FEMINIST CONSCIOUSNESS IN SEFI ATTA’S EVERYTHING GOOD WILL COME AND SWALLOW

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CHAPTER ONE

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

The major subject matter of female writers in the world of literature was for the emancipation of woman from every form of ill-treatment and mischief which mere tradition reduced them into.

In the real sense, women were subjected, suppressed and subjugated by their male counterpart just because tradition made it so. They could not share a better place with the men. The above view gave the female writers in Africa a platform through which their protests were felt heavily. This group of female writers was first called feminists because they focused their writings and arguments etc. on what they called “feminism” which aimed at emancipating the womenfolk totally from the slums of life and giving them a better position to enjoy everything that life offers.

However, in the world view, feminism means the movement which supports equal rights for women with their male counterparts as propounded by Charles Fourier, the French philosopher. But the approach of female writers in Africa towards feminism differs from the western notion. It also differs from culture to culture, from society to society, from race to race and people to another. No doubt, feminism to western writers is a movement or struggle to have equal rights with the males. Equal right in marriage, politics, economy etc. but to female writers in Africa, their protest is to be recognized and emancipated from all forms of subjection, subjugation, prejudices, suppression, oppression, ill-treatment that they were meted with. To a great extent, the African women were stench in the hand of tradition, norms and culture. In fact, they had no breathing space to complain and have their feelings expressed. This is so because their voices and opinions were not allowed nor permitted to be heard or aired. In the light of the above revelation, so many notable African feminists arose and fought against women subjugation and were happy to be celebrated among women folks.

It is therefore worthy of note to say that feminism gave birth to whatever positions that our women especially those of them that are in the literary world occupy today.

The major concern of female writers in modern African literature is re-entrenchment of women and/or female related aspects of selected statement into contemporary discourse. The focus here is to examine the society’s capacity to maintain harmony and equilibrium using some recognized predictions embedded in the selected indigenous core statements. The female writers also directed their literary works to politics, leadership, economy, religion, etc. to bring to light the problem inherent in them. The discrimination which they faced before now was that any text authored by female writer is never valued no matter how interesting the work might be. Authors like Dr. NgoziChuma-Udeh, Flora Nwapa, BuchiEmecheta, CathrineAcholonu, Teresa Meniru, AdoraUlasi, AkachiAdimora-Ezeigbo, KaineAgary, Sefi Atta, Marilyn Heward etc. have had to contend against this syndrome in their numerous works.

When these female writers started wiring their feministic tentacles in the literary world, feminism was much a plea for life, a plea for the opportunity and chance to live a fulfilled life, a yearning for women or girls empowerment in education etc. This is because the possibility of tradition in the society restricted African women in their biological role as wives and mothers. Marilyn Heward Mill proved this in her novel The Cloth Girl, Matilda the major character faced the ordeal of early marriage. Hasn’t she been forced into the said marriage, she was told to count it all joy for what does a woman expect of her marriage if not to have children and the husband who will provide for the children.

This notion was carried into all the spheres of the society and it governed the minds of so many individuals. No doubt, this notion and ideology reared its head into the arena of African literature where women were strongly banned in a shallow corner. Their freedom was restricted to the favour of male authored texts.

Sefi Atta has two major novels to her credit, Everything Good Will Come (2006) and Swallow, (2010). Atta has published a number of plays, among which are: Makinwa’s Miracle (2004)The Engagement (2005), A Free Day (2007), The Cost of Living (2011). The Cost of Living was commissioned for the 2011 Lagos Heritage Festival. The Naming Ceremony was performed during actress Joke Sylva’s 50th birthday in September, 2011. Hagel Ouf Zamfara was premiered at theatre Krefeld Germany; this play is an adaptation of Atta’s short story “Hailstones”. Sefi Atta has remained one of the most prolific writers of our time. Her novels in particular are defining modus for future prose writing in Nigeria. Her stories are compelling and she brings artistic innovations and experimentations to bear. Her stint with the theatre also helped in enlivening her works. Atta is a bold and courageous writer who is ready to make her mark in the Nigerian literary landscape. Everything Good Will Come won the inaugural Wole Soyinka price for literature in Africa in 2006. Her short story collection News From Home, won the NOMA Award for publishing in Africa in 2009.

The reviews that have trailed the publication of Everything Good will Come attest to Atta’s genius. The Time Literary Supplement observes that the novel “depicts the struggle women face in a conservative society” Sunday Independent observes that the novel is about “the resilience of Lagosians”. These and many other reviews greeted the birth of Everything Good Will Come.

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