Free «The Indigenous Personal Experiences in African Literature» Essay Sample


The history of African Civilization consisted of prosperity and cultural development accompanied by conservative and primitive life in harmony with nature. Unfortunately, the contact with European Civilization led to cruel wars and slavery which have almost completely destroyed the achievements and the world views of the previous generations. The colonization of the continent divided the land with unnatural borders, creating the internal conflicts and provoking the ethnic confrontation. Therefore, to analytically compare the books, it is not enough to read Between Tides and Shadows of Your Black Memory because both authors address the problems which have a strong historical background. Thus, in order to understand the concepts depicted by Valentin-Yves Mudimbe and Donato Ndongotrs Michael Ugarte, we should focus on both the historical events and the biography of authors. This knowledge defines the perception of the situation, in which the main characters are experiencing their intrapersonal changes. Undoubtedly, the impressions gained after reading the books are similar in their main accentuation – they both reveal broken views and attempts to resurrect the traditional views, values, and spirituality. The authors focus on the desire to change the situation which, in fact, changes the main characters. Thus, the proposed books can be perceived as a lament of the intelligent patriots and philosophers for their homeland. Mudimbe and Ugarte try to turn the mind of the global community to the problems of the ex-colonies which are struggling for survival without support from their previous seniors but with the troubles which appeared due to their prolonged intervention.

Civilizing Mission

The holistic construct of the civilizing mission was developed and proposed by Marquis de Condorcet. The idea of civilizing mission emerged in the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages to spread religion. That construct was accepted only by Portuguese and French politicians, while others, especially Protestant countries, did not have any missions except for the formation and the development of the colonies. Accordingly, the events depicted in the books can be understood differently because African countries were colonized by those who did not accept the idea of civilizing mission and by those who regarded it as a holy duty. Thus, there were rarely any manifestations of the civilizing mission. Mainly, Europeans focused on the exploitation of the indigenous population and its property with the goal of enrichment. The separate cases cannot be assumed as a representation of the specific civilizing activity. Certain landowners and religious organizations acted in order to spread their impact on a region.

The analysis of European colonization of Africa proved that Africa was on its own way to the development when the colonialists came. Moreover, African community had strong and unique culture, which was destroyed by the invaders. In fact, various ethnic groups of different background were living together peacefully. The development of the African civilization had a long history determined by the formation of strong agricultural countries, such as Zimbabwe. The continent faced several periods of colonization. The most intense point was reached by Europeans in the 19th century. That period is known as Scramble for Africa during which the country was divided between European powers. Empires chose the zones of their control and shaped the borders without taking into account the geographic and ethnic characteristics of the territory. For many years, European had been controlling Africa belittling the strength of local communities. After having obtained freedom, the majority of African states experienced political crises which usually led to the formation of the totalitarian regimes and dictatorship. In fact, new regimes gave certain direction needed for the economic and cultural development. In the books, the events occur in the period of instability, when there was no clear understanding what the future of the protagonists’ homeland should be and how they should change it. Therefore, both of the heroes of books are experiencing the uncertainty in their personality and self-identity which changes profoundly in the end. Both Pierre Landau, the converted Maoist narrator and former Catholic priest (Mudimbe 87), and unknown protagonist of Shadows of Your Black Memory, who becomes a portrayal of unnamed boy and his uncle Tio Abeso, who tries to save the tribal roots of the boy (Ndongo-Bidyogo 54), are experiencing the clash of civilizations in their lives and identity.

The heroes should perceive Africa that has no clear understanding of how to develop. Their countries are detached from historical heritage; their home is divided among different states. Mudimbe believes that there was no civilizing mission because European states aimed only to search for the enrichment and the new market (Mudimbe 74 - 85). Unfortunately, the European colonization destroyed strong communities which only started to develop. The invaders did not want to establish common good for all because they left the continent without any support to overcome the results of their intrusion. Europeans fled Africa without taking the responsibility for the troubles caused. In Between Tides, Pierre Landau compares the lifestyle and values of the white people with those of his nation (Mudimbe 74). His comparison is not a monologue of the protagonist. It is a powerful dialog addressed to European civilization which should take responsibility for the dualism in Africa. The unnamed boy from Shadows of Your Black Memory is experiencing the conflict of cultures in his life, represented by Father Ortiz (Ndongo-Bidyogo 71), as a symbol of the colonial civilization, and by Tio Abeso (Ndongo-Bidyogo 48), as a voice of the tribal roots. Both heroes should overcome the consequences of ‘civilizing mission’ in the pursuit of their true identities which have disappeared between two great traditions.

Education and Coherent Identity

Due to the political and cultural situations described in the books, the identities of both protagonists experience the clash of traditions and civilizations. In case of Pierre Landau, this is the clash of Catholic religion and Maoism. The narrator is related to the personality of the author. Valentin Mudimbe is a philosopher whose views were influenced by European philosophy and driven by an ambition to discover new African philosophy. Mudimbe outlined the "archeology of African knowledge" with an original list of language that could guarantee the conceptual autonomy of Africa. Therefore, the clash of ideologies in his book can be not only a monologue of the protagonist but also a philosophical discussion of his ideas shaped in form of the identity pursuit of Pierre. The education in this story correlates with the ideology which is based on the Catholic background of author’s biography and on the experience obtained during his life in Italy. Pierre keeps his religious views on the events of his homeland throughout the story. However, his ideas toward the church and revolution (Mudimbe 150-151) and toward his own changing nature (Mudimbe 160) transform from strong beliefs for which he was reproached by his mother (Mudimbe 53-54) to more skeptical. Finally, the education is the source of self-reflection which provokes the changes in the personality of the protagonist. However, there is a hidden side of education which relates to the development of the inner world of the protagonist and his own perception of the African spiritual perception of Christianity (Mudimbe 83, 155).

In Shadows of Your Black Memory, the situation is much more different. The story also relates to the personal background of Ndongo, a writer and journalist. Unnamed boy and his uncle Tio Abeso represent a simple life of people who try to find the truth. Their experiences might be less dramatic, but they are not less important. The unnamed boy lives between two cultures. The education for him is the harmonious combination of the cultures. He learns from Father Ortiz (Ndongo-Bidyogo 71) and from Tio Abeso (Ndongo-Bidyogo 33, 48) to shape his own beliefs which reflects the ideas of the author, who states that the modern culture of Equatorial Guinea is the unification of Spanish Catholic culture and Guinean tribal spirituality. In the book, there is no strong relation to education but rather to the inheritance which the boy explores during the communication with his spiritual leaders. Therefore, Shadows of Your Black Memory supports the idea of acceptance the narratives of the two great cultures of which the protagonist is lost. After finishing this book, one cannot feel that the story ends. The unnamed boy is thinking to become a Catholic priest, but he feels tribe’s blood in himself. Thus, he appears on the crossroads because his identity cannot be defined by the imposed education of foreign culture (Ndongo-Bidyogo 169). Thus, the education in both books allows the protagonists to have a choice. However, the necessity to make a choice might cause unresolved inner issues which hinder the development of the characters in the complex environment.

Success or Fail

The confrontation of the ideologies and cultures in both books has a different outcome for their protagonists. In Between Tides, Pierre experiences the transformation of his personality. Finally, the coherent identity will appear after the end of the story because he faces the tragic catharsis of his personality development which ruins the outer constructs. The hero reaches the understanding of his own personality. However, the author does not give a reader any explanations regarding the enlightenment of the main character. The audience can easily perceive how the roots of Pierre’s personality are changing because he should choose between two different ideologies (Mudimbe 158-160). However, Mudimbe proposes that Pierre will be incoherent if he chooses only one direction in his future development. We could understand it from the story of author’s life, which intertwines Maoism and Christianity. Mudimbe vividly transfers his philosophy on his character. In contrast, the unnamed boy does not form the coherent identity because he simply postpones his decision between the cultures. The author tries to persuade a reader that unnamed boy reaches the harmonious combination of Christianity and tribalism in his identity. However, the unnamed boy has strong doubts if Catholic Church can accept his affinity with his tribal spirituality. This conflict will always be inside of the boy and will lead to the crossroads in future.


The ideas of both stories are extremely similar. The books depict the concepts of their authors who are solving the same problems of past and present. In their daily life, they should combine Catholic ideology, political ideology of the nominative democracy, and tribal spirituality. Mudimbe represents the story of Pierre, stressing his personal intrinsic conflict between Christianity and Maoism and reaching the idea of their unification through the rethinking of his identity. However, the skepticism developed in the personality of Pierre allows him to reach a coherent personality, while the personality of the unnamed boy, proposed by Ndongo-Bidyogo, is left on the crossroads. The boy is trying to avoid the choices and pretends to combine the ideologies which should not be combined. Thus, both authors represent complex problems of African communities which struggle to combine their past and present in order to establish strong and healthy development.


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