PORTRAYAL OF GENDERED EXPERIENCES IN SELECTED AFRICAN MIGRANT NARRATIVES

PORTRAYAL OF GENDERED EXPERIENCES IN SELECTED AFRICAN MIGRANT NARRATIVES

 ABSTRACT

Migration over the years has become a recurrent theme in contemporary African literature. Existing studies on migration have focused mainly on the female gender in discourses of migration and gender. Literatures on gender and migration have evaded critical study of the experiences of both males and females. This study therefore investigated the experiences of both sexes in migration narratives.

A qualitative approach was used in this study. This entailed in-depth analysis of the selected texts from the four regions of Africa: North, South, East and West. To create the desired gender balance, two of the authors are male while two are females. Postcolonialism and Postmodernism theories were employed in the analysis of the texts. Postcolonialism was applied in the analysis of the characters’ interactions with one another while Postmodernism was used in the analysis of the characters as it relates to the new society they find themselves.

This study revealed that the male characters have their masculine ego subdued in the diaspora while female migrants experience freedom to pursue and actualize their dreams despite initial challenges. In The Beautiful Thing that Heaven Bears, Sepha becomes timid and suffers inferiority complex in his relationship with Judith. In Brooklyn Height, Hend resists all sexual advances, sticks to her moral standing and eventually achieves her dreams. Effects of migration include distrust and breakdown of traditional African communal life. In A Squatter’s Tale, Obi distrusts Happiness when he finds out that Happiness lied to him about the fees for the papers. Obi also suffers rejection from Ego who ordinarily would have accommodated him if they were to be in Nigeria. Coping and survival strategies adopted by Africans in diaspora include aping American looks and accent; procurement of fake documents; and contract marriages. In We Need New Names, Fostalina adopts American outlooks and appearances. She changes her meal and exercises in-front of the television to become slim like the American women. Role reversal occurs socially and in gender relationships. In Beautiful Thing that Heaven Bears, Berhane who had a driver driving him back in Ethopia, became a taxi driver in America and Sepha, the very vocal man, lost his manliness to Judith as she played the “man” in their short lived romance.

The study concluded that postcolonial disillusionment affects migrants and their gendered relations. It recommended that migrants should maintain their traditional communal living ethos even in diaspora, they should maintain their identities, work on the decolonisation of their minds.

Keywords:     Gender, disillusionment, migrant, politicking and transnational