ISSUES IN MODERN AFRICAN LITERATURE
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1.1 Background to the Study
Literature across ages and continents have functioned as the embodiment and interpreter of a peoples’ culture, a conveyor of a people’s language as well as their philosophy, politics, psychology and national character. Nwachukwu, (2005) notes that literature whether cast in the form of agitation, negotiation or based on historical reconstruction or mythological recreation has a touch of identity. According to Bayo (2003:1) opines that Literature is a discipline that attempts to depict man and his environment. The creative imagination and the use of a specialized form of communication medium-language and style make literature different form all other disciplines.
Furthermore, literature deliberately aims at re-creating the human society via the exposition of human experiences, religious belief and socio-cultural motifs of that society within the imaginative framework of arts. Literature is also a librating force that frees us from the inherent ideas placed on us by society and it is categorized into three (3) generic forms; namely, drama, prose and poetry (Ibrahim and Akande 2000:3).
The African experience of literature dates back to the pristine age of man and equally precedes the literature of some European countries (Dada 2003:36). In Africa the fact is established that there is the emergence of literature as part of cultural identity and revolutionary struggle against domination, marginalisation and political cruelty in African states like; Kenyan, Nigeria, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa Guinea Bissau etc. African writers in the decade of independence constituted the cultural nationalist movements with a view of treating African indigenous literature in its own right (Ojaide, 1992).
Dada (2003: 36) maintains that “African literature refers to works done for the African audience, by Africans and in African languages whether these works are oral or written”. The debate of African literature over the use of language, diversity of culture and the question of literary identity indigenous to Africa are issues that has continued to generate significant interest ever since the emergence of modern African literary writings, thus, many scholars have made their inputs and positions.
One of the major issues in modern African literature is language. The multi-cultural character of African language and the emphasis on the protection of individual people’s linguistic identity have emasculated the great dream of the total institutionalization of modern African literatures. The question of identity and dignity in African literature in the writings of regional and national writers persists because of the prevailing socio-economic and political conditions in the continent and among the countries of the continent. Meanwhile, the language of African literature is another area of interests that has raised a lot of devastating issues among scholars and critics.
According to Armah, (2005) Africa is vast and requires a vast language to put through all our ideals, and that language is not yet born”. Commenting on the language of African literature, Armah posited that “we are presently suspended in linguistic neocolonialism while awaiting a decisive breakthrough, if an African language is adopted, it will be a big solution. The demands of internationality, the question of communication with the world outside Africa and other issues such as accessibility and marketability of African literature in the global environment seem to have poisoned the dream of an African linguistic identity among African writers.
Another issue to be considered in Modern African Literatures is the diversity of culture which is a dynamic phenomenon encompassing the totality of attitudes, behaviors, beliefs and world-views. It is an integral part of every human society and all social groups are characterized by it. In other words, it is that “complex pattern of behavior and material achievement which are produced, learned and shared by members of a community” (Ameh, 2002: 165).
Another issue of discuss in modern African literatures is the attempt to create a racial identity. The role of ethnic pride and linguistic self-consciousness is not a quality of only majority ethnic groups. No matter how small the group, the sense of identity enshrined in the language of the group persists. For Yakubu, (2001) African literature is an enclave of freedom where the African re-conquers his lost identity and dignity. This position seems to vividly capture the overwhelming impulses that characterize the motives of modern African literature writers.
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