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Africa Wo/Man Palava

The Nigerian Novel by Women

Africa Wo/Man Palava offers the first close look at eight Nigerian women writers and proposes a new vernacular theory based on their work. Flora Nwapa, Adaora Lily Ulasi, Buchi Emecheta, Funmilayo Fakunle, Ifeoma Okoye, Zaynab Alkali, Eno Obong, and Simi Bedford are the writers Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi considers. African womanism, an emerging model of female discourse, is at the heart of their writing. In their work, female resistance shifts from the idea of palava, or trouble, to a focus on consensus, compromise, and cooperation; it tackles sexism, totalitarianism, and ethnic prejudice. Such inclusiveness, Ogunyemi shows, stems from an emphasis on motherhood, acknowledging that everyone is a mother’s child, capable of creating palava and generating a compromise.

Ogunyemi uses the novels to trace a Nigerian women’s literary tradition that reflects an ideology centered on children and community. Of prime importance is the paradoxical Mammywata figure, the independent, childless mother, who serves as a basis for the new woman in these novels. Ogunyemi tracks this figure through many permutations, from matriarch to exile to woman writer, her multiple personalities reflecting competing loyalties—to self and other, children and nation. Such fragmented personalities characterize the postcolonial condition in their writing. Mapping geographies of pain and endurance, the work opens a space for addressing the palava between different groups of people. Valuable as the first sustained critical study of a substantial but little known body of literature, this book also counters the shortcomings of prevailing "masculinist" theories of black literature in a powerful narrative of the Nigerian world.

366 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1995

Women in Culture and Society

African Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: African Languages

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

Foreword by Catharine R. Stimpson
Firing Can(n)ons: Salvos by African Women Writers 

1: An Excursion into Woman’s (S)(p)ace

    The Myths of Osun and Odu: Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Secrets of
    Verbal Authority
    The Mammywata Myth as Gendered Insurance
    Chi/Ori, or, The Mother Within
    Omunwa/Iyalode, or, The Mother Without, or, The Daughter-of-the-Soil
    The Ogbanje/Abiku Complex: Mother as Jinxed Care Giver
    A Taste of Women in Nigeria: The Sweet Mother, The Bitter Wife, The Sour
    Widow, The Salt of the Earth 

2: (En)gender(ing) Discourse: Palaver-Palava and African Womanism

    Palavering: Bones of Contention
    African Womanist Ideology 

3: Flora Nwapa: Genesis and Matrix

    Strategies in the Palaver
    Uhamiri and the Secrets of the Ugwuta Homestead
    Efuru: In Search of the Mother
    Twice-Told Tales: Idu Revisited
    Never Again: The War to End All Wars
    One Is Enough: Bitter Wife, Sweet Mother
    Women Are Different: Stasis
    Nwapa’s Political Acuity: "A Woman Protects a Man"—Silently 

4: Adaora Lily Ulasi: Juju Fiction

    The Magic of Confusion: A Long (Overdue) Introduction
    Many Thing You No Understand: The Curse of Ignorance
    Many Thing Begin for Change: For Better, For Worse
    The Night Harry Died: Resurrection and the Arts of Divination
    Who Is Jonah?: From the Belly of the Fish
    The Man from Sagamu: Divine Mediation
    "Ise," Say I—To That Prayer of Ulasi’s 

5: Buchi Emecheta: The Been-to (Bintu) Novel

    The Been-to (Dis)Advantage
    In the Ditch: But Conditions Are looking Up
    Second-Class Citizen: First-Rate Woman
    The Bride Price: What Price Freedom?
    The Slave Girl: Slave Traffickers and Vernacular Ethics
    The Joys of Motherhood and the Throes of Fatherhood
    Destination Biafra: Humpty-Dumpty and Daughters-of-the-Soil
    Double Yoke: Double Yolk and Yokefellows
    The Family: Uncovered Secrets
    Kehinde: Bintu and the Search for a Home 

6: Fakunle, Okoye, Alkali, Eno Obong, Bedford: Siddon Look

    Sweet Mothers: The Present Generation
    Funmilayo Fakunle: Opening the Secrets in the Calabash
    Ifeoma Okoye: Maladies, Malaise, and National Recovery
    Zaynab Alkali: Salts and Preservation
    Eno Obong: Mammywata to the Rescue
    Simi Bedford: Home as Exile and Exile as Home
    Holding Fire: For Home and Country 

Works Cited

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