God's Bits of Wood

Topics: Africa, French West Africa, French colonial empire Pages: 3 (971 words) Published: May 5, 2002
Sembene Ousmane's novel, "Gods Bits of Wood," gives a highly detailed story of the railway strike of 1947-48 in French West Africa. It contains conflicts of political, emotional and moral nature. Ultimately, Sembene's novel is one of empowerment. It brings to light the tension between colonial officials and the African community among the railway men as well as the struggle of the African community to free itself from being subjected to colonial power. Frederick Cooper's article, "Our Strike: Equality, Anticolonial politics and the 1947-48 Railway Strike in French West Africa," helps reveal the strike's true meaning and agenda by analyzing the conflicts present in Sembene's novel. In fact, it paints a very different picture of the railway strike than Sembene's novel. As seen throughout Sembene's novel, one of the key elements of the railway strike is the importance of leadership and trust among the railway workers and the African community. With the direction of wise and educated leaders, the railway men are brought together and are given a sense of empowerment in their affairs with the French government. Two of these leaders that Sembene mention in his novel are Bakayoko and Fa Keita. Bakayoko is a young, educated delegate who takes care of the legal affairs of the railway men; and Fa Keita is an old, but wise and mature man in the African community who the people look up to for decisions concerning the people. There is a constant struggle between the African community and colonial power. Even the simplest of things such as language is something that challenges French control and serves as a basis for African independence. For example, when Bakayoko meets with French delegates in regards the demands of the strike he says, "That is all I had to say, and I have said it in French so that he would understand me, although I think this meeting should have been conducted in Ouolof, since that is our language (Sembene 177)." Not only does this statement show...
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