Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

A Guide to the Postcolony

SHARE THIS


If after a hundred years of colonial quibbling, the past is fragmented beyond recognition and leaves nothing to be remembered in its purity, just stick to your guns and remember the evils done to you and your people. That’s how nations are born. Just don’t forget to forget the evils you and your people inflicted on others.

But never lose sight of the fact that past traumas are borrowed traumas. That is why rather than reopening scabbed wounds to flare up old pains, it is far better to create your own pain and, therefore, your own pleasure. Your own traumas and, therefore, your own convalescence.

Failure to do this will result in mixing up nightmares and mistaking the fears of one generation with those of another.

Whatever you do, do not lose track of where one generation’s anxieties begins and where those of the other ends for fear of forgetting whose dream is whose.

As much as you like to think the contrary, you have not existed from the birth of your world, so take care that in holding on to the past, you are not simply bearing the trash and truths of all the worlds that came before you.

It is imperative that at all times you are aware of what items make up the burden of memories you are carrying into the future.

Most of all, when the past gets too heavy and the burden of continuity sad and weary, remember that you can always ditch the past and its pretensions to historical importance and find an absolute beginning in the dazzling emptiness of the present.

Photo Credit: Jos Wade. 1784. “”A Plan of the Fort and Factory on George Island in the River Sierraleon or Sierra Leona”

Tags: , , , , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

2 Responses to “A Guide to the Postcolony” Subscribe

  1. Dave August 23, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    Interesting piece. But isn’t it even easier to forget the past now because we can use technology to easily manufacture not only the present, but the future? Seems that if anything, a historical lecture — or at lease a debate — would do a good chunk of the American population some good. This would at lease spur some reflection and perspective prior creating all of these new identities online (and that seem to spill offline as well).

  2. admin August 31, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Thanks dave for your comment. I am with you on the idea of forgetting the past. It’s just that the past has always functioned as a powerful and highly contentious political concept, especially within the postcolonial context. But then the uses of the past cannot be restricted to mere remembering. This I think is kind of what you are concerned about. The question one could pose then is the following: is there any way of thinking about the past beyond the opposing tasks of forgetting and remembering? Or, how do we relate to the past in such a way that it does not hold us back but is also not simply erased like it never happened?

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Ukamaka Olisakwe’s Forthcoming Novel, Ogadinma, Is a Feminist Story Set in ’80s Nigeria

ukamaka olisakwe - ogadinma - graph

The Nigerian writer Ukamaka Olisakwe is set to release a new novel. Titled Ogadinma, or Everything Will Be All Right, […]

Resoketswe Manenzhe Wins 2020 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award for Her Novel, Scatterlings

Resoketswe - Scatterlings @avatar_reso 2

The 2020 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award has been awarded to the South African writer Resoketswe Manenzhe for her novel Scatterlings. […]

Down River Road, a New Print & Online Magazine Exploring the Alternative in Literature, Music, & Visual Art, Calls for Submissions to Second Issue

down river road journal

A new Nairobi-based print and online magazine, down river road, is exploring the margins, the shifting centers, and the new […]

Dr Stella Nyanzi Wins Appeal at Ugandan Court, Regains Freedom, But Is Possibly Re-arrested

stella nyanzi - graph - kampala dispatch

Dr Stella Nyanzi is free. The academic, feminist and queer rights advocate has been in prison for criticising Uganda’s long-serving […]

Apply for This Fully-funded Creative Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia, Sponsored by the Miles Morland Foundation

UEA - Literature@UEA Twitter

The Miles Morland Foundation African Writers’ Scholarship is currently accepting accepting applications for its 2020 program. It is an initiative […]

Chinelo Okparanta Recalls Her First Teenage Crush

chinelo okparanta - bucknell university

“I was 16 years old, nearly 17, when a boy first expressed interest in me. Or, maybe it was that […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.