Cross-Connections in African Literary and Cultural Studies
Advertently or inadvertently, African literary and cultural productions either highlight and explore or question and contest the notions of connections and connectivity in terms of binarity/alterity versus hybridity/transculturality on the levels of content and form. While transcontinental connections of African writing in the Diaspora have been a focus in recent scholarship, such analysis is more often than not presented in one major linguistic and theoretical continuum, predominantly English/Anglophone or French/Francophone. Less attention has been paid to the intracontinental connections of different African literary systems and literary trends emerging in different vernacular and vehicular languages. Therefore, paucity rules comparative research that would open up new critical horizons from the perspective of cross-language, cross-regional, and cross-theoretical studies, which if investigated will open new vistas of connections between different Afriphone and Europhone literatures and cultures that cross all regions of the continent. In addition, there is an urgent need to put different schools of thinking and paradigms of literary theory into dialogue, in order to advance African literary and cultural studies.
The papers presented in this panel investigate African cinemas, music, theatre, and poetry across language barriers, regional settings and theoretical schools and from a comparative perspective. Cross-connections between, for instance, lyrics and film in Hausa, French, and English in Nigeria and Niger; the use of English, Pidgin ,and African languages in continental and Diaspora theatre; and the cross-overs as well as reconnections of Arabic, English, and African languages in poetry, will be presented and analysed.
Time: Friday, 29/06/2018, 8.30 - 10.30 am, 11 am - 1 pm (double session)
Venue: Seminargebäude, S 205
Pepetual Mforbe Chiangong (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Susanne Gehrmann (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Abdalla Uba Adamu (Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria)
Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim (University of Cologne)
Oladipupo Oyeleye (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA)
Yusuf Baba Gar (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Clarissa Vierke (University of Bayreuth)
Eunice Uwadinma-Idemudia (Redeemer’s University, Ede, Nigeria)
Sola Adeyemi (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)
Ruth S. Wenske (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
Abdalla Uba Adamu
Inclusive Rapport: Nation, Language, and Identity in Nigeriène and Nigerian Hausa Hip-Hop
The performing arts provide one of the most illustrative ways in which African artists inscribe, display, and articulate their national and individual identities. Language, in particular, provides the most effective matrix for this inscription, for it brings out the innermost feelings and emotions of the performer. However, what becomes challenging for performing artists is the plurality of their audiences in African societies with multiple languages. They desire to reach out across to all audiences and yet maintain the core identity of the performer, while sharing a universal message. This desire for inclusiveness creates a new form of rapport in contemporary African musical performances. This paper explores how predominantly Hausa Hip-Hop singers from both Nigeria and Niger Republic articulate their national and common transborder identities through multilingual lyrics, while partaking in the transnational rhythm of American rap music genre. By using well-known rap music structures (often sampled from well-known, often free, online sources), they situate their performance within an accepted, readily identifiable, international template. And by creating lyrics in multiple languages often in the same verses, they acknowledge the linguistic plurality of their societies and create an inclusive bridge to enable them to create a rapport between the messages in their lyrics and the various shades of linguistic identities of their audiences, thus reaffirming national cohesion. My paper therefore explores the processes of language choice by the selected rappers as functions of explicit and implicit language ideologies that underlie social life in Nigeria and Niger.
Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim
New Horizons: Dad’in Kowa and the Restorative Representation of the ‘Other’ in Nigerian Cinemas
‘Othering’ does not only exist in the media, it thrives. Therefore, for several years, subalternity characterises the major identities assigned, and the roles given, to the Hausa-Fulani people of Northern Nigeria cast in the country’s southern film industry, Nollywood; ditto the Southern Yoruba and Igbo people in the northern Kannywood. The regional artists (both in film and TV) have, consciously or not, been widening the existing binary and rivalry between Nigeria’s largely divided, diverse ethnic and religious groups. But this trend has recently been challenged by a TV series, Dad’in Kowa [Everyone’s Delight] broadcast on the US-supported, popular Hausa language channel, Arewa24 in the country. Nigerians from different regions, religions and ethnicities live peacefully in a fictional, eponymous town. This paper attempts to study the series, through socio-semiotic analytical approach, to demonstrate how the usual subaltern portrayal of the ‘Other’ is not only challenged but also disapproved and disproved.
Travelling Without Visa: Afropolitan Vibes, Technoculture, and the Language of African Cultural Production
With a plethora of studies on literary and film production, contemporary African music remains the least explored research area in African cultural studies. Beyond ethnomusicology —which is limited in scope and purpose— there is a paucity of critical engagement with African popular music in the twenty-first century. Contemporary music on the continent is, more than ever before, a connecting node that significantly naturalizes the proliferation of vernacular and vehicular languages instrumental to connecting regional and global Africa. More telling is the efficient technocapitalist market that has a far-reaching influence on creative processes and their reception. The impact of these new sounds is apparent in the cultural capital they wield in deterritorializing spaces for regional, continental and diasporic network among Africans, and by extension, a more global audience. In this paper, I will argue that as a phenomenon, recent African music speaks an Afropolitan language by exploring connections in the subjects and aesthetics of its production. From this angle, I will examine the relational influence of African artists' ‘worlding’ on their lyrical delivery, rhythmic pattern and the fusion of different lingos as tools for interlocking Afrophone and Europhone ties without privileging one over the other. This analysis will, in turn, inform my trajectory on how these sounds produce a sensorial experience that collapses boundaries of national, cultural and linguistic ownership across regions on the African continent and in the global context. Finally, I hope to use this conjecture as a means of reading modernity in the postcolonial present and African cultural production.
Yusuf Baba Gar
Intranational and Intercultural Network in Kanywood and Nollywood
The linguistic diversity and geographical proximity between southern and northern Nigeria abound with political and cultural inclinations grounded in the history and patterns of literary consumption in these apparently culturally diverse backgrounds. This paper explores the horizontal movements of cultures and cultural parity in Nigeria as depicted in Return of Amina (2008), Return of Hamza (2009), Karangiya (2012) and Oga Abuja (2013). The paper looks at how these films which emanate from two video film industries —Nollywood and Kanywood— showcase how English, Hausa, Igbo and Pidgin languages are employed in the listed films and also how these languages come into contact with one another. In this way, the paper further examines the cross–pollination of these languages and how they have been used in the films to indicate how similar southern and northern Nigerian are projected in a country that is supposedly culturally diverse. The paper concludes by suggesting that intranationality and interculturality could be employed to investigate those cultural similarities communicated in the various languages that the films employed to show a somewhat unified Nigeria. Therefore, I argue that cinematic connections booster social pursuits such as justice, rights and equal opportunity.
The Emperor Travelled the Continent. Remarks on the Transregional Circulation of Poetry in African Languages and Its Implication for the Study of African Literatures
While the adaptation of literary genres and texts from the West in Africa –notably the novel– have been relatively well explored, the transregional circulation of literary genres and texts in African languages have hardly been considered in scholarship. In this paper, I would like to reverse the dominant perspective by considering poetic traditions, which cut across colonial linguistic boundaries. I will present a case study of widely circulating text traditions, which do not originate from the West and have their own medium: They have been adapted from Arabic poetic traditions into a variety of African languages and have become written down in Arabic script. I will start by considering a Swahili poetic text, the Tambuka, originally adapted from Arabic, which in its Swahili form travelled widely through Kenya, Tanzania as well as Mozambique. It has been adapted differently and has played different roles in the respective areas –also in comparison to other local literary traditions. Furthermore, I will also trace the text tradition across the continent in West Africa, where parallel versions of Swahili poetic traditions exist in Kanuri and Hausa. In my conclusion, I will consider the implications of multilingual settings with various literary traditions and travelling texts across languages and regions for the study of literatures in Africa.
Cross-Connections in African Drama: A Comparative Discourse of Pidgin Language in Ola Rotimi’s Grip Am, Ahmed Yerima’s the Lottery Ticket, and Jimi Solanke’s Etiti: All Eyes on You.
The use of indigenous language to communicate dramatic work of arts has been in the academic discourse for decades. This is mostly due to a need, as proposed by sundry scholars (Obi Wali 1963, Oyin Ogumba, and Bode Osanyin 1971), to recreate a dramatic form that involves a transcultural identity in language, form and content. Adopting the ‘act of identity’ and ‘communication accommodation’ theories, this paper highlights discourses that have propelled the use of pidgin in some literary plays in Anglophone sub-Saharan Africa. Using the plays Grip Am, Lottery Ticket and Etiti: All Eyes… by Ola Rotimi, Ahmed Yerima and Jimi Solanke respectively, the paper identifies trends of social-malaise such as poverty, oppression, illiteracy, etc. that is replete in the African society and common amongst the speakers of Pidgin English. The paper analyses the different levels of operation in terms of accessibility in two Pidgin plays and one written in elitist indigenized English. Although the plays discuss similar subject matters, the Pidginized plays will find a larger audience, and facilitate a more comprehensible level of understanding in the space of performance. Therefore, the use of pidgin in writing and performing literary plays have become necessary in ensuring a transcontinental cultural hybridity not just within the region of the speakers, but as a tool for emancipating Africans of sub-Sahara origins in diaspora. In conclusion, if Pidgin plays are encouraged, the commonality of its use can enhance rapid development and orientation by conveying indigenous cultural heritage to Africans in diaspora.
Making Visible the Invisible, Making Clear the Shadowy: New Language Use in Nigerian Drama
In a radical departure from the assessment and appraisal of African literary and cultural productions along the line of exploration or contestation, or in terms of alterity or transculturality, often bordering on elevation of linguistic nationalism, this paper proposes a geographical understanding of the use of language in African literature, specifically in the dramas of Femi Osofisan and Ola Rotimi. Language is seen as either indigenous or non-indigenous but this is problematic in the sense that no language in Nigerian literature exists in absolute autochthony against Europhone languages. There are borrowings, palimpsest and other connections that suggest a more different dialogue that goes beyond the languages to their specific aesthetics of deployment and employment. For instance, in Ola Rotimi's Hopes of the Living Dead: A Drama of Struggle (1988), there is the 'convoluting concourse of juxtaposed variegated happenings' modulated by creative language use in a multicultural and multilanguage setting (involving English, pidgin, Ijo, Igbo, Itsekiri, Yoruba, Hausa, etc). Similarly, Femi Osofisan's elevates the orality of Daniel Fagunwa's Yoruba novel, Ireke Onibudo into a multilingual adventure in The Fabulous Adventures of a Sugar Man (2009) that aesthetically bridges and, at the same, highlights the connections between Yoruba, pidgin and English. Starting with the premise that languages are not equally developed in writing and performance in Nigeria, the central focus of this paper regards aspects exposed by the aesthetic considerations of languages in the writing of these two dramatists.
Ruth S. Wenske
Between Diglossia and Digital Storytelling: Orality in the Works of Safia Elhillo
This paper proposes to read the poetry of the young Sudanese poet Safia Elhillo through a nexus of dualities that both draw on, and add to, the ways in which orality –in ever-shifting forms– remains a dominant culture in the 21st century. Elhillo’s negotiation of dualities is constructed around her own hybrid identity as both American and Arab/African, which, I argue, is carried over into both the form and content of her poems. For instance, Elhillo uses various techniques that translate Arabic stylistics into English; these include the use of lowercase letters only, and Arabic script inserted into English. Thus, creating a hybrid identity in-between Arabic and English, Elhillo’s work oscillates between the collective and the individual to ‘a sense of history, place, identity, and disquiet in elegant language’. Moreover, when alongside Elhillo’s other techniques –the lack of punctuation, and frequent use of caesura and enjambment– I suggest that her mix of Arabic and English reflects the specific diglossia of Arabic. As such, I aim to show how Elhillo’s work reimagines the interplay between orality and literacy. This is further foregrounded by Elhillo’s savvy use of the internet to complement her written and published work, which becomes another avenue for reconsidering the performative aspect of the text as a reconfiguration of the cultures of orality/writing. By, thus, distancing itself from the taxonomy of Northern Africa versus sub-Saharan Africa, I read Elhillo’s efforts to negotiate dualities as a trailblazer of the trajectory of contemporary African literature.