Charlotte H. Bruner on African Women's Writing

In her short-story collection, African Women's Writing (Heinemann, 1993), Charlotte H. Bruner points out that the growth of educational opportunities for women has created an environment very different from that in which pioneers like Adelaide Casely-Hayford and Mabel Dove Danquah wrote: "The establishment of elementary and secondary schools and of local universities and publishing houses makes it possible for more women to receive higher education. Now they can even read literature written by African women before them. They can publish at home for an indigenous audience instead of catering to tastes abroad" (3).

According to her,

Nigeria, in particular, with its population of over 115 million and its occasional prosperity from oil, has been able to produce a more favourable climate for women writers than many other West African countries. There are several regional universities and some publishing houses. Flora Nwapa, the first black African woman novelist to publish in England, starting in the fifties, is still writing, and she has been a role model for many others. Alert to the need for local outlets for women writers, she established a publishing house for women. (4)

Bruner divides her anthology into four geographically based sections -- West, East, South, and North -- and points out that both the critical recognition and subjects of East African women writers differ from those of authors from Nigeria and other West African countries:

Women writing in English in Eastern Africa came to European and American attention later than those of West Africa, although their works were published locally as early as the sixties. Less concerned with themes of polygamy and the colonial overlay of beliefs and values, Kenyan writers, for example, had stressed the anguish of being dispossessed of their ancestral land, and the mysterious, magical powers of evil, inflicted not just from the outsider but also from hidden enemies within.

Leaving the land, migration, alienation, also provide an important focus for some Eastern African literature. With the independence of the new nations and the ensuing problems of corrupt home rule, the conflicting leaderships of tribal groups, many peasants have moved off the land, voluntarily, or have been forcibly driven away. Many have crossed national boundaries. Idi Amin's reign of terror in Uganda and the subsequent devastation and unrest still causes large migrations of Ugandans into Kenya. South African refugees sought refuge from the suppressions of apartheid, and often used border countries as bases. 47

To what extent, therefore, do texts involving border-crossing, migrantion, outsiders characterize postcolonial literature? Or is this charcateristic of colonialism as well?

[Postcolonial OV] [Africa OV] [Nigeria OV] [Gender OV]