Narratives of Desire: Gender and Sexuality in Bugul, Aidoo and Chiziane
Da Silva, Meyre
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Da Silva, Meyre
Colonial narratives and nationalist rhetoric in Africa have always associated female sexuality with male desire and consumption, aberrance, or perversion. While historical narratives suggested that native women's bodies should be tamed and possessed, African nationalist narratives usually equated female bodies with land, nature, and spirituality. In different ways, both colonialists and nationalists appropriated the female body and sexuality to convey ideologies concerning the conquest of distant lands or related to the dignity of the colonized people. This dissertation examines how African women writers' representation of female desire counternarrates colonialist and nationalist tales while disturbing gender conventions and defying social norms in African contexts. By using feminist theories, cultural studies, and postcolonial theory, I examine the ways that Ama Ata Aidoo's Changes: A Love Story, Paulina Chiziane's Niketche: Uma Historia de Poligamia, and Ken Bugul's Le Baobab Fou reveal female sexuality while simultaneously subverting discourses that often define female bodies as sexual objects or as spiritual entities-- as the Mother Africa, a trope widespread in the speeches of the Negritude movement. Through the analysis of these literary works, I present how these African women writers have used discursive strategies about female desire to demonstrate the consequences of the colonial encounter and post-independence policies on neo-colonial women's bodies and minds as well as to reveal the exclusion of women's voices from national affairs. These works not only confront history but also interrogate the role of literature and the work of art. Through their literary works, Bugul, Chiziane, and Aidoo bring to literature characteristics of African arts, reinventing the literary in order to forge a medium that is able to give sense to African women's experience.