The literary links of Africa and the black diaspora : a discourse in cultural and ideological signification
The politics of the Middle-Passage and its attendant socio-cultural and historical trauma is the starting point of this study. The dispersal of Africans, or at least people of African origin, to different parts of the world has produced over the past few decades numerous dissertations and theses describing socio-cultural linkages between Africa and the Black diaspora. On the part of creative writers and literary critics of every persuasion, there exists a consensus of creative and critical opinion that seeks to establish that "the history of Africa and the Africans ... is one of iron, blood and tears." (Nkosi, 1981, p.30) The study is in agreement with Omafume Onoge's submission that the cultural imperialist process went beyond mere acts of vandalism to produce a period in the history of Africa and the black diaspora in which "many educated Africans (and their counterparts in the diaspora) required a major act of intellection to ascribe aesthetic value to our traditional arts." (Dnoge, 1984, p.5) The study grapples with the source(s) of this socio-cultural apathy, and how the liberal humanist discourse which replaced the body of the colonialist's mythologies is predicated on what JanMohammed describes as "an ironic anomaly." (JanMohammed, 1985, p.281) My exploration of this ironic anomaly begins from the premise of the myths, legends and traditions that are subsumed, truncated, misread or simply repressed to propound this 'humanist' philosophy. What emerges from this cultural and ideological exploration is a vernacular theory of reading built around the carnivalesque figure of Esu Elegbara (the Yoruba 'trickster' god) whose "functional equivalent in Afro-American profane discourse is the Signifying Monkey." (Gates, 1990, p.287) The study is in two parts. Part One consists of three chapters exploring different aspects of the cultural and ideological discourses between Africa and the black diaspora from historical and theoretical perspectives. Part Two focuses, in four chapters, on the works of five writers from Africa (Nigeria and Ghana), South America (Brazil), the West Indies (St. Lucia) and the United States. These are Ayi Kwei Armah, Wole Soyinka, Jorge Amado, Derek Walcott and Amiri Baraka respectively. The conclusion summarises the major arguments of the thesis.