Any national literature is usually
defined by several dominant threads and is also accompanied by certain
paradoxes. African literature is no exception to this. The roots of African
literature, both oral and written, could be found deeply rooted in its long
history of narrative tales and storytelling. It is as old as its civilization
which is one the most ancient living cultures in the world.
African literature came into the light
not before the dawn of 20th century. It was in the second half of
the 20th century that the African literature was brought into the
sphere of institutionalized study. It is very interesting to notice that the
most ancient literature in terms of its themes and forms, African literature is
the recent most addition to the global literary culture.
Most of the creative writing in African
literature in modern times is driven by struggle for freedom from foreign rule
and search for identity. The most compelling literary outputs are the tales of
most catastrophic events in the history of the continent, especially the bitter
narrative of slavery and the brutality of colonialism. The earliest voices of
grunt and protest in eighteenth century came from the writings of slaves or
farmers who asserted humanity and reclaimed freedom from enslavement. It was
colonialism itself that laid the foundations of modern African literature.
Various institutions like church and missionaries, schools and universities
contributed greatly to the production of modern African literature.
It was in the middle of the high tide of
colonialism that written literature could spread across the continent and
became the voice of its cultural identity. Major literary output came during
this phase of colonial encounter and gave voice to its aftermaths. In and off
the continent, their writings were the fervent records of African nationalism.
African literature was on high tides during the phase of decolonization during
1950s & 1960s. The literature of the period celebrated the reclaimed identity
and African Nationalism. However the dominant themes of the colonized period
still had ripples in the post colonized period. Though the rulers had changed,
there was still strong hold of western political and economical powers which
led to the crisis in decolonized Africa. Many intellectuals and writers turned
to literature as a means to voice their protest. This phase of literary
creation witnessed the changing nature of African culture and literature under
the influence of globalization. Due to its antiquity and complexity in present
times and possibilities in future, African literature has become an important
aspect of study in variety of disciplines ranging from anthropology to natural
is universally considered and confirmed that the origin of a novel or novelist
cannot be considered separate from each other. It is formally intermingled. It
is the product of continuous and constant struggle of an individual and its
material condition, every thought, idea, art, literature, fiction, prose, poetry
are the product material of human circumstances. No one can surpass this
limitation, so was true in the regard of Armah and his novel also. If we
critically examine the novels of Armah what he portaged in his novel is the
reflection of his own life struggle, twist, ups and down, he faced in his life.
It is exhibited in his all novels and rest of arts material.
Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel ‘The Beautyful Ones Are not Yet Born’ is
a classic novel in African literature. It was written in the year 1968, shortly
after the independence of Ghana. Armah, in this novel, attempts to place within
the context the corrupt socio-political values that existed at the time of
Ghana’s independence. Armah has symbolically presented a country that stands
for the African countries.
Though many of the critics have admired
Armah’s narrative style and technique, some other critics seem to be
disapproving his style. Fredrickson (1987) and Wright (1989) criticized him for
his accusation of the prevailing values in the postcolonial society. Some other
critics like Achebe find him too pessimistic. They accuse him of using the
language that is extremely vulgar. Despite several charges, Armah’s cry for
good governance and equality is beyond question. These novels, apart from being
some of the finest literary creations, are representative of Armah’s stand on
contemporary society. These novels carry his strong message to its readers for
struggle and liberation.
Chidi Amuta, a renowned critic,
considers his novels to be historical reconstruction. He believes that these
novels are very appealing in nature which aims at a fight against injustices,
prejudices and atrocities that existed in the society during foreign rule. They
are designed in such a way that they speak of revolutionary changes in social,
economic and political structures using a vulgar language.
Ogede praised African writers who
composed works tackling the African problems after independence such as Soyinka
in Man of the People (1968) and
Achebe in Things Fall Apart (1958)
but emphasized on Armah’s powerful focus on contemporary Africa’s problems. He
emphasized that Armah is one of the African writers who have spoken to the
hearts of the African people and his works are used as enlightenment and as an
indirect quest for Africans to change for the best.
can see the brilliance of his art in theses novels Armah is recognized for
essays and fiction that examine the effects of colonialism on the people of
contemporary Ghana and Africa. His novels explore life in contemporary, urban
Africa; reflect on Africa’s colonized past and the challenges of the
continent’s present and urge a return to traditional African values and culture
as a way to unite the region and propel it forward into a new era. Although his
work is viewed as controversial and provocative in both African and Western
circles, Armah is regarded as an important African writer and intellectual with
a bold vision of Africa’s future.