Wole Soyinka: TERRORISM, AFRICAN LANGUAGES AND THE 21ST CENTURY

ABSTRACT FOR THE SOYINKA FESTIVAL

TERRORISM, AFRICAN LANGUAGES AND THE 21ST CENTURY

BY UDUMA KALU

One effect the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States of America has had on Africa is that it laid the secrurity forces of the continent open to the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (the FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency than ever.
But a fundamental effect the attack has had on the US is that America has woken up from its insularity to try
and study those cultures it once did not consider worthy of importance.
A Nigerian, Okwui Enwezor, Dokumenta 11 curator, in view of this said: ” September 11 should perhaps be framed as the instance of the full emergence of the margin to the centre.” He believes that The Ground Zero it created could become a metaphor for “the founding instance of the reckoning to come with Westernism after colonialism ; that is, a ” ground clearing gesturing of the tabular rasa,” a beginning of the ethics and politics of constituting a new order of global society.”
But while America is turning its attention to the rest of the world, some researchers like Ali Mazrui, Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies and Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Binghamton University, State University of New York at Binghampton, New York, USA argues in an essay captioned Between Terrorism and Wars of the Liberation: From Dedan Kimathi to Osama Bin Laden that “Africa has been caugtht in the crossfire soon after when President Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of an apparently harmless pharmacy near Khartoum. President Roland Reagan ordered the bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya because Reagan thought that Libyans were reponsible for a bomb in a German bar which killed Americans.”
Mazuri continued by saying that violence between the Americans and the Middle East has been spilling over into Africa for decades .
For example, after explaining another September 11 effect on Africa where some heads of states held sympathy matches for US, and and the resultant violent crises that greeted America’s reprisal on Afghanistan attack in some parts of Nigeria where some Muslims rose up in defence of bin Laden leaving many people dead, Mazrui said, “September 11 has had other consequences for Africa. The security forces of Africa have opened their doors to the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (the FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency than ever, if Africa ever had any.”
It is against these two backgrounds that I hope to present a paper on TERRORISM, AFRICAN LANGUAGES AND THE 21ST CENTURY . I will anchor most of my examples on the works of Professor Wole Soyinka as well as other African writers.
I will therefore have to look at the shifting and disappearing uses of African languages since the continent had its first contact with the Middle East and the West.
Here, I will discuss the role of language in maintaining equal relationships and what happens to that language when the position shifts and one becomes a conqueror and the other, the vanguished.
This is where slavery and the suppression of African languages come in. I will give instances of language suppression by the enslaving and colonising languages during the slave trade as well as the role of the imperial languages through official policies to dethrone and replace African languages as media of communication and instruction.
The part imperial languages played in terms of aiding the colonial governments to rule over vast and diverse linguistic areas will be discussed just as I will highlight the effect of this on the elites that cropped up through colonial education to decide the affairs of the new independent nations.
But most importantly, the essay will discuss the place of African languages after colonialism, with suggestions on how to develop and make African languages media for scholarly discourse, in all fields of human endeavour.
To this end, therefore, I hope to bring out the factors militating against the use of African languages and why Africans must use, write, think and express themselves in their own languages as continued use of the colonising languages in a large way reinforces the Western notion that we have no language and so must evolve by imitating the cultures of the west.
From such argument will emerge the fact that Africa will remain an unstable and impoverished continent by its continued use of foreign languages with particular reference to the NEPAD and the AU.
I will equally give statistic details of how Western and Middle East languages continue to prey and terrorise our African languages so much that some of them in Southern Africa, the Cameroun-Nigeria Border as well as those in Nigeria’s Niger -Delta are dying or have died in the last 100 years.
I will explain how African languages can become universal languages and so become meta languages for scholarly works in the world of learning, because, for now, as Chief Victor Nwankwo, managing Director of Fourth Dimension Publishers, Enugu, says in a paper on Print-on- Demand: An African Publisher’s Experience, in Abuja, at the first Nigerian International Book Fair , last May, African languages are nothing but “talking languages”. They must cross this basic description and become languages of discourse, of diplomacy, international relations, literature and criticism, science and technology, medicine, computer and others.
But first why are researchers worried that African languages are dying, with some of them even predicting that the major languages of the continent are under threat?
For me the preying on, taking over and cannibalisation of African languages is an act of terrorism. And like the United States, the continent has to learn how to preserve and use its languages for it to develop and take its place in the comity of nations.
By pointing out the merits of having African languages as media of discourse I will debunk arguments advanced by some writers against using African languages for their literary works. I will share the view of Ngugi wa Thiong’o that those that utilise African myths and stories in their foreign language literary works do not necessarily represent the continent well but are also agents in the exploitation and cannibalisation of African languages since they do not add anything to the African cultures but only take away from them.
This brings up the issue of translation which I will argue has both good and bad effects as it misrepresents as well as brings to the notice of a foreign language speaker, the existence of a strange experience from other cultures as well as misrepresent the original culture it purports to present as that culture can only be well represented in its own language.
I will then move on to discuss how only few non African language texts, including those by Africans, have been translated into African languages by arguing that African languages have benefitted marginally from both their works in foreign languages by Africans and from works in foreign languages by non Africans. This, in my view, is our fight this 21st century, which is to restore the image and dignity of African languages.

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5 Responses to “Wole Soyinka: TERRORISM, AFRICAN LANGUAGES AND THE 21ST CENTURY”

  1. murblja Says:

    Nice.

  2. Finbarrs Oketunji Says:

    This is a well drafted article I must confess and with your explanation I have been enlightened about how Africa and its languages were and are still been terrorized. Reading the article has been realise that most of the foreign languages were the only leverage colonial masters still have over the continent; and while we were celebrating and rejoicing our independence all they did was to stay on top with their heads down like a bat watching our deeds. Uhm!!! It’s like they knew we wouldn’t have control over our continent because of the ethnic miscellany, history also made it clear that they were the ones who created difference between us citing the example of what the Belgians and Germans did to the people of Rwanda. Their favouritism of the Tutsi’s over the Hutu’s almost ruined Rwanda and the Tutsi’s share a larger part of the blame for ignorantly giving in to their deceit not knowing they were separating their country. Practising non-interventionism is Africa’s only way out of this bondage that we call civilisation and if you look closely most of the Asian countries that practised non-interventionism and Isolationism are the countries that survived the overrated term called civilisation (The Modern day slavery using their language and way of life to imprison the rest forever). Africa no doubt was the source of the economic growth and stability of the West, and the presence of Petroleum companies in Africa will continue to stabilize their economy. They are doing nothing but stealing from us indirectly by extracting our natural resources and exporting outside our country for it to be refined and in the long run will be sold to us back. Finally, our leaders should start seeing a clear picture that Africa’s future is fading into black and that their greediness is ruining the promising future of tomorrow. Their greediness is making thousands if not millions of talents to flee the continent and they’ll keep on moving out of Africa to where their endowment can be exploited with a non failing security. I have more to say but I will put a stop to it here…and thank you for posting the article, it was really educative and informative.

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  5. Nieruchomości online Says:

    Interesting article just yet my English is in the learning phase so I can not comment on it better and I apologize for the developer blog … I also greet the other readers and commenters

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