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Literary Pan-Africanism

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Abstract:

Pan-Africanism is most often thought of in its political sense. This is the case whether one refers to the several Pan-African congresses, beginning in 1919, organized by W.E.B. Du Bois and colleagues from Africa and other parts of the Diaspora; or whether one refers to the Independence-era vision of Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, in which the "hereditary significant other," i.e. the African Diaspora, was invited to come and take part in Africa's development. Yet, there are also well-known instances of cultural Pan-Africanism: the 1940s Negritude movement, the journal Presence Africaine, and numerous writers congresses and cultural festivals, beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the present. So, indeed, the Pan-African impulse of writers and artists from the African continent to commune and share common cultural bonds with their counterparts in the African Diaspora has been manifested in cultural productive form at least since the 1940s. But it would not be until about the 1970s, and increasingly in the '80s and '90s, that the two strands of Pan-Africanism, the political and the cultural, would begin to converge. The Ghanaian Ama Ata Aidoo was the first African writer to explore a union between Africa and the Diaspora, with her 1969 play Dilemma of a Ghost. Roughly twenty-five years after Aidoo's play, her compatriot Ayi Kwei Armah would play a variation on the theme of this book in his 1995 novel Osiris Rising, although with a more conscious vision of the partnership in the construction of Africa's future. Equally significant as the texts written by writers from the African continent became texts by writers from the Diaspora itself. While Césaire's Cahier evokes his image of Africa, other writers, notably Guadeloupean Maryse Condé, take on the Diaspora-to-Africa experience in its various realities. Indeed, for Condé, the Black Atlantic, Pan-African community is the context, psychological, if not geographic, of most of her fiction.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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