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RACISM & AESTHETICS IN ALEX LA GUMA’S A WALK IN THE NIGHT AND PETER ABRAHAMS’S MINE BOY

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of Study

The dominant literature in Africa had been oral literature; oral literature has been existing since a long time. There was a long delay in the emergence of written literature because of the wide-spread illiteracy in Africa. The blacks have suffered injustice from the white race right from the time of slavery, this we got to know thru history. It was among this group of Africans that crossed the sea and came in closer contact with the West, this contact now brought about the first seeds of new literature like Phyllis Wheatly and George Horton, these poets were prepared to embrace the values of the whites in which they have been initiated, despite this they deplored their enslaved condition. The new world literature of the black in the eighteen and nineteen century was referred to as ‘apprentice literature’ by Jan Janheinz in a book titled A History of Neo-African Literature published in 1968. African nationalism and pan-Africanism started in the new world, between 1900 and 1945,two conferences on pan-Africanism which was held in various European capitals including New York were to play a decisive role in the growth of nationalism among African students who were studying abroad. Political independence was first proclaimed as a goal of nationalism at the sixth pan-African congress in Manchester in 1945. Blyden was the first black man to attempt an objective appraisal of African culture, in his book titled Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race published in 1887. In this book, he traced the history of African’s contact with the outside world and produced evidence from sociology, history and literature to show that Africans had something positive to show the world, he tried to rehabilitate the living cultures of African communities and took pride in blackness; he implored his fellow Afro-Americans to do the same. He urged the black race to embrace their history and their culture and use them as the foundation for building the future. Blyden’s meetings were coloured by romantic views of his contemporary world. Peter Abrahams in 1945 was the first non-white African novelist in his novel Sons of the City which later appeared in the fifties, this novel began to acquire its own identity and generate the present literary explosion in the fifties. Every writer is influenced by the tradition in which he acquire his tools of writing: the language, the styles and the forms which he’s familiar with before he starts writing, this can be seen in African writings which has its own distinctive characteristics that distinguished them from other areas of the world due to the acquisition of their tool of writing[the language, the styles, the forms] from their contact with their contact with the West. Critics such as Jan Heinz in the book titled A History of Neo-African literature, published in 1968 defended the view that there is an essential similarity between all literatures written by people whose origin can be traced back to Africa. At the first Congress of Negro writers which were held in Paris 1956, one of the delegates Ben Enwonwu insisted on the declaration on the need for literature to put itself at the service of nationalism. Ben Enwonwu (1956) declared that:

The present generation of African artists therefore have to face their political problems, and try to look at art through politics, the kind of picture that the political aspect of African art shows is one of strife and pity.

As African literature grew, it began to acquire different characteristics in different parts of the continent. Some part deviated from the appraisal of African, culture to face the realities of their society. Racism South Africa deviated and started to write on their experiences and white domination, this led to ‘protest literature’ in South Africa the main emphasis is on the evils of racism, this can be seen in South Africa writers like Lewis Nkosi, Alan Patron portrays the denial of natural human relationship and the unnaturalness of the values imposed by racism, Alex La Guma in his work titled A Walk in The Night, portrays nothing but hostility between the world of the white man and the black man. Racism

Africa literature has been divided into three broad traditions by critics. Racism These are South African, Anglophone African and Francophone African. In South Africa the main emphasis has been on the evils of racialism, which is the main concern of this research work. Racism The term ‘protest literature’ has often been applied to African literature in general, but the serious artists have always been concerned with more gestures of protest. In South Africa, there is an understandable preoccupation among non-white writers with the evils of repression, police brutality and arbitrary imprisonment which has led to the emergence of protest literature in South Africa.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The problem in this topic –Racism and aesthetics in Alex La Guma’s A Walk in the Night and Peter Abrahams’s Mine Boy is that Black South Africa literature is different from other black African literature, it deals with the evils of racism, which denied the people of their rights. No writer operates in a vacuum, and there is a close relationship between literature and the society, South African writers had no other issue to focus on apart from the issue of racism which was predominant in their society. The emergence of the term ‘protest literature’ came into being through the South African writers, some of which are Ezekiel Mphahlele, Peter Abrahams, and Alex La Guma. The writings of these South African writers enlightened and educated the people, and became a way of exposing the ills of racism, which turns blacks into useless and worthless beings in the society. In Alex La Guma’s A Walk in The Night, and in Peter Abrahams Mine Boy, the blacks are denied of their rights, they leave in abject poverty, due to the terrible condition, blacks become useless to them and to the society at large, they can do anything to get money so as to survive.

1.3 Aim and Objective

Racism has been a main preoccupation in South Africa novels; the novels in this research work explore the different ways in which racism has affected the black South Africans. In this research work, the main objective is to explore racism as a thematic preoccupation in Peter Abrahams Mine Boy and Alex La Guma’s A Walk In The Night. Racism which is as a result of the feeling of superiority of a race to another race, the whites feel they are superior to the black race, this negative feeling propels the negative attitude of the oppression and brutalization of blacks by the whites, in this work, the evils of racism will be seen, while the main aim is to address the issue of racism and find possible solutions to racism, by using the novels used in this work to counter the negative attitude of the whites and exonerate the blacks that have been downgraded by the evils of racism.

 

 

 

 

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