The Rape of Shavi-An Analysis from an Intercultural Point of View
Buchi Emecheta is a Nigerian-born writer. She was born in Lagos in 1944 and since 1962, she has been living in England. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology and for a while, she worked as a sociologist. A writer, a lecturer, a college teacher and a sociologist, Emecheta is considered one of the most important African feminist writers. As far as her career as a writer is concerned, she is the recipient of numerous awards. Among her most famous novels, the following ones are worth mentioning: In the Ditch (1972), Second-Class Citizen (1975), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Rape of Shavi (1985). In this presentation, we are going to focus our attention on her 1985 novel, namely The Rape of Shavi. The title of the novel is deliberately ambiguous and, at first sight, it foregrounds the idea of physical abuse. However, another level of interpretation surfaces after a complete reading and an in-depth analysis of the novel: the entire novel revolves around the idea of cultural despoilment, of stripping a nation of its cultural values. The novel itself can be read as an allegorical story, a parable emphasising the harmful effects engendered by the cultural encounter between Self and Other. Here, the Self is represented by an ethnic group named the Shavis, located in an imaginary sub-Saharian country, while the Other is represented by a group of Western European people who left their country, fearing a nuclear explosion. The moral of this parable stands out conspicuously: people should preserve their cultural identity, they should not let themselves be driven by the will to power, they should keep intact their ethnic, linguistic, psycho-behavioural peculiarities, otherwise, their demise is imminent and uncontrollable. The intercultural exchange proved detrimental to Self and beneficial to the Other. Therefore, while the ‘albino’ people learned a new way of living, of conceiving social, behavioural, moral, ethical values, the Shavian people became morally corrupted, they departed from their traditional values and practices, and moreover, they were deprived of their natural resources, their ancient habits and innocence. This phenomenon is mainly due to the fact that the white people and the black Shavian people were never on equal footing. In other words, they were prone to and evinced a great many deal of stereotypes, they also displayed plenty instances of otherisation. Emecheta skilfully manages to create a metaphor of Western colonialist expansion in a post-colonialist age, by turning a utopian territory into a dystopian one. While reading this book, we have identified the following stages that occurred in the involution of the Shavian people: a pre-colonialist stage, a colonialist stage and a post-colonialist stage. We shall discuss them in turn. The pre-colonialist stage can be associated with a state of tranquillity, calm, peace, balance and prosperity in the Shavian society. It is a peaceful and flourishing community in which old customs are strictly respected and decisions are taken in a communal way. Despite the existence of a king, King Patayon, it is a council of elders who rule the entire society, altogether with priest and priestess. It is an egalitarian society, in which each and everyone can express himself or herself freely and a vital role is assigned to the seniors and the sacerdotal people. Traditions are deeply rooted in this society and they are carried on perpetually, the religion is offered a high-ranking position and the people thrive on practising cattle farming. The kingdom of Shavi is free, as it was liberated from the enslavement of a far-off tribe, named the Kokumas, it is a prosperous place, an Eden-like paradise where people have a simple and wealthy life. The colonialist stage begins with the encounter between Self and Other, an encounter which gives the two entities the chance of exhibiting their...
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