Books

War, Religion, Rape: Female African Authors Tell it All in Rabat

Chaima Lahsini

Rabat - Eight novelists from throughout the African continent shared their visions on African women's literature at a literary fair held in Rabat on Thursday as part of the cultural event called “Afrique en Capitale”.

During the panel, held in the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI) under the theme "Voices of Women", Scholastique Mukasonga (Rwanda), Leila Abouzeid (Morocco), Rabâa Abdelkefi (Tunisia), Nora Amin (Egypt), Sefi Atta (Nigeria), Khadi Hane (Senegal) Latifa Baqa (Morocco) and Siham Bouhlal (France / Morocco) discussed their thoughts on the state of African women's literature.

This event was initiated by the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) in partnership with the Moroccan Agency for International Cooperation (AMCI), the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco, the FNM and the International University of Rabat (UIR).

Driss Al-Yazami, president of the CNDH, said he was pushed to initiate the event by his interest and admiration of the African women's literature. “I wanted this event to be a moment of discovery, I wanted to share with others this literature that so deeply touched me, and delve into literary journeys as diverse as these rich women.”

Wounds into Words

The authors on the panel  haven take their pens and express themselves, motivated by the desire to translate their wounds into words, to advocate for the rights of their compatriots, denounce the heavy weight of the traditions, change the mentalities, demand social changes and value women.

War, racism, religion, genocide, rape – the women tell it all in a poignant show of strength and resistance. Their texts, while different in content and style relate the same stories,  of women who persisted in the face of immense, women who dared to relate the tell of a bloody history, but who carry their battle scars with pride and do not back away from the truth.

“To not forget.” Scholastique Mukasonga replied simply at Ammi’s question “Why do you write?”. The Rwandan author explained how it was the genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsis in 1994 that made of her a writer. “Writing has been a way of mourning for me and, with my books, I’ve woven a shroud for those whose bodies, buried in mass graves or scattered in ossuaries, are lost forever.”

Her words echoed in the captivated hall. “I survived my people’s genocide because I could write, and when I finally found the courage to go home to Nyamata, I realized that I had a duty of remembrance.”

She continued, “I was somehow the memory-bearer for those whose very existence – whose every trace – the génocidaires had wanted to wipe out and deny.”

Mukasonga wasn’t the only one to relate Africa’s bloody history. Nora Amin, an Egyptian author, director and actress, left the audience is silent tears as she read an extract of her latest book “Migrating the Feminine”, describing the chilling rapes of many women in Maydan Al-Tahrir.

Women against Prejudice

Amin’s essay is a fearless attempt to find an answer to what it means to be a woman in a society full of prejudice, contempt, anger and transgression against the female, in all ages and in all forms. Her text is personal, passionate and political.

“Writing for me is resistance, it’s uncovering silenced truths. Writing through the voice of a woman means erasing a history of shame, it means revolting against a patriarchal system, it means telling the stories of heroines, women who went through unimaginable anguish but are everything but victims.”

Her voice was strong in a time full of confusion, and her language, vibrant and poetic, didn’t fail to make the women sitting in the audience quiver in awe.

In the 21st century, African literature appears to be essentially feminine, with the emergence of great novelists in all regions and languages of the continent that bear both the aspirations of African women and African people.

“Voices of Women” was an opportunity to meet the great names of women is African literature women in heartwarming and passionate debates that allowed the public to cast a new look on the works of novelists of different nationalities and immerse themselves in their respective universes.

“Through this event, I hope that people will be curious enough to read this rich and fascinating literature, to dare and discover the beauty of Africa through the text of these awe-inspiring women,” concluded Al-Yazami.

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