A Woman of Africa
‘I am an African woman. That’s not a political statement. I am not a Whoopee Goldberg or an Oprah Winfrey, a middle-class American in search of an identity or asserting a political right. I am a woman and I am African. That is all there is to it, and that is my tragedy.’
In Douala, Cameroon, an African woman relates her life as a woman of Africa to a white oil company worker. Her story can be seen as an experience which encompasses a range of issues that affect women in Africa today, it touches upon Aids tribal prejudice, prostitution, poverty and ignorance.
Viewing her life through the conflicting filters of religion and cynicism, her narrative is entertaining and moving. She relates, with no trace of self-pity, her life as a Biafran refugee, as a women in modern Cameroon and as an uneducated Anglophone in today’s Douala.
The story she tells starts from her birth during the refugee crisis of Biafra. She grows to be a willful child who realises there is life outside the ghetto. The book follows her as she develops into a young woman whose singular, eccentric and colourful character drives her to embrace life furiously. In doing so she challenges the social norms of her society.
Rarely self-analytical, she forces an almost existentist path through her limitations, frequently falling along the way but always pulling her self back up without a trace of despair. Through the force of her character she overcomes obstacles to succeed in her dream to become A Woman of Africa.
This is an important new novel – and a fictionalised reworking of real life stories told to author Nick Roddy in Douala by Biafran refugees. Nick’s own experiences in the region also inform this novel – while writing it he was kidnapped by MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) and held captive in the Jungle for 3 weeks. Nick still spends part of each year living and in Douala.
to get this much chocolate, I would definitely equate them. However, had I been asked back then to evaluate those two God-given respective pleasures, chocolate would have won hands down every time. I remembered Hassna and Fatima’s brother both telling me in quite different ways about the Muslim understanding of God’s promised paradise. Forty almond-eyed virgins, golden couches and rivers that flowed with wine. Hassna had pointed out that forty female virgins were of little use to her for all
denial. Well, Mamma was following the entertainment intently (we didn’t yet have a television): it soon became clear that Fatima’s mamma was doing considerably more protesting than anyone else. You didn’t need to watch; we all knew her voice. My mamma was a kind-hearted soul and she knew that if things were going bad for Fatima’s mamma, things would later be going bad for Fatima, and she didn’t like what Fatima’s mamma was capable of (especially with my papa). So Mamma heaped a whole pile of
chips, her left breast protruding from under her armpit. Before I had time to ask if this meant it was going to rain, Mamma had landed a mighty blow with the flat side of the kitchen knife (Chinese stainless steel) across my buttocks and was propelling us towards the gate, dragging Fatima and scooping plantain chips as she went. If I had known what one was at the time, I am sure to have concluded that Mamma was an octopus, so many things could she do at one time. Fatima and I now found ourselves
I tried to put it to the back of my mind. It was clear as the volume from the long table rose that a lot of alcohol was being consumed. The men were clearly Dutch, and that is a harsh-sounding language at the best of times, but when fuelled by alcohol it contrasted starkly with the rhythms of English and French being spoken elsewhere in the restaurant. The man was still staring at me, leering and grinning. Theo and Mickey were ordering desserts. I desperately needed to go to the toilet. I
half turned in their seats in order to see what was happening. I wanted to scream. ‘Who do you think you are, now you are all dressed up? Too good for the likes of us now, are you?’ he slurred. Theo was immediately on his feet. He still had a glass of wine in his hand. Mickey was not far behind. Theo’s face was drawn, but when he spoke his voice was cold and clipped, the voice of the English gentleman, far more blood-curdling than any Mediterranean rage. The restaurant was silent. ‘I have no