between the two?
It has always fascinated me, that when confronted with choices ( like pick A or B) people are quick to choose one. However, when decisions are more complex, people respond,” It’s not black and white.” The cinematography in the Lumumba film was seemingly just that.
Art has the ability to explain what cannot be put into words; and I think the simplicity in the use of color speaks to how “black” and “white” the Europeans saw the issue of Congolese independence. While the Belgians’ motives and secret plans have very clear objectives and motivations,the Congolese politicians’ dissension creates a grey area. I think it is this grey area that lead to Lumumba’s assassination and the triumph of the Belgians’ interference efforts. The film director created the grey areas with the overlap of ironic images.
One of the clearest images showing this grey area is the scene at the round table. The juxtaposition between the meeting with all of the Europeans and the separate meeting between all of the Africans demonstrates the black v. white lens through which the film director wants us to view the story of Lumumba’s assassination. On the white side, you have slightly different viewpoints about Congolese liberation, but the end goal is still the same. Let the Congolese people think they are free, and wait for our time to come in and regain control. On the black side, you have some Africans who want what is best for the Congo. On the other side, you have the Africans who simply want power and a corrupt government which operate for their benefit.
Perhaps the most glaring pictorial portrayal of this grey area is in the opening and closing scenes. In class, we noted the stark images of subservient blacks being controlled and tamed by dictatorial and “civilized” Europeans. One thing I think many people overlook is that these images are more impactful because they are in black and white. In the closing scenes, similar portrayals appear but with Africans in positions of power, and the images are in color.
To me, this split in the African meeting creates a grey area. It’s easy to say that the Europeans successfully plotted against Lumumba and the Africans were once again, victims of colonialism. It is another thing to say, the Europeans’ eventual plans for the Congo and the use of some of the Africans as pawns, lead to the successful extermination of Lumumba. I think that if the African politicians had a unified stance from the inception, it would have been harder for the Belgiums to convince the Western world and the UN that intervention was necessary. It would have been harder for the Europeans to turn the African politicians against each other. Perhaps, if things were more black and white, and the Africans and Europeans had decided definitive enemies based on skin color, Lumumba mit still be alive.