Title: Of Africa, 2012, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/of-africa-wole-soyinka/1109863491?ean=9780300140460
Author: Wole Soyinka
Genre: African, political history
Comfort level: Uncomplicated in structure, intense attention to detail and data required
Synopsis: Of Africa (2012) is a political account of the demise of a continent. Wole Soyinka does not ‘take prisoners’ when he writes his political treatises. This book is an account of all the factors which have stymied and/or annihilated the free enterprise of democracy in Africa. However, Soyinka does acknowledge to his reader that Africa, as a continent, is filled with extremes---drawing extreme reactions.
Soyinka guides his readers to reflect upon Africa’s past and present mishaps. The conflicts in Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Rwanda unfold in contrast to the Bosnian war. The scholars and developers of a new African intelligentsia are reviewed. Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and Cheikh Anta Diop are credited with conceptualizing the modern metaphysics of an Africa without borders (expanding to Europe, the Americas, the Indian continent, and the deserts of Arabia). But, the failure of Africa and African politics stunted the advancement of this concept of Africa from theory to reality.
Soyinka is a poet, a scholar, playwright and a champion of human rights. He utilizes literary aesthetics to illustrate his points as the text progresses. Readers will enjoy the infusion of the arts with the political too. But, Soyinka does not retreat into the arts. The reality of Darfur and the continuing conflicts are recognized by the author. He prompts the reader to question the role that religion has played in the decline of the continent. He cites the problems with the artificial borders in Africa (*created by an agreement fashioned by foreigners with the Berlin Treaty of 1885). But, most of all readers, Soyinka finds himself and fellow Africa to be impotent in terms of coming together and realizing the responsibility of self-government and autonomy.
Critique: I recall the impact of reading Wole Soyinka’s The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis (1997) and learning so much about Africa and the space/place that Nigeria occupied in Africa. I realized that no single country in Africa operated as a separate entity. I felt compelled to connect African-America in the discussion too. Of Africa (2012) broadens my horizons further. This book is well written in a simplistic and engaging style. Let us not forget that Soyinka can write on different levels. Most of these levels require intense deliberation and insight into Africa and African linguistics to be fully understood. Laymen often lack the ability to fully grasp his work fully. We are lucky that Of Africa permits us a temporary reprieve from the extreme intellectualism that Soyinka is noted for. Soyinka, I think, was more concerned with the message than the medium. I suggest that students of African and European culture and history read this work. The world must acknowledge the failures of Africa and the forces that have contributed to this failure. I do hope that Soyinka’s treatise and cry for justice and reform do not go without notice.