Expressing truth through fiction and orality through literacy
Hubbard, Althea Dawn
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This paper explores how Francophone African authors use techniques borrowed from orality to express African perspectives on history. Following years of colonization and racism, during which their voices were muted, African authors felt a need to express their own perspective on their experiences. Incorporating themes, stylistic qualities, or situations from African oral literature, through implicit and explicit references, these authors use their works to valorize an African culture and way of life while not hesitating to offer criticism as well. Orality affects the narration and substance of the novels, contributing to their distinctness and emphasizing their African perspectives on historic events. Outside sources, including anthropological studies, are used to contextualize and better understand the works. I focus on four different narrative voices: the griot’s voice, the woman’s voice, the child’s voice, and a plurality of voices. The griot’s voice in Le Maître de la parole by Laye Camara, Soundjata ou l’épopée mandingue by Djibril Tamsir Niane, and Les Contes d’Amadou Koumba by Birago Diop emphasizes the importance of Africa’s rich traditions and orality. The woman’s voice as expressed in Mariama Bâ’s Une Si Longue Lettre and Fatou Diome’s Le Ventre de l’Atlantique points out the cruelty of that tradition towards those who hold little power in society. The child’s voice found in L’Aîné des orphelins by Tierno Monénembo, Allah n’est pas obligé by Ahmadou Kourouma, and Johnny Chien Méchant by Emmanuel Dongala reinforces the need for a connection to the past when looking forward. The final chapter focuses on two novels by Ahmadou Kourouma: Les Soleils des indépendances and Monnè, outrages et défis. In these novels Kourouma uses a plurality of narrators to tell the stories, allowing the reader to see different points of view on African history which leads to a broader understanding of an African perspective. The use of multiple voices in these texts highlights non-Western modes of understanding and validates an African perspective.