Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Amma Darko's Contribution in beyond the Horizon to Contemporary Gender Portrayals

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Amma Darko's Contribution in beyond the Horizon to Contemporary Gender Portrayals

Article excerpt


Knowledgeable observers rightly and rightfully believe that early African fiction relegates female characters to a position of secondary importance. Indeed, African male authors purposely do not write accurately from female perspective or do not (re) present feminist ideals because they have a different view about female experience. As Achebe justifies the writing of Things Fall Apart, arguing that African pre-colonial history must be written by African people to avoid distortions (Booker, 1988: 65). The same reality can well be applied to women. Most of the time, life from the female point of view should be portrayed in literature by women authors, but male authors have also taken on the female perspective. While writing about women, it is possible that male writers describe female characters differently depending on gender, nationality, mood and culture. To set things right, African female intellectuals took to their pens to say what the different components of the traditional or contemporary African society look like from a female perspective, pinpointing the real role of African women in their community. Indeed, African women writers are "critical of the exploitation of women. African women explore what is useful and what is dangerous to them as women in traditional cultures" (Davies & Fido: 311)1. It will be very difficult to contend that women have achieved full equality as their male counterparts in society. However, female writers like Amma Darko know feminist writers like themselves pursue a clear ambition: to close on female pioneers' heels by disclosing the actual side of the masculine nature, and giving women's perspective. The struggle for women liberation and the control of power requires the control of the mind from a female perspective.

In her first novel Beyond the Horizon, Amma Darko chooses her male characters' names and roles purposely. Indeed, in the novel under scrutiny, male characters are seen, most of the time, as liars, mentally unstable, materialistic, pimps, tricky, cynical, sadistic, violent, villains, to name only a few traits specific to male characters. Darko portrays her male characters (black or white) with disgust and hatred. This paper aims to show how Amma Darko's male characters are viewed in Beyond the Horizon. Half a century after 'black feminism', it is important to know how, somehow, Darko's first novel fits into this literary movement to free the weaker sex from male domination. This paper is built around four pillars: definition of some key concepts, a brief survey of female characterisation in some African male fiction, a brief review of female characterisation in pioneering African female creative writing, and eventually male characters as seen through Amma Darko's Beyond the Horizon. This said, how do we define the key concepts?

Definition of Some Concepts

The definition of the concepts may allow the reader of this paper to have a relatively broad view of what 'push' African women writers on literary stage to have their voice heard by the whole world in the 1960. But since then, what happens to them? Do they cease the fight? Are they working underground? Or are they still writing to maintain the flame burning as President Kwame Nkrumah asked his fellow pan-Africanists?


According to Harrap's Chambers Compact Dictionary (2000), patriarchy is defined as a "social system in which a male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line."2 In a patriarchal society, women are faced with all sorts of dehumanisation ranging from deprivation, negligence, maltreatment, marginalisation, oppression, subjugation, exploitation, humiliation and even isolation, all of which emanate from aspects of the people's culture. In such a society, for instance, women are seen not heard. They live in the shadow of men from their maiden homes to their matrimonial homes; hence they are regarded as second class citizens.

Black Feminism

Writers and gender theorists agree that the experiences of African women are different from those of their Western counterparts. …

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