Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

Africans in Europe: The Culture of Exile and Emigration from Equatorial Guinea to Spain

Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

Africans in Europe: The Culture of Exile and Emigration from Equatorial Guinea to Spain

Article excerpt

Michael Ugarte. Africans in Europe: The Culture of Exile and Emigration from Equatorial Guinea to Spain. Chicago: U of Illinois R 2010. 201 pp.

Michael Ugarte's Africans in Europe: The Culture of Exile and Emigration from Equatorial Guinea to Spain offers an interesting examination of the literature that has emerged out of the complex history of the nation of Equatorial Guinea and is a useful contribution to the field of Afro-Spanish studies. Ugarte's neologism, "emixile" is the central innovative notion presented in this text. By "emixile" Ugarte suggests that "exile and emigration ... as overlapping concepts ... are symbiotic, mutually beneficial to one another because in tandem .. . emixile lays bare our omnipresent and difficult relationship with the other" (2). Ugarte utilizes literary analysis of significant Guinean novels and poems to illuminate the historical processes of exile and emigration between Equatorial Guinea and Spain. His analysis is in-depth and investigates the significance of the narratives selected for the study.

Central to Ugarte's project is the theorizing of representations of exile and emigration among Equatorial Guineans as well as situating these particular patterns alongside or in comparison to other historical diasporic practices. Chapter Two, "Out of Equatorial Guinea," provides the historical context of decolonization and the imposition of Franco's fascist policies in Spain and Spanish Africa, which in turn spurred the migration and exile of hundreds of thousands of native Equatorial Guineans. In Chapter Three, "The First Wave," Ugarte fleshes out a comparison between Equatorial Guinean exile literature with notions of Négritude and PostNégritude. He pointedly notes that the founding of the publication La Guinea Española in 1903, followed by contributions from Guinean writers, marked "an important moment in the history of consciousness in this part of the world ... these 'native informants' became more and more adept at telling their own stories, which were at times critical of the Spanish, notwithstanding the necessarily Spanish frame of reference and thought" (34). Despite the opportunities for publication, Ugarte notes that most Guinean writing from the 1940s revealed little conscious elements of racial identification and even less awareness of the concepts of Négritude. Furthermore, he cites the national project of ethnic cohesion and a Spanish language-based unity bolstered by Francisco Franco's regime in metropolitan Spain as the major impediment to substantial anticolonial literary output in mid-twentieth century Equatorial Guinea.

In Chapter Four, "Donato Ndongo: Model of Emixile," Ugarte offers a close analysis of the work of Ndongo, a Guinean writer and intellectual who fled the country for Spain permanently in 1994. Ndongo engaged closely with the work of Frantz Fanon in the 1960s and 70s, utilizing Fanon's theorizing of racialized alienation in metropolitan European contexts to describe his own experiences in Francoist Spain. Ugarte suggests "Ndongo shares Fanon's sense of double alienation, the metaphysics with which he was nurtured, the belief system of his community, on the one hand, and the 'civilization' of Spain, on the other" (61). Ugarte draws on conceptions of double consciousness which have been theorized and applied to a number of colonial contexts, especially in relating the experiences of racialized colonial subjects to the subjugation of blacks in the United States.

The following chapter, "El Metro," deals specifically with Ndongo's eponymous 2007 novel, which addresses the psychological implications of racialized existence for Africans in metropolitan Spain. Ugarte suggests the subway "provides the center ... of the novel's space and time ... it seems to spark both the protagonist's inner thought as well as the actual occurrences of his life both in Africa and in Europe" (81). Ugarte reads Ndongo's descriptions of the subway, especially the reactions of passengers to the protagonist Lambert's dark skin, as "a descent into an unfamiliar underworld, dehumanization of the protagonist. …

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