Author Archives: joaqo5
We spoke earlier in the semester about classic tropes towards Africa, whether it’s the typical fundraising campaigns or young European or American teens coming to “save” the continent and it’s people. Well today Africa is a Country posted an article about Africa, once again, “touching” someone “deeply.” The article is quite funny and serves as an example of how many people still fit the stereotype/trope of seeing Africa as this amazing country without knowing anything about it. Here’s the link for those who want to have a nice chuckle.
For my book review I chose the novel A Long Way Gone by author Ishmael Baer. The novel tells the story of Ishmael Baer’s childhood as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. You can read my review of the novel by clicking on this link:
Here is a recent project from Focus Features production company called Africa First. Each year Africa First picks 5 of the most talented filmmakers in Africa to come to the United States and make a pretty well budgeted short film. The project is meant to start a longterm relationship with these filmmakers so that later on they can move over into feature length films.
The short story I read was called The Witch and the Machete Test. The story starts out with a man named Spider recounting a very grotesque encounter. He and 12 other initiates follow a Witch into her hut, where she preforms spells and begins to cook food. This leads her to call up her initiates one by one and cut their heads off with a Machete. The rest of the story can be found here: http://brittlepaper.com/2014/12/machete-test-friday-aja-flash-fiction/
As I read Dog Days, I can’t help but think how Massa Yo’s ownership over Mboudjak mirrors a lot of the dominant, and even paternalistic relationships depicted in our past readings. Initially, Dog Days had me reflect upon the relationship of Joseph and Isaac in All Our Names. I saw that Massa Yo’s pampering of his pet resembled the coddling given to Isaac by Joseph.
In Dog Days, our narrator is a dog who lives a poor life, but is given an opportunity at a new one. Nganang sets us up for this change early on in the first few lines of his novel: “I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve assumed the destiny it places on my shoulders…I’ve gotten used to the arrogance of others…It hasn’t always been this way. At first I was wounded by even the most innocuous human words” (Nganang 1). At first, Mboudjak is a rebellious dog, biting and barking at his owner, going against the grain. However, once he realizes the good that can come from being an obedient pet, he quickly changes his attitude. In my mind, this resembles how in All Our Names, Isaac is originally against the ignorance and arrogance of his Ethiopian government and it’s wealthy citizens. But soon after Isaac is taken in by Joseph, we see that Isaac becomes spoiled and is willing to do anything Joseph tells him to. This shapes Isaac into a completely different person. The one who notices this change is Dinaw Mengestu’s unnamed narrator, who realizes that Isaac has completely turned. The same could be said for Dog Days, when Mboudjak leaves Massa Yo’s ownership and lives amongst the stray dogs. When Mboudjak is with these stray dogs, he is constantly criticized and teased for being a spoiled dog. They see him as an outsider. Moreover, this dichotomy between the groups of dogs also reminded me of the effect of change from traditional living to an unorthodox way of life, as depicted in both Nervous Conditions and Things Fall Apart.
In both of these prior readings our main characters are given the chance to explore a new culture and be exposed to a different lifestyle. In Nervous Conditions, Tambu is taken to a missionary school. There, she sees a change in resentment for ones culture from her sibling and cousins, but also begins to see it in herself. Both Tambu’s cousins and brother look down upon their culture and heritage once they are exposed to a new lifestyle. This shift in perspective is also depicted in Things Fall Apart.
In the novel, Okonkwo has a very difficult time adjusting and accepting this change brought to him by European missionaries, while his son, Nwoye is very accepting of this new way of life. This leads Nwoye to resents his father and his way of living. Both Nervous Conditions and Things Fall Apart kept popping into my head as I saw this chain effect unravel in Dog Days, where Massa Yo looks down upon a domesticated Mboudjak, leading Mboudjak to look down upon these stray dogs, and finally having the stray dogs lose respect for Mboudjak. In the end, this leads me to believe that one reason why Patrice Nganang’s chooses to make a dog the narrator, is to show this power struggle in Cameroon. As the novel progresses, I see a constant need from the characters to be above and not sink into poverty. There is a constant need to be above someone or something else.
Chinua Achebe’s novel does a great job of depicting the theme of change within one’s culture. Throughout the novel the Ibo tribe gradually changes in both tradition and language, something Okonkwo despises. However, if we were to take a closer look at the male side of Okonkwo’s family, we could see that the last three generations of men have been moving towards this progression.
Unoka is known as a man who can not be trusted amongst the people of the Ibo tribe. He is lazy, wasteful, selfish, and loves to drink. Moreover, he never repays his numerous debts, never earns a title in the tribe, and is afraid of war. The two things things Unoka is actually good at are playing the wooden flute and being a gentle man. Sadly, Okonkwo lives in shame of his father and vows never to resemble him.
In the Ipo tribe Okonkwo is known to be a disciplined, hardworking man. He is a clan leader, a respected farmer, and a strong warrior. Due to his father’s lack of resources and drive, Okonkwo begins farming at a young age. As a young man, Okonkwo has a successful farm and is able to provide for his mother and sisters. However, as he grows older Okonkwo has trouble thinking outside of his tribe’s traditions. He has a short temper and anyone who disagrees with his thoughts or beliefs usually suffer the consequences. One person in particular is Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye.
As the last two generations seem to be opposites of each other, Nwoye is the perfect mix of the two. He is free spirited, sensitive, and gentle. He both respects women and keeps an open mind, all the while having a great amount of strength. Nwoye demonstrates his strength by living in the shadow of his father. He is able to survive his father’s beatings and rules. Throughout the novel we see Nwoye slowing grow as a character until he has the ultimate turning point of telling his father no, and joining the missionaries that come to the Ipo tribe.