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literature

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African Literatures  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

In 1989, a more comprehensive survey based on Vignal's initial conclusions was conducted by Chris Dunton, which confirmed the patterns observed in the earlier research and extended the range of homosexual behaviors considered to include such practices as masturbation, , and lesbianism.

Rather than attempting to replicate Vignal's encompassing approach, Dunton focused his attention on the manner in which homosexuality was used as a plot device, "how the treatment of homosexuality provides a . . . reference point . . . which helps reveal the general thematic concerns and . . . larger narrative strategy of the text."

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Novels examined by Dunton include Yambo Ouologuem's Bound To Violence (1971), Maddy's Our Sister Killjoy (1977), Mariama Ba's Scarlet Song (1985), Armah's Why Are We So Blest? (1972), and Soyinka's The Interpreters.

Most recently, Gregory Woods has extended the analysis begun by Vignal and Dunton to the field of poetry with his 1994 article "Poems of Black African Manhood." Among the poets and works utilizing homosexual imagery noted by Woods are South Africa's Dennis Brutus, whose prison poems in Letters To Martha (1968) speak of the "love, strange love" between men in the prisons of apartheid; Taban lo Liyong's "The Marriage of Black and White," whose narrator prefers "the woman who does not answer when Sappho calls the tune"; Okot p'Bitek's Song of Lawino (1966) with its complaint that Westernized African men are behaving "like a woman trying to please her husband"; and Christopher Okigbo, who in Limits V refers to the male bond between Gilgamesh, the mythical king of Uruk, and "his companion and second self" Enkidu.

Negative Depictions of Homosexuality

Most novelistic depictions of homosexuality are negative. In Two Thousand Seasons, Armah portrays homosexuality as a practice of the Muslim destroyers from the desert who began the first seasons of enslavement, and of one of the kings of Anoa, Jonto, whose practices with young boys are only ended when he is poisoned. In This Earth, My Brother, Awoonor names homosexuals as one of the categories of people who are sent to Africa as part of the colonial civil administration.

Mariama Ba's scathing examination of the problems of women facing both sexist attitudes and colonialism, Scarlet Song (1985), presents homosexuality as an unsatisfactory future for a child. Yaye Khady, one of the principal characters, observes with pity a fifteen-year-old boy who prefers the company of girls and adopts female behavior and tasks. She reflects on his future as a gor-djiguene, "a pansy destined to spend his life at the feet of a courtesan, doing all her dirty work," such as keeping the accounts, soliciting lovers for his mistress, and "sometimes it might happen that the clients would fancy him rather than his mistress."

A similar figure appears later in the work at Ousmane's wedding to Ouleymatou, where he is described as "one of those persons of ambiguous sex."

Yulisa Amadu Maddy

The most completely realized homosexual character yet found in contemporary African literature comes from No Past, No Present, No Future (1973) by Yulisa Amadu Maddy of Sierra Leone. The plot of this novel follows the fate of three African men who leave their nation for life in Europe, each seeking to escape the limitations of their own natures.

The homosexuality of one of them, Joe Bengoh, is traced from his earliest experiences with a mission priest to realization of himself in the cosmopolitan gay world with a white lover. Maddy also utilizes the common Western stereotype of the theater as an accepting environment for gay men by having Joe unsuccessfully major in drama and attempt an acting career.

A particularly powerful aspect of this novel is its frank exploration of the prejudice directed against Joe by his two erstwhile friends, whose rejection is based on their adoption of the view of homosexuality as sick and morally inferior to their own self-destructive behaviors. In the end, however, Joe is the only one of the three whose acknowledgment of his true self does not destroy him.

Another of Maddy's novels, Our Sister Killjoy, is unusual for its open discussion of lesbianism.

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