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Maya Angelou and Chinua Achebe: Warfare Through Writing

“We live in a world which often feels like it is dictated by stereotypes; we open the papers and find the media, particularly Western Media continues to define people and places. One has to ask ‘Who creates us?’ If we look at the African continent we see a rhetoric continuously reinforced of war, famine and corruption, while for example in the UK our school history textbooks suggest that many of us did not exist before colonialism. From standards of beauty to global development, it is as if our aspirations, self worth and history run the risk of being dictated by outsiders.

Countering this was part of Achebe’s unspoken war on a global society which till this day is dominated by the words, experiences and voices of a select few. He was determined to challenge the status quo which was formed of foreigners writing “Africa” from the walls of their subjectivity; to play his part in a movement which would challenge the stereotypes and racism found in the representation of the ‘colonised.’ Perhaps one of his most famous quotes on this matter is “I would be quite satisfied if my novels did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections – was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them.”

I read an amazing article by Samira Sawlani on the writing of Maya Angelou and Chinua Achebe the other day. Link here.

The article: Maya Angelou and Chinua Achebe: Warfare Through Writing was brilliantly written and these two paragraphs in particular struck me as being poignant (and one of the main reasons for my blog) so I thought I’d share them with you. I’d really recommend reading the full article if you get the chance.

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