The Power of Literature in African Development Since the 1950s

Abstract

African history has been described as a hero in African literature. In this paper I argue for the reverse: that African Literature is not only a hero in African history but also a powerful actor in African development. The contribution made by African literature constitutes the academic arm of the continent’s struggles and achievements to date. African writers/pen-soldiers bear many pet names all of which signify their essence and power in the society:”artist the ruler” ,”self-ordained priest”, “oracle of the people”, “voice of the voiceless”, “ novelist the teacher “and so on. The Ugandan writer Oko t P’Bitek insisted that the artist was more powerful because he provided the ideas by which the politician ruled or misruled society. Since the 1950s, many African countries have had a long list of political rulers. Interestingly some of them doubled as poets , autobiographers and essayists such as Sedar Senghor, Agostinho Neto,Kwame Nkrumah,Julius Nyerere,Oginga Odinga,Nelson Mandela and others.During the same period Africa has produced a long list of “ artistic rulers” who have engaged the African experience through art. In many cases they have challenged the power of the politician and paid for their audacity by imprisonment, exile and even death. This raises the question: why would fiction-mere imagination- threaten politicians with all their material resources and instruments of power? That notwithstanding ,literature is never factored into any development agenda. In this paper I discuss centrality in African development since the advent of colonialism



Author Information
Hellen Roselyne L. Shigali, Moi University, Kenya

Paper Information
Conference: LibEuro2015
Stream: Literature - African Literature

This paper is part of the LibEuro2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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