Ken Saro-Wiwa's Dukana

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

In the following passage that skillfully combines description, setting, and exposition, Ken Saro-Wiwa's female narrator-protagonist slily juxtaposes the name of the Dukana bus with contrasting images of the town's attiutude toward time and change.

I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes, "Progress" had screeched to a stop. We were in the Dukana town square, an opening in the middle of the town where the motorable road abruptly stopped. On all sides of the opening were mud houses, of a square construction covered by raffia palms. Now and again, in the confusion of houses was the odd mud house covered with rusty corrugated iron sheets and, much more rarely, a brick house, unplastered and unpainted, its windows boarded with planks or old newspapers turned dull yellow. For you must understand that building a brick building in Dukana is the task of a life-time. When its proud owner finds some loose change he buys a bag of cement, makes bricks and adds them to the existing structure. In this slow, laborious way, the blockwork might be completed over five or ten years. Then a bundle of corrugated iron sheets is added each year until the entire structure is roofed. The doors and windows might come later or not at all, for after all, is not a house the roof over your head to keep out rain and sun? Once there is a roof, and there are walls, the owner moves in. This might be ten years or more after the commencement of construction. Time does not matter in Dukana.["Home, Sweet Home," A Forest of Flowers, 5]

What tone do narrator and novelist adopt here? Is the contrast between bus and town ironic, or do they exemplify the same attitude toward life? How does this portrayal of the Dukana's attitude toward time and change relate to that found in Saro-Wiwa's other stories, including "The Inspector Calls," "Night Ride," and "A Legend on Our Street"?

Postcolonial Web Africa OV Nigeria OV Saro Wiwa OV