Academic journal article Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

Negotiating Growth in Turbulent-Scapes: Violence, Secrecy and Growth in Goretti Kyomuhendo's Secrets No More

Academic journal article Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

Negotiating Growth in Turbulent-Scapes: Violence, Secrecy and Growth in Goretti Kyomuhendo's Secrets No More

Article excerpt

Fifty years after most African countries celebrated independence, the continent still remains a violent landscape for contestations of varied kinds. Invariably, the attainment of independence appears to have ushered in new kinds of struggles which have continued to foreground how the African peoples negotiate and (re)construct identity. Post-independence struggles for political and economic reconstruction in Africa are most times negotiated through the politics of ethnicity, which has in turn resulted in violent clashes and civil wars thereby making the continent look like a "site of perennial political and humanitarian emergencies" (Adesokan 3).

Since the idea of the universality of human rights continues to be undermined by most African governments, thereby creating room for strategic violence orchestrated against the postcolonial African person, African cultural art forms continue to function as vibrant tools for countering and containing these institutional failures. This constant interrogation of the human condition in the African novel, which possibly aligns the writer to "the cause of the people" (Emenyonu x) may make one to hastily remark that African literature is constantly backward looking (see Nnolim). But the fact remains that, African literature has continued to programmatically enunciate the duplicity of African post-independence political arrangements and interrogate the idea of human existence and progress for the African person. Quite a number of recent African narratives feature children as protagonists. Some of these new African narratives--especially the debut novels--often exhibit traits associated with the Bildungsroman, a form which evolved from Germany and became popular in most Western countries in the nineteenth century. Considering the narrative structure of some of these African novels, Tanure Ojaide (33) notes that: "Most of the novels of the younger African immigrant writers often deal with the themes of coming of age". Ebele Eko equally suggests in her essay on the new generation of Nigerian novelists that "these younger writers use their narratives to interpret their growing up experiences [...]" (emphasis mine 43).

The preponderance of the child-figure in recent African narratives is by no means fortuitous. The child-figure has artistically become a metaphor for calibrating the development of the continent as the development of the child is structurally constructed to metaphorically parallel that of the nation. (1) The child-figure in African literature has become an eloquent marker that writers deploy in order to appraise pressing postcolonial concerns like violence, identity politics and migration.

The child-figure in postcolonial Africa hardly goes through the normal developmental pattern associated with the African people before the incursion of Europe into Africa. I make this assertion because the impact of global challenges on, the bureaucratic repression and the failure of postcolonial African leadership, unequivocally transform the African child into an adult during the prime of their adolescence. Since the child continues to be estranged from childhood s/he apparently becomes an adult in childhood. Madelaine Hron (29) suggests that:

   The child in African literature is always intrinsically enmeshed in
   a cultural and social community, and thus must somehow negotiate
   ethnic identity or social status in the course of the narrative.
   [ ... ], it becomes apparent that the child's quest for a
   sociocultural identity is inextricably linked to issues arising
   from postcolonialism and globalization, often manifested in the
   context of repression, violence or exploitation.

The subject of this essay does not specifically anchor on the dialectic of violence and politics in Africa, but it provides a conceptual grid to assess the question of identity and the child-figure in African narratives. The essay therefore, examines how a partially demented child-protagonist negotiates her identity in the absence of her parents and the comfort zone of a nuclear family in Goretti Kyomuhendo's Secrets No More. …

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