Author Archives: kowlessarchristine

Take A Break From Reading Because…Music Is Great!

I’m a huge music person, totally open to every genre, any style, and even though this course focuses on African Literature, I felt like sharing this song by Nigerian R&B duo P-Square. I read on the Wikipedia page for the song that they faced some criticism for their controversial dance moves that seem to resemble the Azonto dance that originates from Ghana.

I first discovered this song earlier this year through this video. My first thought while watching this one was: “THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN AT AU! It would be so wicked! I’d totally attend this workshop.” It was interesting how much it resembled dancehall music from Jamaica.

Well, enjoy & good luck with finals everyone!

[Music is life. Music is music. Music is great. Live for greatness.]

Short Story: “Legal Alien” by Rutangye Crystal Butungi

The short story “Legal Alien” by Rutangye Crystal Butungi focuses on the protagonist (whose name is not mentioned) trying to get her medical form filled out at a small town clinic. This scene of her waiting for the doctor as the receptionist tries to hold a conversation with her in their language is complemented by the memory of her first day of school in Uganda. The themes of identity, alienation (as alluded to in the title), and education are intertwined in this story. The first line of the story: “I can’t believe the receptionist is not going to take my consultation fee just because I’m from her tribe!” jumped out at me mostly because I wondered why someone would not want something that costs less. As I continued reading, I realized that she was a little upset at the notion of not paying the fee due to having a certain identifying factor because she herself was not sure if she belonged, and she has always had this identity crisis that others have been confused about (not knowing one’s native tongue). Education is also deemed important, not only in school, but also in adjusting to one’s environment and teaching others about assumptions.

http://www.africanwriterstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/suubi.pdf (page 25)

Digital Participation – Film Review: District 9 (2009)

Link to the official movie website: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/district9/

District 9 (2009) is a film directed by Neill Blomkamp who is South African and also co-wrote the script. I found that this film was inspired by events that happened during the apartheid era in South Africa:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_Six

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Residents_of_Joe_Slovo_Community_v_Thubelisha_Homes

How people were forced to leave their homes, evicted from the place that was the foundation of their entire lives was terrible. A main theme that I saw in this film was xenophobia through speciesism (which I discovered is an actual term and not something I coined while watching this even though I thought I did for a solid two minutes before deciding to Google it) similar to racism. The aliens were being called prawns which was described in the film as a derogatory term meaning “bottom feeder, one who scavenges the leftovers”. After twenty years, there was public pressure for the removal of the aliens who had simply lost leadership and wanted to return home with no way of doing so.

For the design of the aliens, I would have to say that their features can be mostly characterized as those of an anthropod. Their eyes are what stood out to me for a lot of the emotion that they evoked was told through the eyes which exhibited anthropomorphism besides walking on two legs and not four or eighteen.

What I loved the most about this film is how it took on the form of a documentary. One particularly style that was incorporated was cinéma vérité, which means truthful cinema. The camera-person is an observer, filming whatever is happening before him or her which sometimes includes interaction with those in front of the camera. This gave rawness to District 9. And even still when there was not a physical camera-person there, the hand-held camera or shaky camera cinematographic technique was used, and I felt right like I was in the very setting being shown.

This film created a lot of controversy among Nigerians for how they were depicted as criminals and cannibals. In the film, the Nigerians in D-9 ran various scams: selling cat food to the alien for exorbitant prices, interspecies prostitution, and dealing in alien weaponry. I find this interesting not only for specifically choosing Nigerians to be the group of people living in the compound area near the aliens which was considered a slum, but also given that Nigeria is known for the scam involving spam emails asking for money and bank information as stated in this article discussing affect of this film in Nigeria: http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/09/21/nigeria.film.outcry/#cnnSTCText

 

Digital Participation – Film Review: La petite vendeuse de soleil (The little girl who sold the sun) (1999)

La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun) (1999) is directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty, a Senegalese filmmaker. The protagonist is a young disabled girl named Sili Laam who uses crutches to walk and begs in the city streets for money to help out her family. She decides to enter the occupation of selling newspapers which has been dominated by young males. In one scene, with her face superimposed on the printing of newspapers, Sili exclaims that what boys can do, girls can do too. I admire Sili’s self-determination and her character reminds me a little of Tambu from Nervous Conditions. Sili makes her way through the bustling city with confidence and stands her ground when looked at with suspicion for making a large amount of money or defending the newspaper she sells, Soleil, as her friend, Babou Seck, argues that Sud is better.

I like the non-dialogue scenes incorporated into the short film. Some scenes depict everyday life and there is a juxtaposition being the quiet of the town Sili lives in to the busy city with the motor vehicles zooming by. Other scenes feature music, specifically music coming from the boom box carried around by a boy in a wheelchair. My favorite scene would have to be when Sili and other girls are dancing down the road to the music and meet up with other kids who join in the fun. Then when they pay the boy to play more music, Sili puts on sunshades and smiles. This scene shows how happiness can be found in difficult times, that nothing should stop one from enjoying life even for a brief period of time, and music can bring people together.

At the end of the film it says: “this story is a hymn to the courage of street children”. I think this is fitting especially using the term hymn given the music that is played throughout the film. To me, this means that this story exhibits how there is no single story to what the life of a street child entails, how there are obstacles to overcome regardless of some sort of status one may hold over another, and that these kids have all learned how to build their own path without having to be told how to do so.

A Cell Is A Box That Has An Illusion Of Safety

Out of all the short stories we have read from The Thing Around Your Neck, the one that always comes to the front of my mind and does not get buried is “Cell One”. While reading it I felt like I was Nnamabia’s sibling and when his eyes filled with tears, I too felt a tenderness for him. This story has stuck with me the way it does is for two reasons.

The first reason is that the story of Nnamabia breaking into his own house and the description of him being a smart kid immediately made me think of someone I know personally. Interestingly enough, the same exact thing happened with that person. And falling into the wrong crowd and him once being a smart kid always came up in conversation surrounding the incident. Additionally, when the policeman said, “You cannot raise your children well, all of you people who feel important because you work in the university” (20), I thought of Nervous Conditions and the theme of education. Nnamabia and the person I know could have been considered well-educated individuals who should have known better at the time. In Nervous Conditions, education was seen as having both successes and failures, and how it was important to have one without having education take over your life. And in my blog post about this topic I asked: what does it really mean to be educated? And I think one could make the argument that in this story, Nnamabia being a popular boy, befriending everyone, was the street smarts side to obtaining an education.

The second reason this story stuck with me is really just the harsh realities of being imprisoned in a cell. When I took the course Deprivation of Liberty, we discussed how the news may sometimes twist everything, and that prison has these gray areas. I found this evident when the policeman released Nnamabia to his family and how the entire ordeal, Nnamabia being moved into Cell One, transferred, and then appearing with scars, was not spoken about and it was completely vague as to why it happened. In one of the books we read, A Question of Freedom by Dwayne Betts, there was the discussion of how one is a witness to what happens in a cell and do not underestimate the criminal justice system for age is just another number and one will become a number too. Identification is no longer one’s first name, but the digits on one’s wristband. And in “Cell One” we see that the injustices that happen in the system in Nigeria is seen as normal as the father brushes his knee, not understanding why the mother was stating the obvious.

In the same course, we also read a short story and play called “Cell Buddy” by Robert Johnson (whom taught the Deprivation of Liberty course when I took it) and one take away we had from that reading is that occasional explosions are seen as normal when one has no one to help him/her sort through his/her emotions and suffer less. We saw that Nnamabia’s emotions started to get the best of him and he had this bottled up anger that ate him from the inside out that he had to let go.

From A Bad Yesterday One Can Still Find A Good Tomorrow

In the film Yesterday (2004), one scene that stuck with me is when the teacher friend tells Yesterday that she is brave and Yesterday replies that she is not brave, that this is just the way things are. Another scene that also stuck with me is when Yesterday tells the doctor that it is not a strong body, but a strong mind that still keeps her going.

With all we have read about colonization, political movements, power and the people of the villages or cities having to shape their lives around others’ ideas of how they should be living, I find the contrast of Yesterday’s situation interesting. She is shaping her life around a disease that has enveloped herself and her husband. But similar to most whose lives have been infringed upon by outsiders, Yesterday does not forget who she is as a wife, as a mother, as a key part of what makes her family function, as an individual of her village. For some reason, I begin to think of Tambudzai from Nervous Conditions who decides to take her future into her own hands by selling the maize she has grown. Self-determination and the sense of this is what she has to do to get her education to keep moving forward drives her actions. Similarly, Yesterday carries on day by day because she knows that one cannot stop living life even if something changes it, and she now has to provide for her family. After Yesterday’s husband passes away, her focus is on getting her daughter, Beauty, ready for school and awaiting the day she sees Beauty off to school. So interestingly enough, the theme of education is present here as it was in Nervous Conditions. Instead of fighting for her own education though, Yesterday fights for her daughter’s given that she herself did not receive one.

Additionally, I think these scenes tie into our discussion of Memory of Love and my post about memories, hope, and change, and how the past, present, and future are intertwined, all running along the same line. I think Yesterday separates herself from the characters of Kai and Elias by being someone who does have an immense amount of hope and realizes that what has happened has happened. She obviously cannot forget it because it affects the present and the future, but she carries this hope with her, allowing change to take place, allowing the bright future she sees for her daughter to be the new beginning.

Remember The Past And Then Remember To Carry Hope

In Memory of Love, I believe that there is a connection between memories, hope, and change. A passage that stuck out to me was during the moment when Saffia mentions that Julius wanted her to finish her studies and that is why they did not have a child, and Elias says that she is still young: “One word. Yet so much more. She had said yes. Agreed her life was not over. I looked at her. I was consumed by a feeling of inexpressible joy. Only later did I recognize it for what it was. Hope. For in that instant the beauty and pain of the past, the unbearable present and the possible future all ran together” (269). That last line about the past, present, and future makes me think about how one’s being is filled with these past events that cannot be changed, and those events all add up and lead to the present moment. The words spoken or actions taken in the present determines the future. And the present moment becomes the past in the blink of an eye and the future is now here.

It sounds confusing, but when you think about it, the past, present, and future are indeed running together. They create this collective story, they are what bring about change, and change relies upon one’s memory and a feeling of hope. I do not believe that one must entirely forget the past in order to move on. I think that if one carries hope with him or herself then he or she will realize that there was this one good or evil that has happened and now it has supposedly ended so a new beginning must take place.

I believe this idea speaks to Elias Cole’s character because of his need to record the details of his life. To me, he not only is afraid of losing his memory, but he also just seems to want to hold on to every instant of his life and that prevents him from truly living it. That sounds incredibly cliché, but I think we all agree that Elias Cole just gets in the way of himself being the creeper he is. And while in the passage I have pointed out, he seems to have hope, he is still holding on to the past. In order for a change to truly happen, one cannot cling to the past and carry hope. Another character that I believe these ideas speak to even more is Kai Mansaray. I remember the scene when Lansana gives Kai a ride on the day of the coup, and Kai observes that Lansana’s eyes were flat, almost without expression and it was due to the absence of hope. I think Kai had an absence of hope himself in Memory of Love because he was so entangled in his memories, in how everything used to be, that he did not allow himself to believe in any sort of change for a while. He sort of became lost in his job just to distract himself from his memories that hope for anything became lost as well.

Needing To Be Rescued From One’s Name

One line that has stuck with me throughout reading Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names is: “Rescue – that is the true heart behind romance and fairy tale; the spontaneous love that frees us from the tower, hospital bed, or broken world is always only the means to that end” (109). And the reason as to why this line stuck with me actually has to do with our discussion about names. We touched upon the fact that names are not really used and are not really important, but I believe that it is. In the beginning of the book, what Langston says Isaac left with him was not just his character, who he was as a person, but his name; Langston himself carried various nicknames like “Professor” and “Ali” which could go to showing how multifaceted he is, who exactly he is; and while Isaac is just a name as Helen points out, it is still what she knows him by.

How does the line that stuck with me relate to this topic of names? Well, one’s name serves as a great identifier. While a name is not what makes everything real or great, having a name to carry is important to many of us. I know it is to me. And while I wholeheartedly believe in keeping my last name when I get married, Langston just throws his birth name away and is dubbed something else. But the fact is he made this transition into the capital that seemed rushed, chaotic, and change seemed like a farce; the hopes that were there for the country of post-colonial independence served as a disappointment. Langston rescued himself from that by taking on a new name. I believe that the quote is stating that “rescue” is this sort of freedom, freedom from realities and to be a dreamer and perhaps have dreams become realities. And from the beginning I feel that Langston was looking for a new identity, a new purpose, which was sort of this fairy tale in his mind that he could not make a complete reality being an outsider, but could possibly work towards. Similarly, Helen is also trying to really find herself through the definitions of her job, her relationships, and her potential future.

In All Our Names, names itself are also important not only because they serve as an identifier, but because of their ties to family, to where someone has grown up, to what someone’s life has been. And through changing a name or questioning it, one could say that it rescues one from the worries that this name is all he or she has and this life is all he or she has rather than: “I am more than just my name…I will make my name mean more.”

“tek your education”

In class, it was pointed out that Nervous Conditions is critique of a bildungsromane through a bildungsromane. I would like to try to explore this thought through the theme of education. I believe that Nervous Conditions is a critique of a bildungsromane because it is not this cookie-cutter story and the role that education plays in this book shows that clearly. This focus on education is not only that education is something that allows one to gain knowledge, potentially be a “Babamukuru Jr.” success story, but also how it is a battle ground. What does it mean to obtain an education anyway? What does it mean to be educated? Reflecting on Babamukuru’s life, education is becoming a person who receives all kinds of respect among people, becoming the headmaster of a missionary school, helping out family by trying to show his brother’s children this other world. But is that really all it means to be educated?

Reading about Tambudzai’s struggle to receive an education makes me think of all the times my parents and multiple other family members told me how important getting an education is. I will always remember this one time when I was sitting down with my cousin doing my college applications and a question that came up was something along the lines of: what is the best advice you have ever received? I answered the question by jokingly saying to my cousin “Well, we’ve both been told ‘tek your education’…but that’s not advice, that’s an order.” Interestingly enough, that was my answer (not in those exact words of course). Being able to receive an education, taking it, having a complete educational career is not something to take lightly in my family…and I feel that Tambudzai thinks that as well. On one hand you do not want it to take over your life, but on the other hand you know there is so much that you can do with an education, so much it can show you. Just going through the process of travelling to school, attending classes is receiving an education because you do not only need book smarts, but street smarts too. And that can only be done by having new experiences, being placed in different environments. Education helps in finding who you are as a person, what grounds you in the world, what your fears still are in world you are living in. And Nervous Conditions serves as the critique of a bildungsromane because while she is growing up, there are still things that keep Tambudzai from doing so, her fears, her nervousness of being engulfed in her new life to a point of no return, which in a way is still growing up (and why the book itself is a bildungsromane too). Getting an education is a constant fight, not just a filter to pass through to get to a good outcome because education has its successes and its failures.