African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa

By Cheryl B. Mwaria; Silvia Federici et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction

Cheryl B. Mwaria

What can be said of Africa at the dawn of the twenty-first century? The answers are both complex and varied. The colonial division of Africa has given rise to fifty- four countries each of which is multiethnic, multilingual, multicultural, and multireligious. Though this has often been perceived as the core of Africa's problems, it may well be seen as its strength. The invented national memories and uniformities designed to chronicle the teleological march of African cultures, economies, and polities from 'tradition' to 'modernity' to paraphrase Paul Zeleza ( 1997: 19) are being replaced by new voices of change and resistance without the facile optimism of President Clinton's remarks during his 1998 visit to the continent and without the hopelessness and despair of earlier critics. The question raised by Basil Davidson at the beginning of the postcolonial era, "Whither Africa?" is still valid. It is against this background of unprecedented change, symbolized most graphically by the fall of apartheid, that this book examines the current crises, new forms of resistance, and proffered paths of reconstruction in Africa at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

This volume opens with the words of South African poet and activist Dennis Brutus. His poem, "What Is the Soul of Africa?" captures the spirit of this volume, and his chapter, "Africa 2000: In the New Global Context" was based on his keynote address, which opened the conference out of which this volume grew. Brutus focuses our attention on the devastating consequences of structural adjustment policies, particularly for Africa, policies that still have not been adequately addressed, even given President Clinton's momentous visit, and raises the call for change. Brutus asserts, "It is crucial, in this context, that we do not accept the current academic wisdom which pretends that there are no choices or alternatives. . . . Alternatives exist. A crucial condition is that African countries begin to cooperate with each other on a regional basis, so that they are no longer forced to be dependent on the global structures and agencies that today are

-xiii-

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