In an essay titled post-colonialism in africa: whereto? Published in Body, Identity, Sub-Cultures and Repression in Texts from Africa, edited by Johannes A. Smit, S.M. Qono writes;
Literature, expressed in the aesthetic is -“a sensory embodiment of those aspects of objective social relations (including the assimilation of the forces of nature) which promote or do not promote the harmonious development of the individual, his free creation of the beautiful, his realisation of the noble and heroic, his struggle against the ugly and the base.”
It also includes – “the subjective aspect – man’s enjoyment of the free display of his creative abilities and powers, of the beauty of the products of his creative activity in all spheres of social and private life ( labour, social relations, everyday life, culture) ( A Dictionary of Philosophy).”
The essay continues to declare that Literature generally developed or originated about 2,500 years ago in Babylon, China, Egypt and India. It was also largely developed in Greece … and continues to give examples of the literary luminaries of that era.
But I am noting this, because there appears to be a missing link, or a nuanced appreciation of what constitutes literature, and there seems to be a biased and conservative view of what constitutes literature and also what are its functions. Yet in all fairness, Qono’s essay is a brilliant article on how the west and the rest of us come to interpret the world through stories and clash of cultures. What results from the interactions between cultures, the confrontations and the reactions to impositions is not always negative, but the levels of assimilation are skewed.
As Qono rightly points out that ‘economic relations are the basis of all social life.’ Hence the reasons for the state of social life in Africa must be sought in all its economic activities. In other words, we cannot afford to seek a revolutionary or trans-formative human relations when the levels of socio-economic inequality continue. For us to develop socially, there needs to be a continent wide reassessment of the borders and the borderlines of nations and states. We can tell our stories and trade among each other more effectively if we begin to operate on the basis of equality and a pan-Afrikan outlook.