africafeminismpaper - Aaron Houska African 20th Century...

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Aaron Houska African 20th Century History Fall 2007 Paper #2 National Liberation / Women’s Liberation: Female Roles in Colonial and Post Colonial West Africa as seen Through Literature The first half of the 20th Century was a time of immense social upheaval in West Africa, starting with the founding of the new colonial state lasting well through independ- ent nationhood. In both God’s Bits of Wood and The Joys of Motherhood , these anxiet- ies and tumultuous changes are mapped by the women trying to find their place in the new Africa they find themselves in. A Man of the People , having only minor female characters, focuses in on the lives of men during the early national era. But all three books investigate the tensions and challenges faced by women in West Africa as they attempted to adapt their culture to changing times. The women of God’s Bits of Wood are able to craft new roles for themselves in their communities, based in their traditional roles while adapting them for the emerging crises stemming from the strike. At the top of the novel, Niakoro inwardly comments that while she is deeply worried about the strike, she is in no position to object vocally, because the strike is Man’s deal, and she was not consulted. In Dakar, the women start the novel in rage, rage from needing to provide for their families and being unable. Ramatoulaye echos Niakoro’s sentiment, telling Mabigue that, “The men have not con- sulted their women, and it is not the task of the women to urge them to go back. They are men, and they know what they are doing. But the women must still eat, and the children too” (44). And so when reason cannot get her rice, her rage boils over and she slaughters Mabigue’s marauding ram to eat. Later, when the soldiers show up (re- peatedly) in response to this outrage, the women of Ramatoulaye’s compound and vil-
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lage rally together and fight off the soldiers in physical combat while the men are away. The women of Thies take longer to respond. As the conditions worsen, and all food and water seem to have been exhausted in the region, the women band together and inde- pendently from their men decide to march to Dakar and demand that the rail come to terms. This action, and the accompanying heroism and bravery they exhibited along the way, with many dying in the fight including their leader Penda, were what forced the
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This note was uploaded on 04/30/2008 for the course HIST 255 taught by Professor Fisher during the Fall '07 term at Northwestern.

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africafeminismpaper - Aaron Houska African 20th Century...

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