After reading six textbooks that were all trying to define African Traditional Religions (ATR), it is possible to conclude that it is impossible to define African Traditional Religions. One would have thought that the easiest way to define African Traditional Religion is to say that it is a religion practiced in Africa by African ancestors. We could then borrow from the same method to apply in the definition of African Literature as literature by an African about Africans living in Africa or abroad. That could not happen because they too are very confused.
Exploring the Anthills of the Savannah (1987) one easily sees that conflict in which African Diaspora come home and try to redefine themselves in a system they consider corrupt; perhaps genuine and perhaps not. This establishes a conflict between man and the society which subsequently invites the wrath of nature. Its landscape has made things difficult to coin a proper definition.
Because of the topography of the Maghreb region in its similarity with Southern Europe, Maghreb literature also includes Spanish authors. But the quickest question one would ask is why is it difficult to ascertain that Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria are all African countries; thus, writings from those countries should be African Literature? That is because most people from these countries do not consider themselves African; rather, they identify themselves with European countries of the Mediterranean.
When a people are used to denying who and what they are, then their neighbors will help define them. "No father living in a sandcastle should buy the child a water gun as a Christmas gift," and "an animal with a long tail must be careful as it crosses the road," the Africans say. Africans must consider how cosmic they are before they start to doubt who they are because it transcends the present into the future.
Nonetheless, a common characteristic in African Literature is the use of proverbs which Achebe defines as “The palm oil with which words are eaten”. African languages not having a wider vocabulary seem to strive better in a compact language and because conversation is always intense, non prosaic language is required. Consequently, one would easily know an African Literature because of a high volume of proverbs in it; in addition to the fact that it was written by an African, about Africans.
The African society is a confrontational society as exhibited in their daily speech. Unlike the West where there is a huge usage of euphemisms for fear of hurting the other’s whiny feelings, there are very few euphemistic usages in African languages, except for sex which is considered a taboo subject. Even in their daily usage of foreign languages like English, French, Spanish or Portuguese, they do not use them. Not bec I ause they don’t like it but simply because they do not exist. This confrontation has at times transcended even to the spiritual realm with the confrontation of inthe priests and priestesses of gods and goddesses which culminates into fatalism as you take a look at even works like The Battle of Musanga (1996), and Egg of life (2003). The theme of conflict developed in the plots is not just between the Whiteman and the African, or Christianity against Animism, or perhaps traditionalism versus modernism, but even amongst Africans there is conflict. Ola Rotimi in Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again reenacts a scene in which his Kenyan wife, Liza injects feminism into their marriage to stage a vote of no confidence against Okonkwo as the only sage of the home and ultimately the state.
D. Major Themes.
Paul Hiebert, in Anthropological Insights for Missionaries suggests that “Africans have no notion of time.” John Mbiti (an African himself) confirms that in some of his writings. There are two major reasons why Herbert and Mbiti think this way. Some of the reasons others have thought Africans have no notion of time is because no African meeting will ever start on time. You smile; don't you? Sadly like “E. V. Lucas once said: “I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them”. It seems like coming late to any appointment makes them happy! However, most African authors assert that if the African has no notion of time, why did their fathers sacrifice only during specific periods? They did that because the gods will only receive those sacrifices during certain periods of the year. Though they did not have watches, their fathers read their shadows to tell time. Both Herbert and Mbiti failed to show the importance of time between the Westerner and the African. The Westerner sees time mechanized in monetary terms as Charles Dickens shows it in Hard Times while the African sees time in terms of work done as in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Dickens said: “Time went on in Coketown like its own machine.” Time in the west is mechanized and thus has made even the people mechanized, and life has become monotonous and insipid in its emphasis too as Dickens says “deadly statistical clock”. It is not that Africans do not have a notion of time; they simply differ in the way they use time. For example, when Okonkwo and his people go out for hunting, it does not matter what time they leave or return; what matters is that they go for hunting and bring some game.
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Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk
“No matter how a rat becomes the house pet, if it is sleeping beside the bag of groundnuts the owner may not have much sleep. ” (Hamilton Ayuk)."If a goat runs from the owner’s leash it will be tied by the council in a market square" Hamilton Ayuk).