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Masculinities and the “colonial unconscious” in Shimmer Chinodya’s Dew in the Morning

This article examines the gendered dynamics surrounding masculinity and the “colonial unconscious” in Shimmer Chinodya’s novel, Dew in the Morning, in the context of its narrated and narrative times. These are situated in, and emanate from, the encounter between colonized black African subjects, namely migrants and indigenes, set apart by different degrees of assimilation of colonial modernity in an unnamed area in Northern Zimbabwe. The article argues that narration in the novel is mediated by a colonial unconscious that results in the discursive construction of binary dichotomies and masculinized hierarchies between these subjects. The empowerment of the migrant subjects mainly involves the appropriation of colonial modernity, and the “big man” model of African Masculinity, to inform their more profitable agrarian activities. The resultant differential economic empowerment between the migrant acculturated subjects and the local conservatives in a colonial setting creates hierarchies of masculinity between the former and the latter. The process of masculinization helps to reinforce patriarchal domination and/or exploitation of women, less powerful men, and the natural environment in this localized context. The narrative thus casts aspersions on the masculinities of both the migrants and the indigenes and their suitability to mediate the post-colonial realities of the novel’s narrative time.

Writing the polyphonic African queer future: reflections on Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater

In reading Freshwater (2018), one cannot but confront the diversity of perspectives that Akwaeke Emezi deploys to usher their African queer protagonist into an African-oriented queer future. While there exists – or should exist – pluriversal notions of subjectivity and intersubjectivity, specific epistemologies produced by Eurocentric structures continue to govern these notions and drive liberational discourse. Drawing largely from Afro/Africanfuturism, Queer futurism, and cultural references drawn from African systems of thought, I argue that Emezi’s novel brings together modern technological intervention on the human body and Igbo cosmology to liberate the African queer body from Western dominant structures of knowledge and Africa’s cultural amnesia. I also argue that the futuristic perspectives deployed in Freshwater allows for the destabilizing of conventional knowledge at the level of language and imagery such that suppressed and new structures of consciousness are centered. This is shown through the emblematic figure of the deified African woman, the redemptive link between the female image and sacred python, the symbiosis between visual and non-visual components, and the polytheistic religious value of collaboration. I highlight, ultimately, that the intersection of technology and imagination for the goal of liberation, which critical futurism espouses, allows Emezi to regenerate the historiography of the Ogbanje without surrendering to the vocabulary of doom, misery and despair that frames their shortly lived human existence.

Unmaking agency: intersectionality and narrative silencing in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body

In This Mournable Body, the voice of Dangarembga’s Tambu is strikingly missing. What happened to the protagonist whose voice pervades the narrative landscape of the earlier novels? This paper attempts to account for the authorial shift in narrative perspective. It engages the ‘unmaking’ of Tambu’s agency by deliberating on the causal factors through the framework of Intersectionality. By tracing Tambu’s subjectivity in the post colony back to her actions in Nervous Conditions and The Book of Not, this paper examines the implications of her co-constructing multiple identities. It argues that Tambu’s misjudgments, pathology, narrative erasure, silencing, disrupt her presence in this last trilogy, and her predicament also parallels the anxieties and travails of her fragile post colony. Further, the paper considers the constituents of agency within the postcolonial African cultural context, affirms that Dangarembga celebrates the power of women in the post colony, and shifts the criteria for agency to a new level of activism against oppressive neocolonial forces. More significantly, the author also aligns her women’s activism with Unhu communal ethics and practices. Overall, the paper establishes that Dangarembga’s political critique in This Mournable Body is evident in her representational choices which reinforce social awareness, individual accountability, and communal responsibility as the redemptive pathway for postcolonial African nations.