African literature is rich, combining both aspects of art and content in it. It offers the audience or the reader a deep understanding of the truths and values of a given society. Various authors from and beyond Africa have written a lot of materials, published them, and earned recognition world wide. To fully understand African literature, one has to consider three distinct aspects namely the postcolonial literature, colonial literature, and post colonial literature.
The Pre-Colonial Era
Before the colonial era, there were numerous forms of literature from various parts of Africa. Tales, poetry, and narratives would be told and sung, mostly touching on the values of the society.. The main focus of the literature was instilling values to the members of the society. It would also entertain people during work and ceremonies. Though most of the work was not documented, it would be very popular in the society because it was passed from one generation to another. It was also in form of the native languages.
The colonial era literature was characterized by people writing in western languages. Plays were introduced in this period. The most outstanding works would be recognized world over. The main focus of the literature was highlighting the issue that Africans were going through, including slave trade and a change of values. Towards the end of colonialism, many African writers focused on the themes of independence and liberation. The suffering of the African man would be highlighted, while at the same time, ideas on how to seek for independence would be creatively written. One good example of this literature is the Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe of Nigeria.
African Literature Today
Lastly, the postcolonial literature has been characterized with the highlighting of the social problems in the society such as dictatorship and corruption. Some writers have also chosen local languages to express their concerns and to make an emphasis on societal values. Some of the literature has been studied and appreciated in various parts of the world. More so, the outstanding writers have won big awards such as the Nobel Prize.
It is also easy to identify conflicting themes as Africans struggle to find their identity. Modern society is influenced by the Christianity, western culture, and education, which further makes it hard for writers to come up with values that define Africans well. Nonetheless, in all types of African literature, people can understand the pressing issues in the society. Indeed, there is so much one can learn by focusing on the pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial forms of African literature.
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