Coming of Age

Coming of age is a theme of modern African literature, and it is somehow touched on by almost all prominent writers. Some have dedicated their storytelling to the transition from child to adulthood. Adolescence is the most crucial period in our life, extremely trying, especially to those who are living in shattered homes or in societies that are themselves involved in transitioning from traditional to western lifestyle. Some African writers describe traditional rites of initiation and the effect these have had on their consciousness. We learn that, for men especially, these rites have a compelling effect on their souls and their awareness of whatever challenges might lie ahead, leaving them ready to cope with the hard experiences of life. Some writers, many of them female, deal with characters that struggle against the rules of their communities and undergo inner turmoil during their growth as human beings. But whatever male or female writers focus on, almost always, political and/or social conflicts create obstacles to coping with the thresholds of coming of age. Some deal with family, friends, or community issues. while others experience the cruelty in the world through war, violence, death, and racism.

African Girls’ Education

Tsitsi Dangarembga, born in Zimbabwe, has contributed one of the first African “written by a woman, entitled “Nervous Conditions”.  Tsitsi Dangarembga grew up in rural Africa, thirty years ago. At that time, girls were not able to go to school. But when her brother became ill and died, she had the opportunity to take his place in school. Being educated in black schools of South Africa during the era of apartheid was a humiliating experience. Miriam Mathabane attended a black school during the last decade of apartheid. In “Miriam’s Song”, she describes the humiliating circumstances of school life – and of her social life. It is something like a miracle that she finally grew to become what she desired, despite her depressing experiences. South African writer Kagiso Lesego Molope describes post-apartheid education in her novel, “The Mending Season”.  Though she writes of her experiences only a decade later, it seems to be a quantum leap in time, given the changes. Her heroine is one of the first to attend a “mixed” school. This offers her the chance to become whatever she wants, but it puts on her the heavy weight of coping with racism.

Coming of Age – A tender Voice from Africa

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells about a Nigerian teenage girl in a chaotic Nigerian family ruled by a fanatic Catholic patriarch. Her novel, “Purple Hibiscus”, is not an autobiographical account – though the frightening events she describes seem all too real – but nonetheless, she tells an authentic story about the life of an upper-class family in modern Nigeria, whose values are influenced by missionary education and postcolonial European power.

Coming of Age – A virile Voice from Africa

Sexual awakening is at the centre of Lewis Nkosi’s novel, “Mandela’s Ego”. In the beginning of the hero’s story, there is an emotional loss which forces the protagonist to begin his journey through postcolonial Africa. He knows little of his journey’s goal – until his idol, Nelson Mandela, is set free from prison.