Francophone Africa

Writing a summary of what I got from this course on Francophone Africa presents a real challenge since I learned so much that I didn’t know before. I’ve studied French history, but mostly just up to the nineteenth century, and generally, the stories and events that took place on the European continent. I could easily tick off all the various topics, but I’ll focus instead on the things that really stood out to me. For example, I’ve always wondered why African countries experience as much turmoil as they do. But now I know that a huge reason for all the problems was caused by something as simple as the drawing of a map. The borders of each nation were arbitrarily created, without any regard for the peoples, religions, or ethnic groups that were being lumped together into one country. Taking people who, for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years haven’t gotten along and trying to force some kind of national identity upon them was a recipe for disaster. A disaster that has been playing itself out for several decades in the form of corrupt governments, civil wars, and genocide. Now when I watch the news and see what’s going on, I feel like I’ll have some actual insight into the problems, rather than just naively blaming the issue on the ignorance or backwardness of the African peoples.This brings me to my second point: Ignorant and backward people couldn’t produce the art, literature, and music that we’ve seen coming out of Africa for countless years. Only bright, talented minds could create a concept like Negritude, which served to celebrate and affirm the identity and cultural heritage of the peoples of Africa. Despite what they’d endured, these writers, artists, and intellectuals were able to take the best of what the colonizers had to offer and combine it with the best of what they were, while making it all uniquely their own and creating works that remain highly relevant today.And finally, while I was entertained by the works that I was exposed to in class, I was also educated by them. In The Money Order, all the red tape that confronts Ibrahima Dieng is played for comedic effect, but it’s also tragic to see a man come so close to being able to get ahead, only to have his efforts thwarted at every turn. And then, in the end, to lose everything. But then to see the same system that failed Dieng lead to the fall of one of its own in Xala just showed that nobody was safe in the wreck of a society left behind by the colonizers. Young men like Banda in Ville Cruelle, or Toundi in Houseboy, do their best to get ahead, while the people who are supposedly there to help them, their benevolent colonizers, do everything they can to hold them back. It’s fiction, but it represents a black mark in history, and while it’s uncomfortable to learn these types of things, it’s also necessary. There were some bright spots, though, like when Banda got the girl, or Aissatou transformed herself into an even better version of the woman she’d been. Or, in the case of The Dark Child, I found the entire story to be uplifting, though, since it was the first book we read, it left me sort of ill-prepared for what was to come.I didn’t know what to expect from this class, and it has been challenging at times, but also very rewarding. I love history, and I love to learn, and I learned a great deal from this class.

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