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Deceased Writers Series: Mariama Bâ



We have seen professionals of all sorts grace the beautiful continent of Africa, but none so impressive as the practitioners in the field of art, representing the continent on the world stage. A new generation of writers is being polished everyday and is regarded as the hope for future generations. We must therefore not forget the contributions of earlier writers who laid the foundation for the progress of today. Among these legends is Mariama Bâ (born in Dakar, Senegal on April 17, 1929) who is regarded as one of West Africa's best exports. A Senegalese author and feminist who wrote in French, Mariama was raised a Muslim but eventually came to criticise what she perceived as religion-inspired gender inequality. Mariama was raised by her grandparents who did not believe that girls should receive formal education. Her struggle for education informed her writing, both fictional and critical. She later married a Senegalese member of Parliament, Obèye Diop, but divorced him and was left to care for their nine children. Her life and work were all about issues such as gender relations, power and inequality, as well as the ways in which such issues were framed and affected by African and Islamic cultural beliefs. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="261"] Source: Bookedallweek.wordpress.com[/caption] She wrote her first novel 'So Long a Letter' in 1981 where she used the raw material of her  life to create a narrative which-- due to its resemblance with the experience of other African women--  is widely regarded as a seminal feminist text. Called "the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in African fiction", this short book was awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980. Bâ died a year later after a protracted illness before her second novel, Scarlet Song, on August 17, 1981 which was published in 1986. Since her death, academics and other readers have come to appreciate the peculiar power and contribution of Bâ’s writing, as well as her political legacy. Even though she composed her work in French, it has been translated into many different languages, and is read and studied worldwide.   By Azeez Sanusi 

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