Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."
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.

Monthly Newsletter!

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

Archives

Mid-Life Crisis of a Major God II | Stanley Princewill McDaniels | Poetry

3259071082_152e3078b0_o

– As for life turning out to be all what no one ever wanted it to, how we surely confuse […]

Sudanese Fiction: 5 Books Recommended by Leila Aboulela

season of migration to the north

Leila Aboulela has recommended five books for readers seeking familiarity with Sudanese fiction. Aboulela’s own work is often used as an […]

Elnathan John Among Judges for 2019 Man Booker International Prize

elnathan john

Nigerian novelist Elnathan John is among the judges for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize. The panel includes writer, translator and president […]

My Greatest Inspiration in Filmmaking: Kunle Afolayan | Onyeka Nwelue

onyeka nwelue - bella naija

As the Africa Film Trinidad & Tobago opens tomorrow, my first fictional Igbo Language feature film, Agwaetiti Obiuto, will screen on 24 July […]

Paging The God of Small Things Fans | Arundhati Roy is Coming to Cape Town and Johannesburg

Author Arundhati Roy photographed by Chiara Goia

Arundhati Roy, famous Indian activist and bestselling author of the Booker Prize winning The God of Small Things and the […]

Opportunity for East African Writers | Fellowship for Early Career Writers and Publishers

african writers trust publishing fellowship

In the wake of Nigeria’s Dusty Manuscript Contest, it is encouraging to see Africa Writers Trust rolling out a fellowship […]

Thanks for signing up!

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

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.