Wednesday, December 22, 2010

54b. Contemporary African Short Stories, A Review

[continued from here]

CENTRAL AFRICA
The Rubbish Dump by Steve Chimombo (Malawi)
Steve Chimombo (Blue shirt)
Joey and his parents have just moved into the airport neighbourhood. He is fascinated by the planes that fly over their quarters and would do everything possible to have a look. They called the big planes 'Four Engine'. Mazambezi - airport garbage collector - collects the waste from the airplanes and dump them at the general dump area.

Through the eyes of these two individuals we see the stark disparities that exist between the haves and have not. Mazambezi and Joey gather the leftover foods meant for the dump and would, while eating it, imagine themselves to be in the places where the foods come from: Russia, America, Hong Kong, England and others. And they were surprised about the volume of food that went wasted. 
As I sit here everyday munching bits of cheese, a whole world is opened up to me. How many thousands of miles has this can of fish travelled? What places has this packet of biscuit visited? [...] I don't need to ride in their planes. As I sit here, Russia, America, Hong Kong, England are all in my grasp. They all find their way into this rubbish dump. (Mazambezi to Joey, Page 79)
And when one day Mazembezi found a broken miniature aeroplane for Joey, he hid it in his school bag and protected it from all others. And these defined their lives: Mazambezi's wheelbarrow with its rattle, squeak and thump sound and Joey looking out for planes and the two meeting at the dump to inwardly travel to all those countries they know they would never go as they are not the Rich fat white men, the brown men nor the few blacks. Nor even the students who go for more education.

The Man by E. B. Dongala (Congo) translated from French by Clive Wake
The Man in this story reminds me of Matigari. The country was not named however, by description  my mind went straight to Mobutu's Zaire (now D.R. Congo) though the country could as well be Authors' country, The Congo. 

In The Man who was
the father-founder of the nation the enlightened guide and saviour of the people, the great helmsman,, the president-for-life, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the beloved of the people
has build a fortress for himself where no one can reach him to kill him. However, with all the security detail that included
... armed soldiers [...] water-filled moat of immense depth swarming with African and Indian crocodiles and caymans imported from Central America which most certainly didn't feed solely on small fry [...] full black mambas and green mambas whose powerful venom killed their victims on the spot [...] an enormous sixty-foot high structure of brick and stone [...] watch-towers, searchlights, nails, barbed wire and broken glass ... (page 82)
he was reached and murdered by The Man. His soldiers on rampage threatening and killing individuals who claim they do not know The Man who did that. Soon a new president was installed, the second beloved father of the nation. He increased the level of his security, with policemen, informers, spies and hired killers everywhere. And yet he was scared of going out even after he issued a decree proclaiming that he is unkillable and immortal.

This is light satire on the state of some African countries where independent fighters made themselves life presidents. These presidents, even after claiming hundred a percent popularity, still live in barricaded castles, far removed from the very people they serve. And their newly acquired position become the conduit to wealth gathering. Here the founding-father could be linked to the Prime Minister in Achebe's A Man of the People.

Next is East Africa.

ImageNations Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

2 comments:

  1. I haven't read much from Central Africa, both of these stories sound interesting though so perhaps I should find more by the authors!

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Amy... yeah. I was busy. Should have provided some background information about these authors. It's on my improvement list next year.

    ReplyDelete

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