Skip to main content

Teaching English Literature

The role of English and French literature was to perpetuate the perceived superiority of such languages in occupied territories in Africa and Asia. 

There are still English lit students and I don't know how the subject is taught today. I’m a qualified teacher and for the life of me, I cannot remember how we were trained to teach literature. 
I must add that literature meant only British books such as Jane Eyre, not A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth from India, not Inkinsela yase Mgungundlovu by Sibusio Nyembezi from South Africa, not Simone de Beuavoir from France and not Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison of the United States.
My own literature experience was plain torture because I did not understand a thing in the Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man or even Charles Dickens.  All I know is that the boy Charles was constantly hungry and he was in a home of some sort. 
I resorted to memorising or cramming, as students called it.  Just commit to memory as many details as possible so that I could crawl through the literature paper torture chamber.
I enjoy British literature now because I had the misfortune of being exiled from my country of birth.  I found myself in Durham, England courtesy of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) that decided that I should be ‘educated’ so that I could feed and clothe myself. 
I realise in hindsight that it was mis-education, because it was designed to do one thing, destroy and debase the knowledge and wisdom of African, Ojibway, Sioux, Assiniboine, Hindustani, Maori, and other aboriginal people. 
Literature was at the helm of this process.  I’m the lucky one.  I finally discovered the joy of literature after my British degree.  I had the will to crawl back to the British library in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. 
I re-discovered British literature at my pace.  I was in England for three years and therefore understood the accents and how they determined one’s future in British society.  I even enjoyed Yes Minister, the British television series starring Nigel Hawthorne.
I can hear volcanoes of dissent.  It is not necessary to visit Britain to enjoy British literature, they gurgle.  I beg to differ.  It is.  The English that is spoken in the East End of London is not the same as the one spoken in Harrow or Knightsbridge.  I went to Durham University, but I was also exposed to Arthur Scargill and the northern coalmines. 
English teachers in Africa, in their zeal to project England as the perfect country that had gone to South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the massive United States of America to save the natives forgot to tell us about British imperfections. 
People who still believe that English is the only language worth knowing lose out great books and films that are not born in Britain and its former occupied territories.  They are not educated, period.


Popular posts from this blog

Black Panther Africa Here and There

Black Panther is about Wakanda a fictionalized country in Africa, but it has delightful snippets of the real Africa.

The movie has tall people, like Kenya’s and Sudan’s sons and daughters. Dora Milaje, the royal guard supervised by Okoye (Danai Gurira) is composed of tall women.Okoye is a common surname or family name in Nigeria, as in Oge Okoye, the actress. There are also scenes where men on horseback are wearing colourful blankets, a common sight in Lesotho, the country surrounded by South Africa.Locals, the Basotho, call these blankets seana marena.The country’s beauty sinks in as one drives from Maseru the capital, up to Leribe and further up the mountains.Great roads too.

Costume design.That’s another snippet about Africa. There is Angela Bassett’s character looking regal, in what is called isicholo in Zulu.Well! it looks like isicholo, a married woman’s headdress. You probably saw the re-mixed version of isicholo in what Beyonce is wearing in the Sorry video. They also speak isiXh…

Black Panther Casting

Chadwick Boseman sure looks like a younger John Kani in Black Panther.That is why the movie won the Best Casting category in my little awards.  Envelope please!

Kani plays King T’Chaka.Boseman is T’Challa, his son.What a striking resemblance.It reminds me of my arrival in New York City some years ago.I used to stare at African Americans because they looked like a cousin, uncle, neighbour, teacher, friend, doctor or someone on the bus. Sure, we learnt about slavery at school, how slave traders stole Africans and how internal wars between chiefs also led to humans being taken to another continent in chains. But being in America, seeing people who look like your world, in Africa, was painful.

“Death is better than bondage.” That is what one character said in Black Panther.Was it Erik Killmonger?I’m not sure but I will double check when I go back.Yes, again.The movie is a cinematic buffet.Don’t talk with your mouth full, as mama would say. We gave the film the Best Casting category for other…

Toddlers And Thanksgiving

Toddlers wail and holler because of boring parents, not because of presumed reasons.

He is wet.
She must be hungry. Toddlers cry because parents are predictable.Getting into the stroller is either good or bad news.Good news if it is going out of the apartment or house to interact with the world, bad news if it is going back home to spend another day fenced in, like convicted criminals.

They can have beautiful pink or blue rooms with toys bought from Toys “R” Us, before the business filed for bankruptcy, but toddlers want more, to touch and feel the world.They itch for adventure. That is why they smile at strangers, extend their tiny hands to touch the bus window, point at dogs and run around the mall with mum in hot pursuit. Toddlers are not born equal.Toddlers in the north of the world spend most of their time indoors staring at blowing snow while their counterparts down south in Africa drive their brothers and sisters crazy, because they want to follow them everywhere.Rain is the only t…