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In celebration of the wider sense of the relationships that exist between cultural, gender and global system dynamics, Ata Ama Aidoo Our Sister Killjoy presents us with a very pivotal work. In the entire context of this dispersed novel, the reader is led to perceive the intensity of the global forces some of which have played a very important role in shaping our 'modern African words.' The contradictions, alienations and cultural dilemmas that Aidoo explores in her local context are sourced in the global histories which Aidoo unearths through the journey that Sissie the protagonist of the novel makes to Europe and back. The novel explores an encounter between the European and the African culture demonstrating the psychological impacts that post colonialism had on African women. Sissie the young protagonist presented in this novel finds herself alienated and disillusioned by the experience she encounters on her visit to England thus in Bavaria, Germany which she eventually refers to as the 'heart of darkness.'
Aidoo presents Sissie as a character who feels so uncomfortable in regard to using a language that 'enslaved her' as she experiences a lot of racism which is accompanied by a lot of ignorance towards African values all through her journey. When Sissie's friendship reaches the blink of lesbian love she becomes disgusted and returns back to her home land Ghana. The injunction of the discomfort about using a 'language that enslaved her' in reference to Sissie can be looked at as one of the major preoccupations that Aidoo has in using the alien English language that otherwise presented a threat in erode the use of her cultural language in all works of art hence threatening the loss of the African culture to the wider western culture. In the novel Aidoo presents the cruel African past in the hands of their colonial masters who replaced their simple African culture with the complicated western one alongside the bizarre present which haunts the modern era that had authorized Sissie's visit to Europe.
The bizarreness in regard to the present mentioned above had come as a result of some cataclysmic faults back in ages in addition to huge boulders that that had been thrown between the pathways of the European and African continents. It characterizes a new dispersal epoch of the African people in a time while the whole African continent stands in dangers of getting lost in all its aspects to the wider western culture. What seem to be the pre-occupation with Aidoo is the question of Africa's place within the global confines. By the use of the phrase a language that 'enslaved her' makes the messengers of her mind come shackled demonstrates that using a language Alien to her culture leaves no room for the expression of her own culture and the passage of the message she intends to pass to communicate with its full impact. With this she therefore tends to question how the identity and culture of the African can be represented from within the global wider location if it can not get representation in African literature.
With the above highlighted problem in mind, Aidoo becomes obsessed with overcoming this problem which she successfully manages through experimenting with two different forms. The narrative forma that Aidoo employs alternates between poetry and prose. Sissie is not treated as an Omniscient narrator since other characters are also0 treated as her equal speaking in their own voices. Through this oral story telling manner Aidoo manages to directly make appeals to the readers. Through use of the two literary forms mentioned above Aidoo seems to criticize the phenomenon of dispersal or migration in the light of homogenizing national culture by narrating through Sissie the challenges that the African goes through as a result of the consensual transmission that characterized historical traditions or else the organic cultural societies that have been in the recent past been undergoing profound redefinitions.
The variations in Aidoo's approaches are very effective and unique from western literary forms. The contrast between verse and prose seem to work very well as Aidoo demonstrates full mastery of their alternation which steers the narrative very well forward. Many of Sissie's observations both in poetry and in prose are presented in an excellent manner and hence strike lines of insight. The stories work very well in regard to how Aidoo makes her best and brief observations and summed up experiences. For instance the long riffs like the one about Marija as well as the section that describes the heart transplants of Christiaan Bernard among other prose presentations are made in a very interesting manner.
Through the prose and versified forms of narrations that Sissie present to the reader in regard to her experience throughout her journeys to Europe and back which is characterized with a lot of challenges, Aidoo serves to write against the much celebrated migratory tendencies. The novel is written in a contesting form towards universality notions that are otherwise perceived as a construction of enlightenment critiquing the assumptions that many people make about destinies and histories shared in the confines of a globalized world full of possibilities that are hence exemplified in Sissie winning a scholarship to Europe. In fact as Sissie presents her narration she refutes universalism as being her conceptual narrative framework. Through this rejection of universal truths, literature and art her narration displaces the account of capitalist modernity while on the other hand offering a feminist and Afro-centric modern narrative.
In presentation of the narrative, the book is never the less presented in a form that is straight forward. Some of the sections, such as the fourth section part of the book where Sissie is seen to enter in to a dialogue that is almost mock with a lover in an effort to convey her attitudes and experiences, are presented in an epistolary form. Aside from this epistolary form that are kind of unusual some of the prose sections are merged with versified forms which often appear as mere observations and word listings. For instance, in the construction of the novel, exile is hence depicted to be a negative process which leads to further self diminishment and slavery. Sissie is however armed with the privilege of an African perspective and memory as her strategy for maintenance of the survival for the African self. She therefore provides the need for an Africans to return to their natural self that is from being regarded as simple functional objects back to a situation where they have the freedom of perceiving themselves as the stating point of a discourse that is absolute.
While the above described perspective serves as an explanation of European dominance in addition to diminishment that is otherwise post colonial, it does not provide a platform for exploration of post colonial identities that re new in regard to contemporary times. If the relational nature of difference and identity are to be stressed and so the productive tensions that exist between them then a more absolute discourse would be required. Some form of such kind of a possibility is gleaned in the somehow contradictory pulls that Sissie gives an account of in regard to her relationship with Marija, the German woman.
Readers might often be tempted to link the view point that Sissie makes to that of Aidoo such that the otherwise miss on the authors characterization. Through the paradoxes, contradictions and conflicts revealed by this kind of a relationship that the reader recognizes the problematic nature of the conceptual frame work and strategy that Sissie utilizes. Sissie has constructed the identity of Marija most probably from studying European and most specifically German history though at some point she admits that Marija might be a bit different in regard to her warm nature which is not characteristic of Bavarians. In a much similar manner the view of Marija towards Sissie often receives filtration through hers historical assumption.
Despite the above claim, is perfectly correct to say that Marija is the only person who so easily sees beyond the blackness of Sissie. The gift of plums that Marija possesses as an appropriation and seduction of the west is construed in by Sissie's self consciousness. Day in day out Marija encourages the self definition and awareness of Sissie first as an African and secondly as a woman as well as a sexual being. As Aidoo had remarked in a different context, the response that Sissie makes towards Europe comes through her African memories and it is only through her interaction with Marija that these memories derive contemporary relevance and become perfomative.
Theoretically Aidoo's constructs her story in such a manner that self construction as a process through involvement of other cultures transforms hegemonic systems through the production of resistances and discourses that counters the same. This process is presented in such a way that it has the possibility of transforming the nature countering discourse itself. Sissie is constructed as an assertion of the African self that is uncontested but between the inconsistencies and the gaps of her narrative the dichotomies that she sets up starts to crumble.
Through the use of alternate verse and prose forms O Sister Killjoy presents a unique type of cultural encounter between Africa and Europe. Sissie is presented as a character who is sure of her self identity and not in the least concerned with adaptation of by her blackness but talks and walks confidently only paying attention to what is important to her among the experiences that she encounters. She even sounds callous at times based on the fact that she knows she is in a foreign world and eventually she will return to her own.