African Literature and Culture:
African writers’ representation of male-female relationships
Analyzing male-female relationships in African literature enables a better understanding of how African writers view the gender roles including the application of religious aspects, marriage and identity, midwives and slave women, nationalism, and migration. In earlier works, the female gender was often perceived as “the Queen Mother.” Many African writers portray women in traditional roles whereas articles written in the past few decades analyze male-female relationships with a more feminist approach. This paper will analyze articles by leading African writers concerning the representation of the male-female relationship.
In 1997, Jamaica Kincaid’s book entitled The Autobiography of My Mother opened the eyes of readers to the life of the protagonist and narrator, Xuela Claudette Potter Richardson. This character is a woman whose willful hardness of heart wields a difficult, unsympathetic character through a disturbing tale of unequal male-female relationships.Gender roles are predominant in the author’s correlations of sexuality and power and a legacy of colonialism and racism. The female role in Kincaid’s book is one that is hardened by life and by the negligence of the male counterpart (Xuela’s father). Nevertheless, Xuela’s mother is portrayed as a giver of unselfish love (she gave her life for her child –hence, she died during childbirth) while the father is a persona of indifference and casual cruelty of which the narrator later comes to associate with the ways of the British colonizers who taught her father about money and greed, power and domination.
In many African texts (Sofola 1998; Cooper 1995), the female gender is stereotyped as the fertile and nurturing Earth Mother to the lazy, debauched young beauty. This was the African woman’s identity -the mother, the caretaker; not the provider or independent woman known in today’s society....
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Cooper, Anna Julia. “Womanhood: A Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race”
in Fred Lee Hord, Mzee Lasana Okpara and Jonathan Scott Lee, I am Because We are: Readings in Black Philosophy. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995.
Cooper, J. California. Family. Anchor Books: New York, 1991.
Hooks, Bell. “Healing the Hurt.” We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. Routledge: New
Kincaid, Jamaica. The Autobiography of My Mother. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996.
Sofola, Zulu . “Feminism and African Womanhood” in Obiaoma Nnaemeka (ed), Sisterhood:
Feminisms and Power From Africa to the Diaspora. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1998
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