Tope Folarin

Image from the Los Angeles Review of Books.

2013 Caine Prize winner Tope Folarin has a new essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books. The piece, titled “An Architect of Dreams: On Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Devil on the Cross,” touches upon a number of diverse topics including Venus Williams, dreams, racism, matatu, barbershops, and of course, Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Folarin’s keen eye for observation takes the centre stage here as he poignantly discusses dreams and their nexus with reality. He writes about a video depicting the youthful confidence of a young Venus Williams whose tennis career is on the verge of glory. The continued questioning of her confidence by a white interviewer, who is then challenged by Venus’ father, is a reference point for Folarin, who brilliantly uses it as a cushion for his argument on the power of dreams and their ability to forge their own reality in the face of strong discouragement.

A dream is a delicate thing, especially when you’re a black girl from Compton. Especially when almost everything around you is a direct repudiation of who you are and who you aspire to be. This is why Richard Williams interjects as aggressively as he does. He is the architect of her dream. He is the one who has told Venus that she is a champion despite what anyone else may think or say. He knows he must protect her and the dream he has shaped for her or the reality of the man across from her will become her reality as well.

He then delves into a proper review of Ngugi’s Devil on the Cross, a philosophical commentary on the sociopolitical rot left by the colonial masters. His narrative is so lush that you get hooked from the beginning to the end. You are wrapped up in the elegance of the diction that every word seems to conspire with the others to create true prosaic beauty. The quotes from the book are so well-employed as to add an element of suspense, making you wonder where Folarin is taking the essay next. He analyses the connection between Africa’s present reality and the dreams of conquest had by European imperialists.

Another dream: A group of Europeans envision a future in which they have apportioned the continent of Africa among their respective countries. Everything on the continent — its resources, its land — will belong to them. The people who currently inhabit the continent — “people” is a generous term, because they aren’t quite — will be incidental. They will provide free labor. Free sex. Most importantly, they will serve as living reminders that the Europeans are superior, the inevitable rulers of the world.

The Europeans dream, plot, execute. Inevitably, reality begins to form itself around their dream. Africans across the continent resist, and sometimes they succeed, but mostly they do not. Their progeny are born and raised and die in this new reality.

In matatus and salons and churches across the continent people begin to interrogate this reality. Surely this is not the way things were meant to be. Surely there must be another way. Leaders emerge. They envision a future in which Africans rule themselves. They dream, plot, execute. All across the continent various countries proclaim their independence. The Europeans leave. Africa is free. All should be well.

But all isn’t well. This is the reality that greets us in the opening pages of Devil on the Cross. We are introduced to a young woman named Wariinga who is having an especially bad day. In quick succession, she loses her job (because she refuses to sleep with her boss), her boyfriend leaves her, and she is kicked out of her apartment. Wariinga blames herself for these incidents.

Read Tope Folarin’s “An Architect of Dreams: On Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Devil on the Cross in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

About kanyinsola olorunnisola

View all posts by kanyinsola olorunnisola

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

The Brittle Paper Literary Awards: New Date for the Announcement of Winners

The announcement of the winners of the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards was scheduled for 23 September 2017. However, a change […]

The Reviews Are In! | Namwali Serpell Has High Praise for Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu

Screen-Shot-2017-09-20-at-4.57.42-PM-e1505944728679 copy

Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is one of the hit novels of 2017. A historical drama, it tells the story of an 18th […]

New Website Collects Everything Binyavanga Wainaina Has Written Since the Late 1990s

A new Website has collected everything published by Binyavanga Wainaina since his writing career began in the late 1990s. The […]

Opportunity for All Writers | Submit to Vanguard Literary Services’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Anthology

To mark the 2017 World HIV/AIDS Day on December 1, Vanguard Literary Services, a bookselling company in Nigeria, has called […]

The Graywolf Press Africa Prize Launches with Igoni A. Barrett as Judge

igoni a. barrett

A new award just dropped: the Graywolf Press Africa Prize, for “a first novel manuscript by an African author primarily residing […]

Nnedi Okorafor Celebrates Everyday African Life in New Superhero Comic

okorafor comics

A little over two years ago, South African Sci-fi writer Lauren Beukes collaborated with D. C. Comics on a Wonder […]