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At forum, African writers insist collective action needed to create future for youths, unbroken democratic practice




Prominent literary writers with emphasis on African literature have thrown their weight behind the advocacy for non-incursion of democratic practice in Africa and the creation for a better future for youths in the continent.

These calls gained traction during the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interview Series which was streamed across several social media platforms, television and radio stations in many parts of the world with a viewership of over 3 million.

Professor Falola led the panel made up of prominent African writers drawn from the various genres of literature such as poetry, prose drama and also children literature.

The distinguished panelists included Rehema Ndumbaro, Bill Ndi, Nthabiseng JahRose, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Fadwa Ashraf, and they spoke on outstanding African creative books written in English in 2023.

JahRose, in the assessment of her favorite African literary texts in 2023, initiated the conversation on the platform for a more dynamic action in guaranteeing a brighter future for African youths.

“It is only us in different parts of Africa that can truly highlight and introduce these works to one another. So I chose a children’s book. The author portrays challenges faced by young people in South Africa and of course this is a global pandemic of its own. Here we are confronted with the allure of drugs which in there introduces the character of Charles who becomes entangled in the web of addiction leading to consequences that reverberates through his family and communities. He looks into the personal struggles with the broader societal issue plaguing South Africa through his journey. We witness the harsh realities of substance abuse and the toll it takes on individuals, on families and the society as a whole. Charles steals from food in the house to electronic appliances. The mother becomes ill from dealing with this frustration. Mob justice comes into play as the community is also frustrated. Charles has wrong friends, peer pressure has him by the throat, his addiction escalates to health challenges, criminal activities and ends up being arrested and essentially a young life is ruined.

“So I found the depiction of Charles in turmoil particularly compelling and using internal conflicts in succumbing to the temptations of drugs and striving for a better future reflects the struggles of many young people caught in similar circumstances. It highlights the complex interplay of personal agencies and external influences. The lack of access to education at times and opportunities coupled with the pervasive presence of drugs in communities set the stage for a cycle of despair. How do you perceive the role of community support in addressing these challenges? Communities are paramount in breaking the cycle of addiction through effective effort, we can provide the necessary resources and guidance to empower young people like Charles to make positive choices and pursue alternative paths. Additionally fostering a culture of open dialogue. By encouraging empathy and understanding we can create a space where individual feel comfortable seeking help and accessing treatment without fear of judgement. So this book serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by young people and the urgent need for collective actions to create a brighter future for the youth who mostly in this country are unemployed. The book mirrors the power of storytelling to ignite empathy and inspire positive change.

“One other book that I have chose was written by Dr Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makhetha. He is one of the South African playwrights and actor and author, a motivational speaker and a marriage counsellor also. He wrote a book called I am a Man. He offers a profound reflection on manhood and identity and the complexities of family. One poignant moment from our discussion focuses on Jerry’s revelation about his upbringing, particularly his discovery of being raised by his stepfather without his knowledge until later in life. Jerry shared with us the deeply personal journey of learning about his biological father at the age of 58. Despite being already a husband, a father and elder himself, it was a revelation that shook the very foundation of his identity, prompting him to embark on what he describes as a tortuous journey back to self. What struck me most was Dr Jerry’s nuanced approach to reconciling his new found knowledge with the reality of the man who had raised him, his stepfather despite the shock and upheaval caused by this revelation, Dr Jerry showed immense grace in acknowledging both his biological father and the man who had played a paternal role in his life. His story serves as a reminder of the complexity of familiar relationships and resilience of human spirit through his own experiences, then challenges us to confront our preconceived notions of manhood and the importance of embracing both our wound and trials as integral parts of our journey. It is more than just a memoir, it is a call to action for both men and women to participate in the nurturing of boys into men. It encourages us to strive for authentic selfhood and to create a world where masculinity is defined not by bravado but by vulnerability, empathy and growth. In this book Dr Jerry then takes on new layers of meaning enriched by cultural contexts and storytelling traditions of this native language. It is a testament to the universality of human experience and the power of language to transcend human barriers,” she said.

Earlier in the interaction, Professor Falola had pointed out the negating administrative conundrum that Europe imposed on Africa during and aftermath of the colonial experience, noting that this has continued to have on the sustenance of democratic practice in the continent.

“Look at how Europeans set up Africa. During the colonial period, they governed as authoritarians. That’s what they did, there was no democracy. So when they wanted to leave, they said now go and contest elections, they took power from the chiefs and kings and then the sovereignty. That was in the last 15 years of the 19th century. When they were leaving, they did not return power to those they took it from. They gave it to an elite they themselves created, using their own educational institutions to create them and the problematic has been there ever since. I just finished a book myself on Achebe that will be published in which I turned all his works into what historians call the archive. I am doing a critical appraisal. I am just saying supposed this is the only document I have to write the story of Africa, what will that book tell me? And I mapped all his books, each of them into historical era speaking to what each era represents,” he said.

Responding to Falola’s query on democracy in Africa, Ibrahim stated that “I think when we talk about these things, we often neglect how this power was transient and how this broadened democratic culture was constantly interrupted through the influence of these colonial masters who sponsored coups, plotted coups, plotted assassinations. Someone like Patrick Lumumba for instance, he was murdered under the influence of the colonial masters of Belgium. Belguim has played a significant role in destabilizing the Congo; Britain had an influence in destabilizing countries like Nigeria; Portuagal has a significant role in destabilizing Angola. We had all these situations where in theory we had independence; in theory we are supposed to practice; we say you know Africans are prone to coups and military take-over. But France especially demonstrated every single time, that if there is any democratically elected president in any African country that won’t play ball with France, it is either he is assassinated or he is eliminated or there is military take-over sponsored by France; that is the modus operandi in most countries. So when we talk about instability in Africa, we must also acknowledge that these interruptions were sponsored and instigated by the people who handed over democracy to us and independence.”

Dr Wale Okediran, Secretary-General of the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), thanked Professor Falola for always prioritizing African literature through the platform, noting that this has continued to further the cause of African literature across the globe.

The Toyin Falola Interviews interrogates some of Africa’s greatest scholars, intellectuals and leaders on matters that affect the African continent and also its extension in the diaspora.

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