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Female Writers in Modern African Literature: A Study of Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come and Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Roses and Bullets
Female writers in modern African literature have before now gained stand in African literary world. They have attempted to emancipate African women in diaspora from the shackles of prejudice and subjugation meted on them by tradition, culture, norms, and all forms of mystical and diabolic beliefs governing the average African society. They now seem to reinstate and establish what seems to be their main interest which focuses on penetrating into the African literary world. Their aim is to examine the societies in Africa as well as to rid them of any practices that will mar the upraising freedom of women. In order to achieve this, they seek to promote their authored books or texts hence the female and male writers in modern African literature are focused on promoting peace and harmony in African continents.
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The major subject matter of female writers in the world of literature was for the emancipation of woman from every form of ill-treatment and mischief which mere tradition reduced them into.
In the real sense, women were subjected, suppressed and subjugated by their male counterpart just because tradition made it so. They could not share a better place with the men. The above view gave the female writers in Africa a platform through which their protests were felt heavily. This group of female writers was first called feminists because they focused their writings and arguments etc. on what they called “feminism” which aimed at emancipating the womenfolk totally from the slums of life and giving them a better position to enjoy everything that life offers.
However, in the world view, feminism means the movement which supports equal rights for women with their male counterparts as propounded by Charles Fourier, the French philosopher. But the approach of female writers in Africa towards feminism differs from the western notion. It also differs from culture to culture, from society to society, from race to race and people to another. No doubt, feminism to western writers is a movement or struggle to have equal rights with the males. Equal right in marriage, politics, economy etc. but to female writers in Africa, their protest is to be recognized and emancipated from all forms of subjection, subjugation, prejudices, suppression, oppression, ill-treatment that they were meted with. To a great extent, the African women were stench in the hand of tradition, norms and culture. In fact, they had no breathing space to complain and have their feelings expressed. This is so because their voices and opinions were not allowed nor permitted to be heard or aired. In the light of the above revelation, so many notable African feminists arose and fought against women subjugation and were happy to be celebrated among women folks.
It is therefore worthy of note to say that feminism gave birth to whatever positions that our women especially those of them that are in the literary world occupy today.
The major concern of female writers in modern African literature is re-entrenchment of women and/or female related aspects of selected statement into contemporary discourse. The focus here is to examine the society’s capacity to maintain harmony and equilibrium using some recognized predictions embedded in the selected indigenous core statements. The female writers also directed their literary works to politics, leadership, economy, religion, etc. to bring to light the problem inherent in them. The discrimination which they faced before now was that any text authored by female writer is never valued no matter how interesting the work might be. Authors like Dr. Ngozi Chuma-Udeh, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Cathrine Acholonu, Teresa Meniru, Adora Ulasi, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Kaine Agary, Sefi Atta, Marilyn Heward etc. have had to contend against this syndrome in their numerous works.
When these female writers started wiring their feministic tentacles in the literary world, feminism was much a plea for life, a plea for the opportunity and chance to live a fulfilled life, a yearning for women or girls empowerment in education etc. This is because the possibility of tradition in the society restricted African women in their biological role as wives and mothers. Marilyn Heward Mill proved this in her novel The Cloth Girl, Matilda the major character faced the ordeal of early marriage. Hasn’t she been forced into the said marriage, she was told to count it all joy for what does a woman expect of her marriage if not to have children and the husband who will provide for the children.
This notion was carried into all the spheres of the society and it governed the minds of so many individuals. No doubt, this notion and ideology reared its head into the arena of African literature where women were strongly banned in a shallow corner. Their freedom was restricted to the favour of male authored texts.
Dr. Ngozi Chuma-Udeh, in her book, “trend and issues in Nigerian literature”, noted thus:
The female voices in Nigerian literature therefore came up as a total and implicit rejection of this derogatory lifestyle created by the norms of the society to restrict and subjugate women both in real life and in the fictive sphere since literature is a weapon of authority, women writers have together used it as a medium to promote and give value to the lives of women therefore filling successfully the guilt between the male and female characters in Nigerian novels. They based their argument on the premise that progress in the society can be fostered by steering clear of sexual segregation (210)
discrimination on the basis of gender provoked the said female writers in Africa that they began to demand for chance in position and state that gender should not be a criteria for one to delve into Africa literary world if at all harmony and equity is to be maintained as to build a better society using literary work.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Having noted that the focus of female writers in modern African literature is to re-establish firmly the selected statements or works in our contemporary African literature which will help to examine the society’s capacity to maintain harmony, equilibrium between male and female writers in African literature, the following keywords are observed and defined.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, feminism means the collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities. The French philosopher, Charles Fourier is credited for having originated the word “feminism” in 1837, the words feminism and feminists first appeared in France and the Netherlands in 1872, Great Britain in 1890s. Feminist theory which emerged from these feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women’s social roles and experience.
The 2002 Collins Thesaurus of the English language defines gender as a physical and/or social condition of being male or female. Gender is the fact of male or female: issues of class, race and gender.
The Merriam-Website Dictionary USA Merriam 2003 defines equilibrium as “an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative or a systematic arrangement of parallel literary passages for the purpose of showing agreement or harmony”. A state of balance especially between opposing forces or influences.
The Merriam-Website’s collegiate Thesaurus Dictionary, defines harmony as the effect produced when different things come together without clashing or disagreement. Conformance, conformity, compatibility, congruity, concatenation, concurrence, integration, oneness, togetherness, and unity. The state of persons who are in full and perfect agreement.
Collins thesaurus of English language, says that harmony is accord, order, understanding, peace, agreement, friendship, unity, sympathy, consensus, cooperation, goodwill report, conformity, compatibility, assent, unanimity, concord, amity, amicability, like-mindedness, a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
Free Online Dictionary- harmony is agreement in feeling or opinion, accord, a pleasing combination of elements in a whole, a state of peaceful existence and agreements, the quality of forming a pleasing combination.
Discrimination according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and/ or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated.
Moral philosophers have defined discrimination as disagreement treatment or consideration. The practice of treating somebody or a particular group in society less fairly than others.
Finally, the definitions above the major factor that promotes peaceful co-existence of people with like minds that reside and function in the same field of life. In African literature, the male and female authors tend to be driving at one thing using many approaches. Therefore, hence they tend to view the society as to check its capacity in examining the co-existence of peace among the people, the issue of whether one is a male or female writer in this context holds no water.
BIOGRAPHY OF SEFI ATTA
Sefi Atta was born in Lagos Nigeria, in 1964, to a family of five children. Her father Abudul-Aziz Atta was the secretary to the federal government and head of civil service until his death in 1972, and she was raised by her mother Iyabo Atta. She attended Queens College, Lagos and mill field school in England in 1985; she graduated from Birmingham University and trained as a charted accountant. She moved from England to the United States in 1994 with her husband, Gboyeya Ransome-Kuti, a medical doctor and son of profession Olikoye Ransome-Kuti and they are blessed with one daughter. She currently lives in Meridian Mississippi.
Sefi Atta delved into writing while working as a C.P.A in New York and in 2001, she graduated from creative writing program at Antioch University Los- Angeles. Her short stories have appeared in literary journals such as Los-Angeles review, Mississippi review and world literature today possible, her books have been translated to several languages. Her novel include Bit of difference a (2009) Swallow (2010), Everything Good Will Come (2005). Her short stories collections include News From Home (2010), An Ordinary Legacy, The Muson Festival, Muson Centre (2010), The Naming Ceremony, New World Nigeria.
Her selected awards and recognitions include Wole Soyinka prize for literature in Africa (2006), Noma award for publishing in Africa (2009), Caine prize for African literature, shortlist (2006), PEN international David TK Wong prize, 1st Prize (2005), BBC African Performance, 2nd prize (2004), Glimmer Trains very short fiction Award, finalist (2003), Red Hen Press Short Story Award, 1st Prize (2003), Ecole Normale superjeure de Lyon (2010), Northern Western University (2008), University of Southern Mississippi (2008).
In a nutshell, Sefi Atta is one of active Feminists in modern African literature. Her works and numerous contributions have no doubts aided to the promotion of the life standard of womenfolk’s in contemporary African literature.
BIOGRAPHY OF AKACHI ADIMORA-EZEIGBO Prof Akachi Adimora was born raised in Eastern Nigeria, but now lives in Lagos. She is the first child of Joshua who was the secretary of a country council and Christiana Adimora and has five siblings. Raised partially in a rural community and partially in the city, she combined these two factors, as background and setting for children’s stories and adult fiction. Though born in Eastern Nigeria, she has lived in different parts of the country-East, North and West; she has traveled exclusively in most parts of Africa, Europe and in the U.S.A.
She obtained her Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master (MA) degrees in English from the University of Lagos and her PhD from the University of Ibadan, Nigerian. She also has a post Graduate diploma in education (PGDE) from University of Lagos.
She is a lecturer, writer, novelist and critic. Essayist, journalist and administrator, she was appointed a professor of English at University of Lagos in 1999. She has taught in this university, in the department of English, since 1981. She headed the English department in 1997, from 2002-2005 and 2008-2009. She is happily married to Professor Chris Ezeigbo and they have three children.
Her novels include the following: House of Symbols (2001), The Last of The Strong Ones (1996), Rituals And Departimes (Short Stories) (1996), Hazina Iliypjikwa (1996), Echoes in The Mind (1994) The Prize (1995), Rhythms of Life.
Her non-fiction include: A Compassion to the Novel, Legal: Visit a Books (1998), Gender Issues in Nigeria- A Feminine Perspective (1995), Fact and Fiction in the Literature of the Nigeria Civil War, Lagos: unity publishing and research company (1992).
Akachi was national treasurer of the association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) from 1995-97, and vice president of WRITA (women writers of Nigeria) from 1998-2000 apart from publishing over thirty academic papers and hearing her short stories appear in five anthologies, she has published twelve books. In 2001, Akachi Adimora-Azeigbo was awarded the highly sought after ANA/ spectrum prize for her book, House of Symbols, and the Zulu Sofala Prize for women writer for the some book, which the literary magazine, lumina, described as a profound work of immense significance which fills aching vacuum in African literature. In 1994 she also won first prize in the WORDOC short stories competition.
Having seen and viewed the stand of female writers in modern African literature and what they are contending for in this modern time, I hereby conclude that the theoretical framework of this study or project is based on feminist approach. Feminist approach centres on gender equality in literature. Its politics extends to attacking male chauvinism or cultures that enthroned patriarchy. This is the line of thought which must run in consonant with their arguments. The elucidation of this fact will enhance the idea that in literary world what counts is not gender, not tradition, norms or beliefs but ones intellect and creative ability that could bring better change in the society. The issue of whether one is female or male author remains an inconsequential fact in examining a society as to harmonize and promote peace and morality using literary works.
In this work, I will not base my discourse on feminism alone but it will serve as a gateway through which the main subject matter is established. I say this because the voices of women in Africa have been heard and many of them especially those in literary African world help in numerous ways to build a better society. Suffix it to say that female writers possess an acute social consciousness that can impact and inject real issues that could bring about a society where peace, harmony, equity, dividend etc rain.