23 March 2005

The Repeal

FEATURE
The Repeal
A new feminist voice in Gambian literature
By Hassoum Ceesay
Mar 23, 2005, 07:33

The Repeal, an anthology of poems by Juka Fatou Jabang, Matilda Johnson and Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, released last month by Fulladu Publishing, is the major feminist literary work to come out of The Gambia since the publication in 1960 of Lady Augustus Jawara’s play, Rebellion. The poems are truly feminist because their themes are women related, and are also written from a women’s perspective.
Feminism is politics which aims at rectifying current chains of relationships between the sexes, which is why many African women fear the label, ‘feminist’. A Nigerian feminist critic, Ify G Achufusi wrote:
‘‘There has been a tendency for African intellectuals to dissociate themselves from the term ‘feminism. Regarding it as one of those borrowed ‘isms’ which militate against the development of Africa, perhaps the newest form of neo-colonialism. It is often regarded as some kind of intellectual monstrosity, which is geared towards the destruction of the marriage institution in Africa, by straining the ‘cordial relationship’ between man and woman.’’
I have quoted her at length to underscore why it takes a brave man or woman to accept the sobriquet ‘feminist’. In Africa being called a feminist could be as unsavoury as been called a neo-colonist was in Africa of the 1960s. Yet, feminism, especially its literature, could be progressive, avant garde, edifying and rectifying. Feminist literature such as the work under review has the capacity to point out the inherent social imbalances between the sexes, that is, to highlight the "inequities in the male/female relationship in our society" and suggests ways of changing such a state.The poems in The Repeal are generally a feminist cri de coeur, either lamenting issues which are anathema to female empowerment such as corruption ( P 37), poverty (P35), circumcision (P 31), tyranny (P 28), the brain drain (P 33), civil strife (P 40); or celebrating the achievements of womanhood such as better access to education (P 67), empowerment (P 65) and the beauty and tenacity of the African woman (P 63). In few words, the poems in the anthology cover the gamut of female concerns and successes. It is obvious that the enemies of womanhood do not inhere only in circumcision and domestic violence and dictatorship. In the aptly titled poem Graft (P 37), Jabang asserts that corruption really is most disastrous to women because "It rots and corrodes/articulating exclusion/repression and powerlessness,’’ equally inimical to women’s progress is tyranny which "enslaves suckling women" and make girls especially, "hungry, frail and forlorn". In Africa in distress (P 46), Matilda takes the threats to womanhood a notch higher to include the perennial instability on the continent which ‘’is so full of strife". As I stated above, feminist literature could also be celebration of progress and hope. Alliances (P 74) is Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta’s paean on the strides made by The Gambia towards girl-child education. From the foregoing, it is obvious that as feminist literature, The Repeal has successfully flashed a search light into the crannies of female pains and gains; and has also underscored the multi -faceted nature of the enemies of female- hood.From The Repeal, it is also clear that feminist literature needs not be male battering or rude for it to be good. Neither has it to be a litany of moans and groans on the woes and vices facing women. No! The Repeal shows that feminist literature should be objective and balanced; I mean, should be concerned with both the common woes and weal of women and society at large. In even fewer words, feminist writings should be critically inclusive – tackling the issues which impoverish society at large and also praising the achievements. Perhaps, I need to add that women are not necessarily more qualified to write truly feminist literature, because as I have argued above, men also experience the issues that afflict or benefit women, be it corruption or girls’ education, for example.

© Copyright 2003 by Observer Company

Mrs Matilda Alica Cynthia JOHNSON was born in 1958 in Banjul. She completed a BA honours in Librarianship and Information Studies in June 1988 at the City of Birmingham Polytechnic, which is presently the University of Central England. She is a chartered member of the Library Association LA (UK). Until recently, she was the Senior Librarian at the Management Development Institute (MDI). She has published many literary works in different journals. But her manuscripts on poetry are still unpublished.

1 comment:

Leila M. said...

Where can I get it? Is it widely distributed?