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How to read about Africa

o Names
Replace with Christian names
Use examples of Thing Fall Apart (how the kid is now called Isaac)
o White people in Africa
Assume the whites are either kindly benefactors, or, if they are in South
Africa, they are extreme racists.
Assume that all the white kids are automatically prescribed to be racist
Distinct rift between the whites and the blacks
o Culture
Only the tribal culture
Either cities or rural towns
William Russell

Form II English

Mr. Rodriques

Thursday May 21, 15

African novels: The confusion untangled

Reading, sometimes, can be difficult for some. The ideas conveyed in certain

Books can be difficult to decipher, their meanings can be cryptic and hidden. However, this

essay is written to help decipher this problem. Books written about Africa are usually very

noticeable: tribal art on the covers, a single, glistening white person dressed entirely in khaki

standing with a couple starving African natives. If you are reading a book like Things Fall

Apart, or a play like Master HaroldAnd the Boys, you may realize that this essay is

essential to your understanding of this book. This essay will guide you through

understanding the complex nature of the difficult African names and how to understand them

easily. You will also be shown how to see and understand whites in these sorts of books,

and how to consider the culture that is shown to you within the pages of these novels and


Names are often a complex yet much-needed necessity within the text. However, in

books regarding Africa, oftentimes these names are translated from non-European

languages, giving them awkward pronunciations and strange lengths. Fear not! Do not worry

about the pronunciation or length; instead just give the character a Christian name! Why

pronounce tongue-tying titles such as Okonkwo and Nwoye when you can have Craig

and Sharon? Not only does this eliminate ridiculous idea that Africans actually have a

culture, but it also illustrates to you, as the reader, the European dominance over the rest of

the world. Even the names of places can be replaced with easily recognizable place names.

Why Umuofia and Mbaino when you can have London and Berlin as names for the villages?

As explained before, this not only puts down the silly notion that the Africans actually have a
culture, but it also emphasized Euro-centric ideals to you, the reader. In fact, the authors of

such books actively show you how to give the reader a step up in naming the different

natives. Achebe tells us Okonkwo's son, Nwoye, [is] now called Isaac which is

supposed to direct the reader towards considering adding Christian names instead of using

the traditional African names. However, if you feel you are somehow wronging the Africans

by giving them names other than their own, than feel free to use the names printed on the

text; but dont look up the pronunciation. Instead, take on the most stereotypical tribal

accent to use when pronouncing the names, preferably one with lots of clicks and grunts,

since we all know that is the language of the natives. However, sometimes you have

characters that already have Christian names. These characters you should assume are


White Africans come entirely in two categories: South Africans and The Rest. South

Africans are bigoted, racist, and thoroughly misguided. Hally, the main character from Master

Haroldand the Boys is a perfect example of the misguided South-African youth. He is

impressionable, aggressive, assertive, and easy to aggravate. Assume that all the whites in

South Africa are like this, including the government. All of the white characters pretend to

have an equal society but in reality, they do not. Hally says to Sam, one of his African

workers, that [My Dads] got a marvelous sense of humor. Want to know what our favorite

joke is? He gives out a big groan, you see, and says: "It's not fair, is it, Hally?" Then I have to

ask; "What, chum?" And then he says: "A nigger's arse" . . . and we both have a good laugh.

This is the opinion of all South-African whites; which is that the blacks that are under them

deserve what they get. However, there are also the whites in the rest of Africa. These whites

are genuinely caring individuals, who come to convert the indigenous populations from their

primitive polytheistic religions into Christianity, not extort the individual countries for monetary

gain and sell their citizens into slavery. These European missionaries not only brought a new

religion towards the misguided natives, but they also brought with them knowledge. In Things

Fall Apart, Achebe writes One of the great men in that village was called Akunna and he
had given one of his sons to be taught the white man's knowledge in Mr. Brown's school.

Achebe is telling us that a great leader in the village is choosing to send his son to a white

mans school because he knows that at that school, the child will be able to learn more than

he would from his parents or the tribal school. This brings us to the topic of the African

Culture in these books.

Africans rarely actually have culture, but instead is just a big misguided religion.

Often, this culture involves the ritual dancing and a polytheistic pantheon of deities and

spirits. As seen in Things Fall Apart, And then the egwugwu [the local gods] appeared. The

women and children sent up a great shout and took to their heels. It was instinctive. A

woman fled as soon as an egwugwu came in sight. And when, as on that day, nine of the

greatest masked spirits in the clan came out together it was a terrifying spectacle, Achebe

describes how the spirits come out of the hut to witness the trial. Achebe shows us how the

village elders dress up in the costumes of their tribe in order to fascinate the primitive

peoples. This is often the only culture that these people have, and always assume that this is

true. However, if the characters are living in a more modernized part of Africa, assume that

they have adopted the whites standard of culture. This is shown well in Master

HaroldAnd The Boys when Sam recognizes that he is Christian. Fugard is telling us that

either the Natives of Africa are currently at war with the whites, or have accepted them into

their society.

As you can see, the novels written about the African experience are often very

predictable, but can hide many meanings under their layers. Authors place African names in

to display to the reader how they can Christianize the characters and create a more Euro-

centric view of what is going on. Also, we can view the European characters in the books as

either saviors or as destroyers of African culture, which revolves around very simplistic and

often childish displays of cultish deities and dances. As you can see, after opening ones

eyes to what is happening in the book, the confusing and sometimes misleading pieces

come together to display a story that is realistic and culturally accepted.