Sunday 28 June 2015

Stop Pigeonholing African Writers

Excellent article by Taiye Selasi: Stop Pigeonholing African Writers

It is no secret that Africa (like India) is the starting point of a modern diaspora. There are an estimated 1.6 million African immigrants in the US, a number that has doubled every decade since 1970. That many in this number should consider themselves both American and African doesn’t seem so controversial. Their African-ness may be peculiar to the diasporic experience, and their American-ness peculiar to the immigrant one, but they are legitimate identities, no less comprehensible for being multiple. Asked whether she considers herself Ethiopian or American, Mengiste said: “That’s like asking whether I am my mother’s child or my father’s.”... 
[T]he wider literary establishment has trouble with writers who belong to diasporas. It doesn’t know where to put us. It can be unclear which team we are playing for: home or away, or neither? Our art is subjected to a particular kind of scrutiny; it is forced to play the role of anthropology.... 
Can we really not imagine that the African novelist writes for love: love of craft, love of subject? Do we really believe that she is not an artist but an anthropologist, not a storyteller but a native informant? Would we really suggest that she hasn’t the right to engage a global audience? Many African novelists publish in the west because no alternative path to global readership exists. Even if it did – even if, say, I could have published in Ghana – I’d still want our books to travel the world.

I highly recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk on The Danger of a Single Story in which she talks both about the single perception of Africa and the accusation of not being 'authentically African.' 

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