Saturday, February 16, 2013

225. Gathering Seaweed by Jack Mapanje (Editor)

Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing (Heinemann, 2002; 328) edited by Jack Mapanje is an anthology of essays, poems, articles, songs and speeches by Africans who have at one point in time been political prisoners or have had political infractions with the law and have been jailed for it. The collection is broken into Origins; Arrest, Detention and Prison; Torture; Survival; and The Release. In this anthology one will meet the pioneers of independence fighters in Africa like Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana,  Agostinho Neto of Angola and others; also present are the fighters against apartheid in South Africa: Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Breyten Breytenbach; equally important are the post-independent right fighters such as Jack Mapanje, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong'o and others.

Contributors come from all the various regions of Africa: north, east, west, central and south. However, what this collection shows is the similarity in human wickedness regardless of the location. Even more important is the comparison of pre-independence and post-independence. The collection clearly shows that after the euphoria of independence died down, and reality dawned on us, most of the first wave of leaders and those who came afterwards became autocrats imprisoning the opponents who they see as threats to their hardly won 'seats'. Thus, though the people in power changed from white to black, the wickedness never did. Thus, this anthology clearly shows that wickedness and the zeal to hold on to power by punishing all opposition is a human condition. It echoes what Ngugi said in his novella Weep Not Child
Blackness is not all that makes a man ... There are some people, be they black or white, who don't others to rise above them. They want to be source of all knowledge and share it piecemeal to other less endowed. ... A rich man does not want others to get rich because he wants to be the only man with weal. [22]
The situations captured in this anthology has truly been expanded in Ngugi's Wizard of the Crow. Mapanje, by this anthology, has shown the light to the path we have to take. That it is difficult to suppress resistance. It also reflects Nassim Nicholas Taleb's discussion in Antifragility where he says that variation produces antifragility (something that gains from mishandling) whilst sameness makes things fragile.

This is a collection worth reading and studying. It brings out certain inherent commonality of the human condition. 

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