Author Archives: reedlarissa

Digital Participation: Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go

I don’t have a twitter, but I did want to suggest a book for future African Literature courses. I think Ghana Must Go would be an interesting read and fits with the identity piece of the course.

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Digital Participation

I wanted to post this video because I think it sums up what we have learned from taking a course on African literature and the class discussion on short stories. The video encompasses the perception of what African literature is and the struggle African writers face in telling the stories they want to tell.

Digital Participation: The Square

I watched the film The Square about the Egyptian revolution that started in 2011. The film was great because it gave an inside look into the revolution. I was surprised, but happy to see Khalid Abdalla because I love the film The Kite Runner. The film starts with the beginning of the revolution in early 2011 to the summer of 2013. Khalid Abdalla and Ahmed Hassan were the two main active players depicted in the revolution. Madgy Ashour was a Muslim Brotherhood member and was staunch in the beliefs of the organization. Abdalla is posed as the leader of the revolution that pushed for the use of social media to document the revolution. I found that to be interesting because Abdalla is an actor and I expected the social media was instrumented as a group effort. I became really invested in the film through watching Ahmed because he was mainly the person talking in the film and was so passionate about the revolution. His passion for the cause was infectious and made you feel as if you were apart of the revolution too. My heart almost dropped when I saw Ahmed injured, but I was glad to see he was okay. The scenes of the painting of the mural on the revolution was powerful because the mental strain on the revolutionaries through the government changes was captured in art. Personally, I disliked the scenes with government tanks rolling over the people during a protest. The scene was raw and showed the ruthlessness of the military’s pursuit of the revolutionaries. I do wish the film focused more on Madgy and the Muslim Brotherhood protest at the end of the film to show the other half of the revolution. Madgy was an interesting figure because he shifted between support for the revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood. His loyalties in the end were to the Muslim Brotherhood, but he respected the revolutionaries. The Square is a great film to watch because you see how the revolution in Egypt starts and how it reacts throughout the three different government switches.

Short Story: Blak Power by NoViolet Bulawayo

Noviolet Bulawayo’s Blak Power is based on President Mugabe’s land reform program launched in 2000. The story follows the four main characters, Godknows, Bastard, Sbho, and Stina on their troubles and the witnessing the implementation of the land reform program. The four main characters are confronted by an officer that is described as a dog and the same metaphor is used later on in the story to describe the soldiers that raid the white couple’s home. The reference to “Blak Power” is to allude to Mugabe’s land reform that uprooted 6,000 white landowners and gave the land to about a quarter of a million black Zimbabweans, according to The Guardian. The story briefly touches on the cruelty shown toward the white landowners revealed through Sbho’s sympathy for the couple stating “They are people” to respond to Bastard’s “Are you crying for white people.” The characters in the story live up to their names and the overall state of Zimbabwe under the land reform program is captured in the story.

The short story:

http://www.guernicamag.com/fiction/blak-power/

The Guardian article:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/10/robert-mugabe-land-reform

Unsaid things

In “On Monday of Last Week,” Kamara is a woman who does not speak up about her feelings on various issues. The opening scene with Kamara touching herself while standing in front of a mirror, “…examining her lumpy middle and imagining it flat as a book cover, and then she would close her eyes and imagine Tracy caressing it with those paint-stained fingers,” expresses the untold feelings she has toward Tracy. The discussion of Tracy throughout most of the story is minimal until the last couple of pages. Tracy is described as an artist and seem to have an attraction to Kamara when they meet in the kitchen (87). The women exchange few words that lead to going to Tracy’s studio and Tracy asking Kamara to be a nude model for her (89). The sexual tension between women presents the topic of homosexuality. But, Kamara declines Tracy’s offer and sees her later on in the story with Tracy declining to paint her in that moment. The class conversation for the past weeks has been about silence and homophobia in Africa. The topic of homophobia is not explicitly told in the story, but Kamara hints to the denial of it when she talks to Tracy expressing the fear of her feelings coming out. The story also alludes to a silence that where people do not speak up for themselves. Kamara often throughout the story is silent about different affairs and has a inner struggle over the decisions being made around her or for her. The scene of Kamara discussing the way of how she came to America is a more reserved story with her thoughts that were never shared. The ending also shows as an example of the silence of not knowing how to explain difference with Neil not fully explaining the status of the relationship between him and Tracy. The story shows the elements of silence while also showing the fear of homophobia in American society. Any thoughts???

Sangoma: Traditional South African Healer

In the film Yesterday, the female healer in the community attempts to cure Yesterday of her illness. The scenes with the healer are interesting because you see the cultural beliefs of the Zulu people. But you also see the lack of education of illnesses and modern medicine when the healer questions Yesterday about anger being the cause of her illness.

“If you do not trust me, you shouldn’t have come”- traditional healer

In South Africa, the traditional healers are a big part of the culture and highly respected. The healers are often female and engage in the social and political atmosphere of society. The healers are either songoma meaning the diviner or inyanga the herbalist (BBC News). A songoma is portrayed in the film and the reaction to Yesterday illness is common because illness is believed to be a caused by witchcraft. The songomas’ believe the continuation of pain the manifestation of a spirit and they address the spirit. Then they figure out how to treat the ailment with the guidance of the ancestors (BBC News). The character of Chielo from Things Fall Apart is similar to a songoma. The inyanga focus on the physical illnesses only (BBC News). The Nguni, Sotho-Tswana, and Tsongo communities have the traditional healers. The people get a calling from the ancestors or “amadlozi” to become healers. The sangomas are legally recognized under the Traditional Practitioners Health Act of 2007 with other traditional figures such as herbalists (BBC News). The West has characterized the songomas and inyangas to be witch doctors. According to BBC News, about 80% of South Africans consult songomas because they are believed to be the liason between the dead and the living. The Medical Research Council instituted the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Unit are a set of policies that are suppose to benefit the traditional health sector (BBC News). The organization has also set up a HIV prevention program in South Africa along with a women empowerment program (MRC.com).

Here are a few links:

http://youtu.be/E6n3dFMBPQU (Sangoma Traditional Healers) A video showing songomas doing a ritual.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-22306869 BBC News article I got a lot of my facts from

http://www.ancestralwisdom.com/sangoma.html Ancestral Wisdom, a resourceful website with information on HIV/AIDs and the traditional healers

HIV in South Africa: Digital Participation

In the film Yesterday, HIV is discussed and the stigma of having the disease. I did a little research on HIV/AIDS in South and found that the country has had a long struggle with trying to lower the infection rate. In the New York Times article, the recent outbreak of AIDS in 2008 devastated the country and describes how in the recent years a lot of research has been done to combat the spreading of the disease in the country. The Guardian article,  focuses on the birth mothers and women in general that are afraid to discuss the disease because the stigma HIV places upon people.

Here are the articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/26/health/aids-south-africa-success-pepfar.html?_r=0

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/oct/09/hiv-stigma-maternal-deaths-south-africa-amnesty

Prosperity of Cameroon

In Mbembe and Roitman’s Figure of the Subject in Times of Crisis, Cameroon is described as a country that had economic stability until the 1980s. Mbembe and Roitman briefly tell of how the country believed in the wealth of their natural resources. However, they leave out that the country went into an economic depression during the 1980s because the price of some of their commodities such as oil and coffee dropped heavily (Britannica.com). To combat the economic downfall in Cameroon, the government became invested in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [an organization that stabilizes currency exchanges rates] to help the economy grow again (Britannica.com). But out of the economic crisis in Cameroon, new social classes grew such as the middle class that gained more prosperity. Cameroon is known as one of the more stable countries in Africa. According to Mbembe and Roitman, the economic crisis unified Cameroon and also created the prosperity of the private sector. The main export for Cameroon is agricultural and forest products. The goods make up about of third of Cameroon’s economy. The country is also one of the world’s largest cocoa bean producers. With, the introduction of cotton in 1952, the cocoa bean economy went down some in Cameroon and the production of cotton still has a profound impact on the current economy (Britannica.com). The manufacturing economy grew heavily in the late 20th to early 2000s in Cameroon. The government in the 1990s decided to invest in privatization programs for the country (Britannica.com). In the late 1990s, the commercial banking sector became profitable and in 2003, a stock exchange was established in Douala. But for years the stock market did not have any companies listed (Britannica.com). Originally, Cameroon was a French colony and today France is still Cameroon’s main trading partner. Today, Cameroon still works to improve the economy for the future.

Feeling Unable to Imitate a Hero

In All Our Names, Langston and Helen struggle with the feeling they do not have what it takes to be a hero or a revered figure in their societies. Langston is throughout the novel seen as a dependent character throughout the novel that likes to be behind the scenes, but is constantly pushed into the spotlight by Isaac, who he has great admiration for. In Helen’s case, she was not trying to imitate a hero. She wanted change, but she didn’t know how to stand firm to enforce change in her environment. Langston describes his inability to engage in imitating revolutionaries,

“I spent my first few weeks in the capital trying to imitate the gangs of boys that lingered around the university and the cafes and bars that bordered it. Back then, all the boys our age wanted to be revolutionaries. On campus, and in the poor quarters where Isaac and I lived, there were dozens of Lumumbas, Marleys, Malcoms, Cesaires, Kenyattas, Senghors, and Selassies, boys who woke up every morning and donned the black hats and olive green costumes of their heroes. I couldn’t match them, so I let the few strands of hair on my chin grow long (4).”

The quote explains how infirm Langston was in his life and shows his introverted side. He points out his urge to fit in on campus. but ultimately had the feeling that he could not measure up to the other boys. Helen wanted her and Isaac to have little victories instead of being heroes. She said “I set my sights low. Incremental progress was my philosophy. We didn’t had to be heroer. There had been enough of those already, and in many ways, I reasoned, Isaac and I had already picked up the fight (34),” detailing her rationalization of how she dealt with the segregated society that hindered her relationship with Isaac. Her  quote is the answer to Langston’s quote revealing a need to conform. While, Helen is pretending to be strong in the face of prejudice.

The Absence of Dirt: Tambu’s Assessment of Babamukuru’s House

Tambu is used to living in squalor and letting natural resources like dirt and tree branches be the means of building a home. Tambu is awe-struck when she sees her uncle’s home and states “… Babamukuru was God, therefore I have arrived in Heaven,” insinuating the extremity in lifestyles from her village back home (70). But she is hesitant accepting this is how others live, after growing up in a place where she helped her mother reapply dung to the kitchen floor in their home and the fumes in the home were reminiscent of goats (70). Tambu tries to balance her past world back in her home with her family and the present home of Babamukuru that introduces splendor and indulgences. When Maiguru offers Tambu delicacies such as cake, it is an instant reminder to Tambu that cake was a delicacy only presented for festive holidays and would be eaten slowly to savor an infrequent indulgence (73).  She did not know how to respond to ability to have what you want when you want it because she was deprived for so long to stay in her proper female role.  She in some way tries to counter choice by taking a small cake showing she reverted back to what she thinks would be proper in the situation. Ironically throughout the first half of the novel, Tambu is fighting for the choice to be more than the societal role of what a woman should be.  She comes to realize” The absence of dirt was proof of the other-wordly nature of my new home,” implies the other opportunities of life outside a life of abject poverty and minimal luxuries (70). The “absence of dirt” implies the improvement of her situation from where she started and expanded her horizons beyond the opportunities of life in her village.