b. 1913, Freetown, Sierra Leone
doctor, playwright, and novelist
The Sierra Leone doctor, playwright, and novelist R. Sarif Easmon was born into a distinguished family of physicians in Freetown. Easmon was an outstanding medical student at the University of Durham, England, winning major awards in biology and anatomy and qualifying as a doctor at the age of 23. After serving for two years as a medical officer in the colonial medical service, Easmon resigned in protest against the discriminatory character of the service and went into private practice. Easmon's play, Dear Parent and Ogre (1964), won the Encounter Magazine Prize, and was initially produced by Wole Soyinka in Lagos in 1961. Easmon's second play, The New Patriots (1965), was performed in several West African countries. Easmon's plays are semi-comical commentaries on politics and culture in a community undergoing the birth throes of independence and corruption in the institutions of government. Although he was better known as a playwright than a novelist, Easmon also published The Burnt Out Marriage (1967), concerned with the theme of cultural conflict and the opposition between the values of precolonial society and modernity (see modernity and modernism), and his short stories have been collected in The Feud (1981).
What unites East African literatures, generally accepted as literatures coming from Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, is their shared experience of British colonialism (see colonialism, neocolonialism, and postcolonialism). These states came under British colonial rule under different circumstances and during different historical periods. They eventually came to be known as the British East Africa Protectorate and were all subjected to the same colonial design with little variation, leading to a profound impact on the culture and lives of the people of the region. This is particularly evident in the way in which literatures from the region set out to explore the effects of the structures of colonialism on the psyche, and the general social and political life of the people in the sub-continent. The colonial experience is easily the dominant subject in East African literature, and as a natural corollary, politics and its impact on the lives of the colonized subjects is the major motivating force behind these literatures. In a fundamental sense, East African literature is wedded to colonialism in both its simultaneous rejection and appropriation of those forms and literary archetypes that came with the colonial experience itself and in its vicious critique of colonialism as a social evil that alienates a people, wrenching it out of its being.
If colonial experience is the unifying factor in East African literature, it is also true that it separates the literatures of the three countries in