AESTHETIC OF AFRICANISM IN CAMARA LAYE’S THE AFRICAN CHILD AND THE RADIANCE OF THE KING
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It was obviously vital that African should be treated for culture preservation. This research attempted the exposition of Camara Laye’s The African Child and The Radiance of the King with a view to appreciate the African Aesthetics in the novels. Formalism approach is used to critically study the aesthetics in the selected African novels and we made wide consultation of books on African aesthetics. We observed that with all rapidly changing conditions of life today, African aesthetic such as circumcision, rituals and rites, sacrifices are in a very grave danger of getting lost forever, unless something is done to redeem this situation. Aesthetics of any society should not be taken with levity.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Purpose of the study
Scope and limitation of the study
Justification of the study
Methodology of the study
Structure of thesis
Literary critic’s view about the author
Ritual of passage in The African Child
Tom-Tom and Rice Harvesting in The African Child
African Totemism in The African Child
Traditional music and dance in The African Child
Respect in The African Child
Traditional Occupation in The African Child
Religion and rituals in The African Child
Traditional occupation in The African Child
Cultural Rainbow in The Radiance of the King
Literature always depends on human reality, thus all literary works depict human actual situations. So, Literature is a mirror which reflects man’s actual life in the society where he is found. Literature also borrows from history and relies on everyday events. Awotunde (1999:7) asserts that literary critics, poets, authors and playwrights are engaged in the process of adapting, inventing and recreating certain life situations to sustain the make belief and the suspense that are part of the key ingredients of literature. Literature is characterized by its aesthetics or pleasure and its edification.
Literature, like all other art forms, draws on human experience and tries to reflect the same and communicate it to man in an order and artistic form. It can also imply an artistic use of word for the sake of art alone. Omotayo Oloruntoba Oju (1999) observes that
The term literature may be used to refer to any material in written form or any other material whose features tend themselves to literary appreciation or appraisal… The term in a specialized sense refers to work of art in any of the established literary genres, prose, poetry and drama.
Any good definition of literature therefore, cannot do without the oral composition of a community from which the written and established genres and still emanates according to society changes.
Also, Akande and Ibrahim define Literature as
Any creative imagination which uses a specialized form of language and style for effective communication in prose, poetry and drama.
A modern definition of Literature by Terry Eagleton (1973) says:
Literature is a liberating force, freeing us from inherent shackles placed upon us by the society. Literary criticism is therefore born out of the struggle against a loss of culture and its feature becomes defined as a struggle against the foreseen bourgeois state and it has no predetermined future.
Aesthetics refers to the appreciation or appraised of value. Whenever a judgement is made about the nature, worth or significance of a phenomenon, an aesthetic appreciation is being made. In a more narrow sense, aesthetics refers to the philosophical contemplation of a work of art. Thus, a discipline, aesthetics is concerned with the appropriate modes of evaluation of works of art. An unending debate in aesthetics is: which aspect of the object, or phenomenon being evaluated should be assigned a great weight of appreciation. The two main elements involved in any such appreciation are the form or appearance of the object or phenomenon on the other hand. Correspondingly, there are two extreme aesthetic attitudes: aestheticism and utilitarianism or functionalism.
Africaness refers to elements in works of art that express themes, ideas or notions, aesthetic features and objects relating to Africa. Africaness is predominant in the literature of the diaspora in foreign languages. Africaness include the deliberate infusion of African linguistic and non-linguistic elements into literature to give a natural touch. At a moderate level, such Africaness is seen as representing the African aesthetic matrix. At the extreme, such Africaness may be an expression of cultural nationalism. In Literature of Africans in Diaspora, Africaness takes the form of the theme of the black beauty and of the African homeland. It is often a romanticization of the African heritage.
According to Oloruntoba-Oju (1999:213) similarities between African and Caribbean aesthetics have been demonstrated at various levels because of the numerous African elements preserved in several sectors of the diaspora. One thing stands out when one reads a novel by an African on Africa. It’s the fact that it is dominated by element that reveal not only the cultural realities of its people but also the peculiarities of the region the novelists dwells in furthermore, a particular ethnic community’s belief and practice reflects in its actions and reactions to issues and life generally.
Therefore, African Aesthetic seldom appears in literature instead such words such as ‘Negritude’. The African personality, the African outlook and more recently, the black aesthetic. The African world views are more common. A large body of literature has grown up around most of these terms, particularly ‘Negritude’
Susan Vogel from the New York Centre for African art described an African aesthetic in African work as having the following characteristics: youthfulness, other African aesthetics include myth, legend, oral tradition, history, poetry, folktales, folklores, riddles and jokes, song, performance narrative etc.
From the above definition, it is clearly seen that literature and aesthetics has a relationship, since aesthetics also has it impact on African literature, therefore, these refers to element in works of art that express theme, and ideas or notions relating to Africa. In order to examine and know what exactly African literature is, there are certain things one has to guide against and these according to Achebe are known as common fallacies which we must avoid. Achebe goes further to say: (Achebe:13)
The first is to see African literature as so different and special and so removed from the realm of other literatures that it can share no common approaches with them.
In as much as one would not see African literature as different and special, it is therefore logical to accept the fact that literature, being a product of human culture, cannot develop in a vacuum, rather it has to develop in a tradition or traditions.
So the emergence of the writing culture in Africa and the foreign traditions on the African literature, no doubt gave birth to the literature of colonial experience, which eventually turned the Africa literature to a protest against colonialism and its effects. These were literary works purely concerned with cultural rehabilitation and thus grew in response to the cultural values of Africa.
Example of such works include Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), Amos Tutuola’s Palm Wine Drinkard (1952), Peter Abraham Mine boy (1946), Bayo Adebowale’s The Virgin (1986), Camara Laye’s African Child (1953) and The Radiance of the King (1954). These are the books written to show case the rich cultural traditions of the Africans. According to Dada, they were historical or ethnographical designed to explain African culture to the foreign reader.
With these, it has become very difficult to separate African literature from its root because day in day out, the tradition of the past still continues to wield much influence on African literature. No doubt then that Ngugi Wa Thiongo asserted in article on “The African Writer and his Past” that:
The African in spite of his modernity, has never been wholly severed from the cradle of a continuous culture from folklore, tales, proverbs, riddles and all oral components that made him what he is today.
Camara Laye’s The African Child (1953) and The Radiance of the King (1954) for example, can be conveniently classified into the volume of contemporary African writings of the prose traditions, which is fully loaded with the traditional value of the past.
It is clearly seen that different scholars have tried to look at what African aesthetics is and some uses fictional works to show this aesthetics value in his works. Among this numerous authors, Camara Laye uses virtually all his novels to portray this concept especially his African Child (1953) and The Radiance of the King (1954).
Camara Laye as an African writer uses this two novels to disengage the mind of the westerners who believed that Africa is cultureless. His African Child (1953) reveals the peaceful and happy childhood of the boy Laye. He traces the hero’s life from about the age of six when he attended the Koranic school, the time he graduated from the technical College to finish his studies in France. The author laid special emphasis on love, respect and concern for one another in the village community. He dwells on the communal nature of African societies in a way to show the European reader that Africa societies are very different from the individualistic societies of Europe.
The Radiance of the King (1954) tells a long story but straight forward story of a while man’s adventure in a particular corner of Africa. The hero Clarence has gambled all his money among his fellow Europeans. He owes money to all of them and he is thrown out of the hotel because he has no money to pay, therefore, action, it is seen that Africans are very accommodating and they do not discriminate as the while does.
- PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
As earlier said, literary works of art are studied by considering the aesthetic and pleasurable value of such works. This refers rather to a sense of aesthetic appreciation, that is, the feeling that a particular work of art satisfies or fulfills the expectation that the reader or audience brings to it. In this study, attempt will be made on the examination of African aesthetics in the works of Camara Laye. The exploration of Africaness in his work will be on the use of African aesthetics prominent in The Radiance of the King (1954) and The African Child (1953).
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- SCOPE AND LIMITATION
The focus of this study will be on the use of African aesthetic in Camara Laye’s The African Child (1953) and The Radiance of the King (1954). Apart from some cursory references to some texts of similar thematic thrust, this study will be limited to observation made from aesthetic appraisal. Analysis therefore will be made available by a close reading of the two novels.
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- JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
This work is to examine how Camara Laye emphasizes the conscious effort to capture the traditional tones of speech and action with which he draws his audience closer to his novel. His infusion of African elements like songs, dance, customs, beliefs, traditions, divination, dance, praise singing, proverbs, idioms and so on into his novel will also be analyzed. He intentionally uses these elements to bring out the beauty and aesthetics of his dramatic works and evoke a burst of emotion from the audience. This work is chosen in order to show the westerners that Africans are of great cultural heritage.
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In this study, all the elements of Africaness and aesthetics employed by the author within the scope of this study will be carefully examined. In doing this, the formalist approach to literature will be used. Formalism developed and flourished in Russia in the twentieth century. It was propounded by Immanuel Kant, Bishop Joseph Butler and W.D Ross. The formalist theory looks at the aesthetics of any literary work. Therefore since this work aims at bringing out the beauty in The African child (1953) and The Radiance of the king (1954). Therefore the theory is the most suitable for this work.
- STRUCTURE OF THESIS
This thesis contains five chapters. Chapter one by way of introduction capture matters like the definition of key terms, purpose of the study, scope and limitation of the study justification of the study as well as the methodology of the study. In chapter two, perspectives on Camara Laye’s works are examined under the literature review. The title of chapter three is Africanism and social in Camara Laye’s African Child (1953), the chapter considers the African aesthetics and its element in the novel. Our concern in chapter four, under the title: Toward a Cultural rainbow in Camara Laye’s The Radiance of the King. The chapter five of the thesis is the summary and conclusion of the research.
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