Subversion or Subservience? The Remains of the Empire in Nigeria
Farhana Zareen Bashar
Abstract: Postcolonial literature is supposed to be a battleground on which an active pursuit of decolonization should continue in every possible way. African literature written in the language of the Empire does not appear to be completely anticolonial. Ngugi wa Thiong’o feels a need for linguistic decolonization of African literature. According to him, African literature manifests the domination of the Empire by using their language. He classifies the works of Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka as Afro-European literature. But is taking up the language the same as accepting the standards of the colonizer? The language question has many implications, especially when it comes to African literature. We see that Achebe attempts to decentralize control over language by extensively modifying it. My paper examines how the Nigerian authors Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka have developed their own written English vernacular codes and the way they Nigerianize their texts using pidgin English in their dialogue—the English that is actually used by some Nigerians. My paper also shows that there are other manifestations of imperial domination apart from the linguistic hegemony in African literature. The English of the Empire has been domesticated by Achebe and it has effectively become the language of literary expression, but a preference for the White Man’s codes and customs is seen in sociocultural settings. There was cultural domination in the country, which is still at work in present day Nigeria. My paper shows that the domestication of the English language is able to carry the weight of the African culture, but these authors point out that internal indigenous structures are flawed and these deficiencies allow the apparently dead seeds of hegemony to germinate all over again in native soil. So, in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s words, the decolonization of the mind has not yet taken place. In this paper I include my personal experiences of and interactions with the westernized Nigerian and their apparent Afro-European lifestyle. The years I have spent in Nigeria have brought me in contact with the westernized educated Igbos and Yorubas of the South, and my description of their day-to-day tendencies explicitly show that there is a serious imperial effect deeply rooted in the Nigerians.
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Published in 2016