|Anthills of the Savannah|
ENGL306 Post/Colonial Writing: Africa Lecture 2: Anthills of the Savannah Chinua Achebe – writer of Nigeria
· Achebe was born 1930 in Ogidi village, E. Nigeria
· Christian family (father a catechist for Church Missionary Society – Christian vs traditional village life (See
· Ibo medium education, then English
· Government College to University College, Ibadan (medicine then literature)
· Radio broadcasting career then academic career and writer in Nigeria and USA primarily
· Things Fall Apart (1958) then another 4 novels plus other writings “universally regarded as the progenitor of modern African literature in English…” (Nkosi)
· Widely honoured
· Achebe on ‘crisis of the soul’
b) reconstruct the past, especially colonial period
c) undertake an imaginative interpretation of social history – ‘weaver of fictions’
· Achebe interested in the period of colonial rule in Africa (particularly Nigeria) a) phase of actual conquest; b) period of resistance by colonised; c) contemporary post-independence stage in which African society tries to reorder itself· Brief run through Things Fall Apart, No Longer At Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People, Anthills of the Savannah in terms of concerns and positioning historically· ‘Writers should give headaches!’ (Ikem in Anthills) *********************** ENGL306 Post/Colonial Writing: Africa Lecture 3 Anthills of the Savannah
BBC film from “Writers in Conversation” series: Chinua Achebe in conversation with Nuruddhin Farah on African literature, the language question, definitions of writing, themes, African literature in film, tasks of the writer, etc
ENGL306 Post/Colonial Writing: Africa Seminar 1 Anthills of the Savannah (1987) Chinua Achebe Part 1: Storytelling from different perspectives
Achebe in Anthills of the Savannah shows a postcolonial, fragmented African world where there are disparate narrative voices within conflicting time frames. To try to illustrate this (changing perspectives, ‘reading against the grain’), try the following exercise and the questions that follow:
“Little Red Riding Hood” (Brothers Grimm)
In pairs, tell the story from the point of view of
Ø The girl
Ø Her grandmother
Ø The wolf
Ø The huntsman
Ø The authors
Ø Whose account is most valid?
Ø Why did you arrive at this conclusion?
Ø What, if anything, do you achieve by having multiple narrative voices?
Apply the above 3 questions to Anthills of the Savannah.
Part 2: Simon Gikandi “The Story and the Postcolonial World: Anthills of the Savannah”
(in Course Reader 2)
Answer the following questions based on pp125-131 of this article
i) What is the potential danger point for Achebe’s claims for the storyteller made in the opening quotation?
ii) P127 Achebe’s 2 primary ideological concerns, according to Gikandi, are “the need to reinterpret the past to understand the present” and a “determination to break outside the vicious cycle of history to seek new possibilities”. How are these 2 concerns illustrated in Anthills of the Savannah?
iii) P128 “the narrative redeploys the African space as heterogenous and multiple” – what does this mean and what evidence is there of this in the novel?
iv) P130-31 the elder from Abazon “isolates three functions of narrative which are clear indicators of the way Achebe would prefer to see his own postcolonial intellectual project”:
Ø Stories have dispersed (or plural) meanings
Ø Stories are avatars of collective memories
Ø Stories have an erratic character
Put these functions in your own words and apply to the narrative of Anthills of the Savannah – do these functions apply to this novel?
v) P131 “But my initial question still remains: why does Achebe find it necessary to make the story an issue in the text…?” Your answer?Part 3: Return class test on Heart of Darkness
Feedback and discussion
ENGL306 Post/Colonial Writing: Africa Lecture 4 Anthills of the Savannah (1987)
· Nigerian independence from Britain 1963
· Nigerian Civil War 1966-70 :
Dispute between Ibo and other 3 major groups in Nigeria; declaration of the Republic of Biafra in 1967 – Achebe joined the Biafran Ministry of Information, represented Biafra as a diplomat. Ongoing hostilities between federal troops and Biafran army (oil fields in Biafra). Biafra starved into submission by Jan 1970. Ojukwu fled the country. AoS Achebe’s first novel after the civil war – much of this time feeds into the novel
Ikem’s “Hymn to the Sun” pp30-33 (heat, drought, corruption)
Ikem’s “love letter” pp97-101 (women, politics)
Abazon leader’s speech pp122-28 (warriors, storytelling)
Ikem’s speech and discussion at the University of Bassa pp155-61 (role of the writer)
Naming ceremony chapter 18 (new way forward)
· Neocolonialism – Said’s essay on “Decolonization”: old colonial structures remain with new (black) elite in old colonial positions
· Sam as military man brought to power by coup – unprepared for office therefore calls in friends eg
· Chris – justifies his cynical, aloof position (read 974). Achebe does not endorse this position
· Ikem by contrast is firebrand oppositionist. Compassion for underclasses but no organic involvement. Reckless editorials critiquing Sam and Cabinet, however, doesn’t advocate revolution “Go home and think! I cannot decree your pet text-based revolution.” (read p158 address to students)
· Beatrice gives insight to importance of western opinion to postcolonial African leaders eg American journalist at Sam’s party (read p78-80). Lectures Sam plus dignatories on necessity to maintain high levels of foreign debt. Beatrice’s response – to protect Sam; his response: “Oh don’t be such a racist, Beatrice. I am surprised at you. A girl of your education!”
· Achebe closest to Ikem but not reckless. Eager to rise above oppressive conditions – signals a new political space in the naming ceremony: prominence of women, uses old traditions but now in a new way; gender, religion and class mix present
ENGL306 Post/Colonial Writing: Africa Seminar 2 : Anthills of the Savannah (1987) Part 1: ‘Meta-events’ in the text:
There are a number of what can be called ‘meta-events’ in the novel. These important passages provide the reader with insights ‘from above’ (in some instances) into the narrative, and, significantly, Achebe’s task as teacher-writer. In small groups or pairs, consider each ‘meta-event’ below and
1. “Hymn to the Sun” pp30-33 (“Great Carrier of Sacrifice to the Almighty…and hold the knife, to seek help of them”)
2. “Love Letter” pp97-101 (“The original oppression of Woman…paradoxical cavern of Mother Idoto”)
3. Idemili pp102-105 (“That we are surrounded by deep mysteries…the consternation of his compound and his funeral”)
4 Abazon elder’s speech pp123-128 (“To some of us the Owner of the Word…True our fathers were defeated but they tried”)
5. Ikem’s talk to students pp 157-161 (“The charge of elitism never fails to amaze me…thank you to Mr Osodi for a most entertaining evening”)
6. Naming ceremony pp222-229 (“She picked up the tiny bundle from its cot…The life of Kangan/ Ise”)Part 2: Debate on Achebe’s portrayal of women’s roles
Elleke Boehmer in her article in Course Reader 1 entitled “Of Goddesses and Stories: gender and a new politics in Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah” says the following:
“Yet the question that remains to be asked is whether the new moment indeed represents a thoroughgoing revision of ideas of power and leadership – in Ikem’s terms a ‘new radicalism’ – or whether it remains in the main emblematic, a public enshrining of a canonized and perhaps stereotyped ‘womanly’ authority set up as a last resort in the face of a depraved political situation” (p103)
In 2 teams, debate this question – for and against. In the preparation of your argument look at what else Boehmer has to say, plus you could also draw on Innes pp157-158, 160 (course reader 1); and Gikandi pp145-148 (course reader 2). You will need to choose from each side your debaters and structure the argument. You will have 20 minutes to prepare and each side may speak for 5 minutes.