Women Writing Africa: Volume 2, West Africa and the Sahel

By Maart, Rozena | Herizons, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Women Writing Africa: Volume 2, West Africa and the Sahel


Maart, Rozena, Herizons


WOMEN WRITING AFRICA: VOLUME 2, WEST AFRICA AND THE SAHEL

EDITED BY ESI SUTHERLAND-ADDY AND AMINATA DIAW

The Feminist Press

REVIEW BY ROZENA MAART

Women Writing Africa is a rich, comprehensive literary treat that is difficult to put down as it informs, engages, incites, entertains, soothes and lulls. It is simply deliciously stimulating.

This volume is composed of diverse styles of writing. They range from oral traditions that have sought written presentation to dance songs and prayers, performance poetry and private letters, public declamations and legal depositions, as well as prose, poetry, short stories and critical essays. Together, they form a remarkable West African journey.

A modern-day compendium, the book contains insightful historical information. For those interested in leisure reading, it provides historical as well as contemporary poetry and prose of the highest quality. For scholars and researchers, it provides the much-needed textbook of writing from the region (not merely on the region), since it discusses the complexities of the very definition of African writing while tactfully yet vigorously tackling contemporary debates around what constitutes an African woman writer, and the grounds upon which fiction or non-fiction can be regarded as African writing. Editors Esi Sutherland-Addy and Aminate Diaw assert early on in the preface that: "From its inception, the West African and Sahelian volume took on the intense richness and complexity of the West African region it represents. Situated between the Sahelian expanse and the Gulf of Guinea, this region is a mosaic of ethnic groups, languages, cultures, histories and countries. In our volume, we represent 12 nations: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone."

One has to applaud the team of 150 researchers, translators and editors working in 11 countries and 26 languages who put this powerful collection together. The richness of the task is eloquently introduced in 70 pages by the editors. A history of colonization sets the stage for understanding issues pertaining to language and expression, both oral and written, and their emergence in modern-day Africa. It is through orality that colonial history came to be redefined, and African women have been instrumental in this task. …

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