The Wretched of the Earth

The Six Mountains on African Literature College

Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong is quoted as having said that a Chinese man has three mountains on his back. The first is colonial oppression, the second is the oppression of tradition, and the third is his own backwardness. A woman, however, has a fourth mountain on her back: men. Nigerian feminist critic Molara Ogundipe argues in her essay “African Women, Culture and Another Development” that an African woman has two further mountains burdening her back: her color, and herself. An examination of post-colonial and anti-colonial African literature can illuminate the way these six mountains interact to oppress African women. The novels Nervous Conditions by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga, Xala by Senegalese author Sembène Ousmane, and The Madonna of Excelsior by South African author Zakes Mda each portray the struggles of African women facing these six forms of oppression. The novels give examples of how African women are negatively affected by indigenous traditions and colonial laws in ways that African men are able to escape, which can explain some of the problems with the creation of a national culture discussed by Frantz Fanon in his theoretical work The Wretched of the Earth. The novels suggest that both black and...

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