n Mousaion - Rethinking childhood in African literature

Volume 29, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0027-2639



The aim of this article is to explore the depiction of childhood in three African texts. (2007), written by the Nigerian author Uwem Akpan, is used to illustrate the ideological challenges that arise when adult authors write for and about children. (Magosvongwe, Chirere & Zondo 2008) and (Nyathi 2009) contain short stories written by child-authors from Zimbabwe. These two collections of short stories demonstrate how children who write about their lives affirm as well as contest the ways in which adult authors depict the lives of African children. The article argues that although creates narratives of African childhood informed by the desire to critique the forces that exploit children in Africa, the text falls short of elaborating possible and alternative identities of children outside the image of victim. Although the child-authored texts may authorise an alternative image of childhood in African literature, the images so generated are not always entirely free from adult influences. This is important because the binary "adult" writer and "child-author", now common in criticism of children's literature, can be misleading. It can ascribe extraordinary capacity in child-authors to imagine new identities for children against the evidence to which it bears witness in the actual writing. This said, the article uses some stories by children to illustrate the dialogical imagination of children. Their stories in turn use the common image of children as victims of the adult and patriarchal society in order to clear space for depicting characters of children who question and destabilise society's entrenched views of children as inconsequential minors.

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