Monday, March 13, 2017

Adieu, South Africa's first Black female novelist

Miriam Tlali - A Powerful Fascinating Pioneer of African Literature

By M. I Soqaga

It is absolutely gruesome to see early pioneers of African literature departing this world rapidly!  For the past years Africa has been reeling over its literary giants who departed this world, icons like Chinua Achebe, Es’kiaMphahlele, MbuleloMzamane, Grace Ogot, Lauretta Ngcobo, BuchiEmechete and recently Miriam Tlali. 

And now Miriam Tlali has done a very wonderful work as a fervent African writer.  It is important for one to reckon that her literary fame was not an easy achievement.  From the onset since she begin to write, her works were disrupted and thwarted by apartheid in South Africa.  Miriam Tlali is known by her masterpiece-a novel which makes her to be recognized as the first female African writer to write a novel in South Africa.  As things are-we are all aware how she struggled to be published especially her first novel Muriel at Metropolitan which was finally published in 1975 after six years of rejection by white publishers in South Africa.

However, we need to ponder that Miriam Tlali works became famous through incredible sacrifice of critics who ensured that her works are scrutinized.  It is vitally important to comprehend that it is via critics that MriamTlali works flourished worldwide.  Nevertheless this literary genre has been view as problematically nuisance and uninviting obstacle that is advocated by other iconoclastic writers whose interest is to besmirch African literature.  As far as things are, African writers always believe that whatever they produce literary must be automatically being venerated and unanimously celebrated.    

Imperatively, criticism in literature is not something that is preposterous; but its role in literature is to ameliorate literature.  It is absolutely absurd for some people to reject their works to be criticised.  Writers need to appreciate this type of literary genre because its role in literature is graphically significant.  Africa has lot of talented writers and because of being obstinate to literary criticism its writers are not well known in the world.  Miriam Tlali as critic herself will feel dejected if Africa continues to shun out critics in literature.  During her life time she understood the enormous value critics add to promote literature.  Consequentially writers or whoever aches to be part of literature need to be familiar with this type of literary genre.  For instance, in football there are rules and a football player cannot ignore them.  Like a player cannot use a hand to score a goal but instead he/she is anticipated to use a leg, head and so on.

Furthermore, it can be argued as whether what apartheid censorship did especially towards many African writers in South Africa was critical correct to banned their books.     Apartheid censorship was not immersed in literature but its existence was basically racially biased.    Like Miriam Tlali would elaborate that “Oh, I suffered a lot of harassment by the system in South Africa, by the police.  They used to visit my house long after midnight and harass us, with Saracens and Casspirs, fully armed and so on, in their efforts to discourage me from writing.  I wrote a lot about it.  Articles of mine have been printed abroad.  The Index on Censorship printed two lengthy articles of mine where I speak about this kind of harassment and what I was suffering, and about censorship in general against South African writers.” (Reflections: Perspectives on Writing in Post-Apartheid South Africa).  Edited by Rolf Solberg & Malcolm Hacksley, Nelm Interviews Series Number Seven.

Miriam Tlali literary contribution will invariable remain immortal inspiration to lot of literary aficionados in the world.  Her passionate affection to literature began at the time when she was in school until she was ultimately published.   Her courageous love and unflinching demeanour for literature make her one of the awesome literary giant that the world had ever produced. 

Selected bibliography
·         Muriel at Metropolitan, Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1975. Longman, 1979.
·         Amandla, South Africa: Vivlia Publishers, 1980, ISBN 978-0869751893.
·         Mihloti, Johannesburg: Skotaville, 1984.
·         Footprints in the Quag, David Philip Publishers, 1989, ISBN 978-0864861269. As Soweto Stories, London: Pandora, 1989.

Further reading
·         BernthLinfors and Reinhard Sander, Twentieth-Century Caribbean and Black African Writers, Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.
·         Derek Attridge and Rosemary Jane Jolly, Writing South Africa: Literature, Apartheid and Democracy 1970 - 1995, Cambridge (UK) and New York: Cambridge University Press (New York), 1998.
·         Christina Cullhed, Grappling with Patriarchies: Narrative Strategies of Resistance in Miriam Tlali's Writings. Doctoral dissertation, 2006. Published by Uppsala University.
·         Sarah Nuttall, "Literature and the Archive: The Biography of Texts", in Carolyn Hamilton (ed.), Refiguring the Archive, Cape Town: David Philip, 2002.

Monday, February 20, 2017

OCTOBER. By Zoe Wicomb

'Mercia Murray is a woman of fifty-two years who has been left.”

Abandoned by her partner in Scotland, where she has been living for twenty-five years, Mercia returns to her homeland of South Africa to find her family overwhelmed by alcoholism and secrets. Poised between her life in Scotland and her life in South Africa, she recollects the past with a keen sense of irony as she searches for some idea of home. In Scotland, her life feels unfamiliar; her apartment sits empty. In South Africa, her only brother is a shell of his former self, pushing her away. And yet in both places she is needed, if only she could understand what for. Plumbing the emotional limbo of a woman who is isolated and torn from her roots, October is a stark and utterly compelling novel about the contemporary experience of an intelligent immigrant, adrift among her memories and facing an uncertain middle age.

With this pitch-perfect story, the "writer of rare brilliance” (The Scotsman) ZoĆ« Wicomb—who received one of the first Donald Windham Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes for lifetime achievement—stands to claim her rightful place as one of the preeminent contemporary voices in international fiction.' - blurb

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Buchi Emecheta (1944-2017)

- An extraordinary African Woman Writer

By I. M Soqaga

Absolutely, Africa for decades has produced many prodigious and capable writers whose writing fascinates the world exceedingly.  Africa has something important to boast about when it comes to African literature.  Writers of profound stature like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Lewis Nkosi, Mongo Beti, Esk’iaMphahlele, Bessie Head, Mariama Ba, Miriam Tlali, OusmaneSembene, Ama Ata Aidoo, GraceOgotetc are from Africa.

Of course, due to oodles factors African writers have been displaying their literary prowess from other countries of the world like in Europe and America.  Also others have been flourishing in African soil.  However, like I mentioned that there are large numbers of reasons for African writers to thrive outside Africa.  As the world is mourning the elegiac demise and simultaneously celebrates the life of one of the sedulous African women writer BuchiEmecheta, Africa has to remember that BuchiEmecheta was from Africa.  Her early life began in Africa-Nigeria.

Apparently, BuchiEmecheta is associated with Britain because she spent most of her life in Britain.  Worked as a library officer for British Museum in London, youth worker and sociologist for the inner London Education Authority and as well as a community worker.  It is imperative for Africans to comprehend that Mama Emecheta was not a British African as many are already purporting.

To highlight, her trenchant literary work speaks on its own.  BuchiEmecheta although she might be linked with feminist because of her writing which some believe are reflecting feminist views, albeit she do not acquiesce to that.  She would be remembered by saying “I work toward the liberation of women but I’m not feminist.  I’m just a woman.”

Like many early African woman writers such as Miriam Tlali, Bessie Head, Flora Nwapa, Ama Ata Aido, Grace Ogot, Mariama Ba etc.  BuchiEmecheta produced enormous number of exhilarating work of literature.  Her books are on the national curricula of several African countries.  To reckon Buchi Emecheta literary life started when African women writing was not so popular.  However, due to her sterling work as the early pioneer and catalyst of African woman literature, African women literature has been thoroughly recognized. Obvious, she deserved to be commended as the one of the female writer who works tirelessly in promoting African literature.  Her demise has attracted comments from prominent literary pundits like Raphael Mokoena, Tisetso Thiba and Chief  O Bolaji. 

Their riveting comments show explicitly that Buchi Emecheta was international acclaim writer.  Raphael commented that: "Very heart rending, she was a magnificent writer. A born writer...did Africa proud as a young woman in London, writing books upon books. Wonderfully critiqued and celebrated too.   Thiba as well, he eloquently stated that:  She was very powerful indeed. 

Plaintively and excitingly Bolaji added:  BuchiEmecheta, arguably Africa's greatest-ever black (creative)writer, is dead. Her string of superb novels date back to the 1970s...She published over 25 books. Her autobiography, Head above water, is one of the most celebrated in our continent. Although she always wrote in up liftment of the dignity of women and children, she denied being a feminist. Works of hers like The Joys of Motherhood, and Destination Biafra are regarded as literary tour de force. Emecheta died at the age of 72. She inspired many writers, including the prominent SA literary activist and publisher, Charmaine Kolwane.  The topics she covered in her writing include child marriage, life as a single mother, abuse of women and racism in the UK and elsewhere.

It is too gratifying to see prominent African women writers like Buchi Emecheta continue to write to inspired till she departed this world.  Today, African woman writing is very popular and fetching.  We see young African female writers produce thrilling literary work that is congenial.  Africa needs to be proud about female writers like ChimamandaNgoziAdichie, Sefi Atta, Taiye Silas, Veronique Tadjo, Noviolet Bulawayo, Charmaine Kolwane, Jah Rose, MatshidisoTaleng etc.  As we are reeling with sadness over the sombre loss of Mama BuchiEmecheta it is important to constantly remember her and celebrate her astronomical literary works with great glee. May her soul rest in peace!!!     

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Books reviewed here: 

Comes the Voyager at last. By Kofi Awoonor.
Anatomy of female power. By Chinweizu.
Black Man's Dilemma. By Areoye Oyebola. 
Kossoh Town Boy. By Robert Wellesley Cole.
The Edifice. By Kole Omotoso. 
A selection of African Poetry. By Senanu and Vincent.  
She no longer weeps. By Tsistsi Dangarembga.   
Symphony of Destruction. By Sunday Adebomi.
Winds against my soul. By Laolu Ogunniyi.     
People of the city. By Cyprian Ekwensi. 
Kasi Nerd. By Tebogo Ditshego.
The Worshippers. By Victor Thorpe.    
The history of the Yorubas. By Samuel Johnson.   
African Delights. By Siphiwo Mahala.
Deepest Springs. By NMM Duman.    
The Dreaded Farm. By J Olu Ogunsusi.     
Why are we so blest? By Ayi Kwei Armah.  
An Introduction to the African Novel. By Eustace Palmer.  
The Trials of Brother Jero. By Wole Soyinka.
The trouble with Nigeria. By Chinua Achebe

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Better Than Gold 

A poem by Rufai Kaothar Atinuke (Obafemi Awolowo University)

Precious yellow metal
Used for making ornaments and jewellery
You are valuable, you are good

But there is something better than you
Gold is good and costly
Silver is wanted by many

But there is something better still
Good name is better than gold
When a person with gold dies

He is forgotten as soon as his gold is shared
When a person with good name dies
He is constantly remembered

Humans’ good deeds are written in gold
A good name endures and stays forever