Characteristics Of African Literature
What are the basic characteristics of African English literature?
The basic characteristics of African English Literature are:
1) Written in both African and European languages. The predominant African languages used are Amharic, Zulu, Hausa, and Swahili.
2) Encapsulates different periods in African history, from ancient Africa to the period of Imperialist domination (15th-19th centuries), and from the post-colonialist and reconstruction period (19th-mid-twentieth century) to the post-independent/contemporary period (mid-twentieth century-present).
3) Includes oral and written literature from more than 3,000 ethnic African groups.
4) May be regionally-based, such as West African Literature, North African Literature, South African Literature, or East African Literature.
5) Oral literature comes in varied forms such as myths, folk tales, proverbs, dramas, songs, and folk tales. They often involve stories about the creation of the world and legends about how various powerful dynasties originated in African regions.
6) During the colonization period, written slave narratives documented European atrocities and the horrors of slavery. Nationalist newspapers as well as resistance/liberation poetry critiqued European colonizers and their practices. In the 19th century, various African authors produced works in English criticizing colonialist ambitions and advocating for independence. These authors include Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o.
8) During the post-colonialist era, various authors denounced the practice of apartheid. These authors include Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, and J.M. Coetzee.
9) Last, but not least, contemporary African literature often documents how corrupt, modern African governments perpetuate the suffering of the African people.
For more information, please refer to the link and source provided.
Source: African Literature: Overview and Bibliography by Jonathan P. Smithe
African English Literature is literature of and about Africa written in English. There has been much debate since 1963 whether literature written in English constituted African literature. In 1963, in Uganda, many critics and famous African writers gathered to clarify what is African English Literature. What instigated the gathering was an essay by Obi Wali entitled, "The Dead End of African Literature" (1963), where he stated that African literature written in English was not true African literature. Achebe went against Wali's idea but Ngugi agreed with it , saying that what was needed was to return to African languages. This position was agreed upon for almost 30 years. In the 90's more and more Africans agree that literature written in English also constitutes true African literature.
Numerous African writers are known from being involved in the critical tradition by defining what is African English Literature and what is the role of the writer in African society. Some of the important texts are as follows:Morning Yet on Creation Day (1975) by Chinua Achebe, Myth, Literature, and the African World (1976) by Wole Soyinka, and Decolonising the Mind (1986) by Ngugi wa Thiong'o.
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