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Women Writing Africa: West Africa and the Sahel History & Criticism African Esi Sutherland-Addy The Feminist Press at CUNY


28th November 2012 Literature & Fiction 2 Comments

With a strong focus on scholarly research and analysis, this second of a projected series of four regional African collections is not as accessible as the highly acclaimed Southern Region (2002). The editors do include lively essays, short stories, poetry, folklore, work songs, interviews, and novel excerpts that give voice to women too long unheard, from the age of African empires to the eras of colonial conquest, and showing the effects of Christianity, Islam, and the rise of nationalism. The diverse voices tell the truth about hostility as well as support among wives under polygamy, about female initiation rites, about the struggle to integrate indigenous values with modernity. A Gambian mother of a child soldier expresses her terror. Senegalese Ndeye Seck’s poem about her husband’s emigration (“Neither my letter answered nor my body remembered”) is heartbreaking. Deborah Nazi-Boni’s “The Ugliest Girl in the Kingdom” subverts a traditional tale from Burkina Faso. An excellent resource for women’s studies and African history. Hazel Rochman
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

Esi Sutherland-Addy (Ph.D. Hon, Hon FCP) is senior research fellow, head of the Language, Literature, and Drama Section, Institute of African Studies, and associate director of the African Humanties Institue Program at the University of Ghana. Aminata Diaw teaches in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Sngal, where she is currently the public affairs director of the Centre for Cultural and Scientific Programs. She is also Secretary General of the Sngalese Council of Women and Chair for the subcommittee on Humanities and Social Sciences of the National Commission of UNESCO.

The acclaimed Women Writing Africa project “opens up worlds too often excluded from the history books” (Booklist) and is an “essential resource for scholars and general readers alike” (Library Journal). It reveals the cultural legacy of African women in their own words, in never-before- published texts that include communal songs and lullabies, letters and speeches, poetry and fiction.

Representing 20 languages and 12 countries, volume 2 covers western Africa, where most African Americans find their roots. The collection presents an epic history of the region through the eyes of its women, from the age of African kings through colonialism and independence.

Volume 1 of the series, Women Writing Africa: The Southern Region, is also available; volumes 3 and 4 will be published in 2006.

Women Writing Africa: West Africa and the Sahel (v. 2)

Women Writing Africa: The Eastern Region

The third volume from the Women Writing Africa Project makes a significant contribution to the study of African literature and offers a textured portrait of women’s lives in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. These pieces span the centuries from 1711 to 2003, address topics ranging from religion to HIV and represent prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction, lullabies and protest songs. Marriage is a theme that runs throughout: “A Mother’s Advice and Prayer” from 1858 is a nuptial manual in verse, and “I Want a Divorce,” taken from a 1922 court record, gives a valuable glimpse of the power struggles between husband and wife. On a lighter note, a collection of recent song lyrics complains about useless husbands and lovers. Many 20th-century writers address colonialism and independence: Penina Muhando Mlama’s “Creating in the Mother-Tongue” looks at the linguistic, literary and socioeconomic obstacles to writing in indigenous languages. The editors’ lucid introduction usefully contextualizes these wonderful writings, and this volume will be especially welcome in college classrooms. General readers who want to be entertained, educated and chastened about women’s struggles and triumphs in east Africa will delight in this literary feast. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

This project is “essential . . . a rich resource for scholars and general readers alike” .

The Eastern Region contains over 130 texts from 29 languages in five countries—Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia—from the mid-1800s to the present.

The volume documents women’s roles in the struggle for independence that culminated in nationhood for these countries in the 1960s. Queens, slaves, mothers, nuns, field generals, political activists, and politicians all appear inside.

Women Writing Africa: The Eastern Region (v. 3)










  • 2 responses to "Women Writing Africa: West Africa and the Sahel History & Criticism African Esi Sutherland-Addy The Feminist Press at CUNY"

  • Wally Walkley
    9:10 on November 28th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The second volume in “The Women Writing Africa Project” from The Feminist Press, Women Writing in Africa: West Africa And The Sahel, is ably co-edited by Esi Sutherland-Addy (Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Language, Literature and Drama Section at the Institute for African Studies and Associate Director of the African Humanities Institute Program at the University of Ghana) and Aminata Diaw (Professor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University Anta Kiop in Dakar, Senegal). The writings are drawn contributors in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivorie, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. Twenty languages are represented in these writings ably translated into English from 132 texts derived from stories, songs, letters, drama, oral history, diaries and historical documents. Each of these sources is provided with an authoritative head note explaining its cultural and historical context. Women Writing Africa: West Africa And The Sahel is a confidently recommended addition to academic library collections in the areas of Women’s Studies in general, and African Studies in particular.

  • The Ponz
    4:16 on November 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Opening this substantial volume – the second of four in the series ” Women Writing Africa”, a project conceived in 1990 by members of the Modern Language Association, the reader immediately realizes that this is not a book to read from page 1 to the end. Instead, browsing, picking up and getting absorbed in a story or a poem, is the most likely reaction. It is a companion book for any interested reader curious or knowledgeable about West African writing. Its great value lies in this being a very rare, rich reference collection of West African women’s writing, going back to the eighteen hundreds and covering any form of writing, from poetry and songs to letters to stories. It took years to bring the material together and the editors and many contributors deserve praise for having achieved this rich compilation of thought, experience and – in short – glimpses into life, of a great diversity of peoples and cultures. The book’s index is very well structured and easy to use, first by broad time-lines and within those, by themes. The themes cover the domestic life from rituals to love songs to lullabies, the various work situations for women, political issues with the rise of nationalism in countries to “Negotiating New Social Identities” and more. A comprehensive list of sources and bibliographic references assists those who want to pursue one or the other author’s writing or theme in substantive ways.

    In their highly informative preface the editors place the collection into the wider historical and cultural contexts and address the question a reader might have, why concentrating on “women writing”? They also stress that the selection was difficult, given “the intense richness and complexity of the West African Region… a mosaic of ethnic groups, languages, cultures, histories, and countries”. Twelve “nations” were eventually chosen to be featured by their writers, poets and thinkers: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone. Especially helpful are theme-focused introductions, especially relating to more historical themes that add to the understanding of meaning and context. For example, the brief poem “Bamako” – then the capital cit of French Sudan and now of Mali, expresses the wailing of the women as their lovers depart for Bamako; for them the “city was close to hell”:

    Bamako!
    I do not bemoan my mother.
    I do not bemoan my father.
    I bemoan my lover who has no clothes
    To go to Bamako
    And that is tough!

    [Friederike Knabe]

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