Mazrui’s Classification of African Literature

Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »


I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow. Wilson in O’Leary (2010:71).
The production of new knowledge is fundamentally dependent on past knowledge. O’Leary (2010:71)


The previous chapter introduced the study by way of spelling out the background, aim and objectives of the study, statement of the problem, questions to be answered by the research, justification and scope of the study as well as summary of chapters. This chapter reviews extant literature on the quest for total liberation in African poetry. The chapter sets out to capture the pursuit for liberation as it finds expression in poetry set in different parts of the African continent and also the Afro-American community. In actual fact, the chapter is a pursuit of the quest for liberation as it finds expression in African and Afro-American poetry. The chapter provides an overview of the major trends in African poetry with a view to provide a springboard upon which the arguments raised in the following chapters are anchored. This thesis hopes to use Mazrui’s (1978) classification of African literature. Mazrui’s classification is insightful into major trends in African and Afro-American poetry. It is pertinent at the outset to indicate that by and large this chapter is informed by Mazrui (1978)’s classification of African literature. While Mazrui’s classification is on African literature in general for the purposes of this thesis poetry is the genre that is used to substantiate Mazrui’s critical reflections on African literature. Besides Mazrui’s (1978) classification of African literature other researchers’ work is reviewed in this chapter in order to spell out the point of departure from existing studies. This chapter sustains arguments raised in the discussion and analysis of findings in Chapter 4. It is Mazrui’s categorization that the researcher turns to.

Mazrui’s Classification of African Literature.

As indicated above, for the purposes of this thesis Mazrui’s (1978) proposition regarding the categorization of African literature is the launch pad upon which the study is anchored. Mazrui (1978:9) indicates that “African literature has in fact, been a meeting point between African creativity and African political activity at large.” This literature, observes Mazrui, especially prose but including poetry, is sometimes direct as protest. Be that as it may, Mazrui indicates that in some cases it is mere political observation and recording. Mazrui (1978:9) argues that:
The politics come in sometimes directly as protest. Here then you have art being invoked as a method of registering political grievance and asserting militant objection. But there are occasions when the political component in African literature is merely an exercise in political observation and recording.
Mazrui reaches the conclusion that the most persistent socio-political themes can be reduced to the following five strands; i) protest against alien control- colonial or neo-colonial, ii) protest against cultural arrogance of alien rulers, iii) protest against racial prejudice, iv) literature of detached observation of culture contact and the process of culture change and, v) literature of protest against Africa itself- at least against the current generation of Africans. It is crucial to note that while Mazrui refers to literature in general in this thesis particular attention is paid to poetry as a literary genre since this study is paying particular attention to poetry.
This study treats Afro- American poetry essentially as closely related to African poetry against the backdrop that Black Americans must be thought of in terms of African history and culture. In the light of the foregoing, Nkosi (1965:99) argues that “a great deal of Africa survives in the mores of American Negroes through such accidents as the continuous history of segregation.” This study insists that such an undertaking is rewarding to both the formerly colonized African subject on the African soil and the Black Americans who are continuously pushed to the periphery by the white supremacist system. An acid look at Mazrui’s classification reveals that to a very large extent African literature (poetry included) is an act of protest. As the chapter unfolds, it will increasingly become clear that the act of protest is in itself a manifestation of the African peoples’ urge to disentangle themselves from different forces that seek to subjugate, exploit, oppress and dehumanise them and resultantly limit their potential as a race. It is now the five preceding strands that are now discussed to lay bare the quest for freedom manifest in African poetry set in different parts of the continent.


African Poetry as Protest against Alien Control-Colonial or Neo-colonial

This type of protest is a feature of all parts of Africa. Poets expose the evil that is associated with the colonial as well as neocolonial powers. Mazrui (1982:9) notes that “this is a comprehensive protest and tends to be discernible in the literature of all the parts of the African continent.” To illustrate how this protest was employed this study will largely refer to the Zimbabwean case. It is worth noting that this is protest aimed at resisting political domination. To use wa Thiongo’s (1986:2) words, “the writer we are talking about was born on the crest of anti-colonial upheaval and worldwide revolutionary ferment.” In this section we refer widely to Ngara (1985), wa Thiongo (1972, 1981), Nazombe in Ngara and Morrison, (1989) and Amuta (1989).
In this strand, literature is put to the service of humanity where it is a weapon to fight foreign domination. Literature that belongs to this strand is committed to the “…rejection of the forces of colonialism and imperialism and their attendant ideologies,” Ngara (1985:26). Furthermore, Ngara (ibid: 26) observes the following:
The very nature of colonialism and imperialism inevitably leads to revolt by the colonized whose exploitation, dehumanization and enslavement sooner or later result in a national consciousness that openly challenges foreign domination.
Revolt is a subject matter of African poetry in that poetry is fashioned to capture resistance to exploitation, enslavement and dehumanization. In this strand, African poetry reflects on and with utter contempt, the evil that is perpetuated by the invader. Basically it is the tension between the nationalist forces and colonial forces that produces poetry of revolt. The two opposing forces motivate protest poetry which is an instance of revolutionary art. In this strand poetry shows disapproval of colonial domination and the subsequent dehumanization and enslavement of the colonized subjects. To use Fanon’s words (1968:240), it is a “literature of combat.” This implies that this is poetry which inspires people to fight for their independence and sovereignty. In other words, this poetry urges the colonized peoples to disentangle themselves from the yoke of colonialism through struggle. It is poetry which restores the hope and optimism upon which a struggle can be waged to free the colonized from colonial rule. This poetry injects optimism, will and power into the colonized to actively participate in the process of reclaiming their independence from the imperialists. Ngara (1985:27) observes that:
In Zimbabwe all negotiations with the colonial rulers failed until the principal nationalist parties, ZANU and ZAPU, abandoned the conference table and resorted to armed struggle in the bush…Zimbabweans, young and old, wrote and composed revolutionary and Marxist inspired poems and songs.
These poems and songs were used to expose the evil perpetuated by the colonizer and reinvigorate the power in the colonized to fight against oppression. In the context of colonialism, poetry can not afford to neglect the revolutionary consciousness that grips the nation. In actual fact, it is aligned with it. Poets and poetry are therefore part and parcel of the common objective among the colonized masses to resist oppression.
Ngara (1985) observes that the revolution motivated literary creativity in Zimbabwe. In his view, in the literary sphere, the revolution inspired a rich and profound creativity which has given Zimbabwe the volume entitled And Now the Poets Speak (1981). While Ngara draws an example from poetry in English the same is true of poetry in indigenous languages. The publication of the Shona poetry anthology entitled Nduri DzeZimbabwe (1983) also shows commitment to revisit the war period and castigate the invaders’ ambitions and practices and expose the extent of damage that colonialism has had on the colonized. The poets decry the debilitating effects of colonialism on the African subject. One such poem is ‘Soko Risina Musoro’ by Herbert Chitepo. Because of such repressive state apparatuses as the Literature Bureau and Censorship Board among many others, revolutionary poetry could not see the light of day. However, independence ushered a new era in the creative arena and hence revolutionary poetry was produced soon after the attainment of political independence. In the light of this, Muponde (2000:50) aptly observes the following:
The attainment of political independence in 1980 gave the writers latitude to revisit the colonial era to fill in the cultural lacunae created by the enforced omission of revolutionary themes.
The colonial period had been characterized by “…innocuous, apolitical and ahistorical issues which were promoted and supported by the colonial government.” Muponde (2000:50). Chivaura (undated: 11) cited in Muponde, (2000:50) observes that this is “poetry of liberation, not in the combative sense of directly inspiring national liberation but in the sense of having been, itself, inspired by a war already won. [It is] nationalistic in a wider, more embracive sense.” The poetry registers the pain, struggles and suffering of the Africans under the yoke of colonialism. In the light of this, Amuta (1989:177) notes that “every historical epoch writes its own poetry or rather expresses itself in appropriate idiom in the poetry of its most committed and sensitive minds.” The colonial experience provides the subject matter of the poetry which is inspired by this very epoch. Ngara, in Ideology and Form in African Poetry (1990) in the chapter ‘Vision and Form in South African Liberation Poetry’ emphasizes on artists’ articulation of “the people’s aspirations, sustain[ance of] their spirits and generally working in line with the liberation movements.” Furthermore, in a Chapter entitled ‘Poetry and The African Liberation Struggle’, Ngara discusses the poetry of Wole Soyinka, Musaemura Zimunya, Chenjerai Hove and Freedom Nyamubaya. In the poetry liberation war experiences are given due attention. Ngara’s analysis, like Nazombe, Metcalf and Sumaili to a very large extent, discusses the role of literature to the liberation of African peoples from colonial bondage.
Ngara (1985) discusses Carlos Chombo’s poem ‘Poem’ and notes that it is representative of the concern of the poetry on the war of liberation in the anthology And Now the Poets Speak (1981). Its major concern is “resisting the violence of effective occupation” by the wanton killings instituted by the colonial regime. Ngara (1985:28) argues that Chombo “…sets out to define poetry in terms of African struggles, suffering and labour. This is the true source of revolutionary poetry.” The literature in the anthology is influenced by the liberation struggle. The poetry captures the “…tensions, conflicts and contradictions at the heart of a community’s being and process of becoming,” Ngugi (1981:5). The poets aim to “evoke, to awaken in the observer, listener or reader emotions and impulses to action or opposition,” Hauser in Ngugi (1981:6). The contributors to the anthology, And Now the Poets Speak, are concerned with reawakening the spirit of resistance against colonial domination. In this anthology, poetry under the sections, ‘The Colonial Scourge’ and ‘The Black Man’s Burden’ attest to the plight of the Black man at the hands of the oppressor. The poets are active members in transforming their society from colonial domination to freedom.
wa Thiongo (1972:68) observes that “during the anti-colonial struggle new song-poems were created to express defiance and people’s collective aspirations.” In Zimbabwe one example of such a composition is ‘Nehanda Nyakasikana’, a protest piece meant to express discontentment and disapproval of colonial rule. The poem is a trepid protest piece that saw the light of day during the colonial period only to be banned after the colonial authorities realized that it was political. Chiwome (1998:2) observes that the “poem refers to the spirit of Nehanda [and] was used at some nationalist rallies…”

READ  Who writes graffiti in Zimbabwe’s urban areas?

1.1 Background of the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Aim of the Study
1.4 Objectives of the Study
1.5 Research Questions
1.7 Scope of the study
1.8 Summary of Chapters
1.9 Conclusion
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Mazrui’s Classification of African Literature
2.3 Other Related Studies
2.4 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Theoretical Framework
3.3 Research Methodology
3.4 Secondary Sources
3.5 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Presentation and Analysis of Data from Questionnaires
4.3 Presentation and Analysis of Data from Interviews
4.4 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Leadership Factor, the African Condition and the Quest for Total Liberation in Post independence ShonaPoetry
5.3 Transcending Racism as an Indispensable Condition for Total Liberation:
Reflections on Post-independence Shona Poetry
5.4 Post-independence Shona Poetry, the Land Question, the Quest and Struggle
for Total liberation
5.5 Writing Against Alterity: History, Culture and the Quest for Total Liberation in
Post-independence Shona Poetry
5.6 Post Independence Shona Poetry, Education and the Search for Genuine Liberation
5.7 Post-independence Women’s Poetry and the Quest and Struggle for Women’s
Genuine Liberation
5.8 Conclusion

Related Posts