THE PORTRAYAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY IN SELECTED AFRICAN PROSE

THE PORTRAYAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY IN SELECTED AFRICAN PROSE

 ABSTRACT

Feminism(s) and masculinity(ies) are central concerns in gender studies, while queer studies, initially marginalised, is currently receiving greater attention in the West. But, in Africa, the queer, especially homosexuality, has received little creative and critical interest. This study would, therefore, fill the gap created by the dearth of literature on the subject. Homosexuality, the umbrella term for gay, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgender and other “sexual disorders”, denotes same-sex relationship, ranging from phatic communication to erotic communion and marriage. It is also considered a psychopathological condition. This study investigated the portrayal of homosexuality in four purposively selected African prose: Jude Dibia’s Walking with Shadows; Wame Molefhe’s Go Tell the Sun: Achmat Dangor’s Bitter Fruit, and Tatamkhulu Afrika’s Bitter Eden, with a view to determining the portrayal of homosexuality, the reasons for positive or negative portrayal, the attitudes of homosexuals and heterosexuals to one another.

The methodology employed for the study was qualitative. This entailed a descriptive analysis of the chosen texts across the four regions of Africa: North, South and West.Three of the authors are males. Queer and Deconstruction literary theories guided the study. Queer theory was employed to determine the sexual status of the identified characters, aided character portrayal and representation and helped in the analysis of the prevalent attitude of Africans to homosexuals. Deconstruction provided alternative views of characters; destabilised the binary oppositions between male and female, men and women straight and gay and demonstrated the fluidity of gender.

The study revealed that homosexuals are stigmatised in the chosen texts. Gays are castigated as mere sissies and wrecks. In Walking with Shadows, Chika and Chinedu scold Adrian for being so scared of plays common to boys. Furthermore, heterosexuals and homosexuals hate one another and homosexuals would combat homophobia by communicating their world-view, using irony. In Bitter Eden, Tony, a producer and homosexual, employs majorly active homosexuals as homosexual characters on stage. Moreover, few of the characters in the selected texts are portrayed as congenital (biological) homosexuals. In Go Tell the Sun, Kgomotso comes as a “biologically wired” lesbian, while Tom, Douglas, Danny and Tony are presented as circumstantial (cultivated) homosexuals in Bitter Eden. Tom becomes gay, following pressure and intimidation by Douglas. Kate is portrayed as a past time lesbian in Bitter Fruit. The study equally discovered that homosexuals could, at least, be pitied, and that the negative portrayal of homosexuals follows the African belief that homosexuality is unorthodox, forcing homosexuals to employ “escapism”. In Go Tell the Sun, Kgomotso commits suicide, while in Walking with Shadows, Adrian migrates to America.

The study concluded that despite the presence of homosexuality in Africa, it is still largely a closet phenomenon. Furthermore, the largely heterosexual African society still looks at same-sex relationship with indignation. However, it is the visibility of homosexuality that attracts homophobia. It is recommended that African writers should not glorify homosexuals in their works and that homosexuality should, at the least, remain in the closet.

Keywords: Homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender, pedophilia and homophobia