Busia, Abera P.A. 1953–

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Abena P. A. Busia 1953-

Ghanian poet, editor, essayist, and short story writer.


Busia is recognized as a respected feminist scholar, poet, and short story writer. In recent years, she has endeavored to bring the role of African women writers to light through her work on the Women Writing Africa series, which has been praised by critics as an invaluable resource on the subject of African women writers. In her poetry and short stories, Busia addresses the challenges of the exile experience, particularly the alienation facing African immigrants living in foreign cultures.


Born in Accra, Ghana, in 1953, Busia is the daughter of K. A. Busia, the former prime minister of Ghana. Because of the coups that plagued Ghana during that period, Busia's family was forced into exile, eventually settling in England. She was educated in Ghana, Holland, and Mexico, and she attended St. Anne's College at Oxford University, where she eventually received her bachelor's and master's degrees; in 1984 she earned her Ph.D. from Oxford. Busia works as an associate professor at Rutgers University, where she teaches African and English literature. She also sits on the board of the African Women's Development Fund, the first and only pan-African funding source for women-centered programs and organizations. As part of her effort to bring attention to African women's literature, she serves as co-director of the Women Writing Africa Project, a multivolume anthology of stories, poems, essays, plays, songs, and letters written by women in Africa and India, many of them published for the first time. "In Women Writing Africa we collect women's cultural production—oral and written, formal and informal, sacred and profane," she explained in an interview. "What we are trying to do is get a sense of the way women have agency and control over their lives and negotiate their lives differently." In 2007 she and two colleagues received a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Grant to study the slave routes of Ghana and Benin.


Busia's poetry collection Testimonies of Exile (1990) is informed by her early experience as an exile from her native Ghana and her alienation within a Western culture. Many of the poems also focus on the power of women within a repressed patriarchal society. In 1993 Busia teamed with Stanlie M. James to coedit a collection of feminist essays entitled Theorizing Black Feminisms, which includes essays on art, literature, history, sociology, anthropology, and political science that explore the role of black women in society. Essays in the volume reject the stereotype of black women as victims of oppression and view them instead as agents of change. In 1999 Busia coedited, with Kofi Anyidoho and Anne V. Adams, a volume titled Beyond Survival, a collection of essays from African scholars and writers who view African writers as uniquely suited to diagnose Africa's problems and propose viable and timely solutions. Busia's contribution to the prestigious Women Writing Africa series, Women Writing Africa: West Africa and the Sahel, was published in 2005. In this volume, which focuses on the writing of West African women from the age of African empires to the postcolonial era, Busia and her coeditors collect letters, folklore, novel excerpts, stories, poetry, communal songs, and lullabies to provide insight to the female experience in West Africa.


Busia is emerging as an influential Ghanaian scholar. Critics have praised her effort to bring the creativity of West African women writers to the forefront of African literature, asserting that the perspective of African women writers provides a necessary perspective on the problems facing the African continent as well as revealing possible solutions. Recent critical essays have examined the experience of motherhood in a few of Busia's poems and have considered the place of these works within the context of other poetry by contemporary African women writers. In her poetry, stories, and essays, critics have noted that Busia explores the power of women, encourages the female literary voice, and declares women's independence from patriarchal power structures that constrain them. Commentators have praised her notable contribution to African women's literature and the African literary tradition.


Testimonies of Exile (poetry) 1990

Theorizing Black Feminisms: The Visionary Pragmatism of Black Women [editor; with Stanlie M. James] (essays) 1993

Beyond Survival: African Literature & the Search for New Life [editor; with Kofi Anyidoho and Anne V. Adams] (essays) 1999

Women Writing Africa: West Africa and Sahel [editor; with Esi Sutherland-Addy and Aminata Diaw] (anthology) 2005


Shondel J. Nero (essay date 1988)

SOURCE: Nero, Shondel J. "Abena P. A. Busia." In An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers, edited by Paul Schlueter and June Schlueter, pp. 141-42. Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1988.

[In the following essay, Nero provides a brief history of Busia's life and works.]

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

Shereen Abou El Naga (essay date 1997)

SOURCE: Abou El Naga, Shereen. "The Theme of Motherhood in Sub-Saharan Women's Poetry." Alif, no. 17 (1997): 143-60.

[In the following essay, Abou El Naga surveys the depiction of motherhood in six poems written by West African women, including Busia's "Liberation," asserting that "the fact that these women choose to speak about the experience of motherhood implies that they are establishing a poetic identity of their own, derived from their own convictions, independent of the experiences of their male counterparts and different from the Western feminist identity."]

We black Africans have been blandly invited to submit ourselves to a second epoch of colonialism—this time by a universal-humanoid abstraction defined and conducted by individuals whose theories and prescriptions are derived from the apprehension of their world and their history, their social neuroses and their value systems.1

          —Wole Soyinka

Assimilation or Enunciation?

Although flag independence had been obtained by many African countries, the culture of these societies remained in the fangs of the colonizer. Distorting the past of the colonized and devaluing their history was a built in strategy of colonization. Barbara Harlow explains that one of the consequences of colonization

has been the catastrophic disruption of Third World peoples' cultural and literary traditions. These traditions constitute in an important way their means of identifying themselves as a group, as a people, as a nation, with a historicity of their own and a claim to an autonomous, self-determining role on the contemporary staging grounds of history.2

Whether in the British or in the French ruled territories, there is no doubt that the colonial culture occupied a preferential position—a fact that threatened the survival of the indigenous one.

Many in the early generation of the African elite welcomed the resource of literacy. The literate African poetry accelerated the erosion of oral tradition; creating furthermore, a cultural amnesia and distortion.3 Therefore, it has become the concern of the previously colonized to decolonize their culture, to re-establish their own identities and to free their literature from external influences. These particular concerns launched African writers and critics into a process of restoring and bringing their pre-colonial history to the fore. Kinfe Abraham states that the African writer, or the black protest writer,

thus dwells on his past partly because of an attempt to escape contempt due to the long history which has demeaned his person and belittled his culture. But it is also partly because of a strong desire to negate the pernicious propaganda and non-truths which have haunted him over the years.4

Such an acute awareness of history and culture paved the way for the emergence of "Negritude," one of the most significant literary movements to have arisen in Africa in the stage of primary resistance.

Negritude emerged in Paris in 1934 among a group of Caribbean and African students including Aimé Césaire from Martinique and Leopold Sédar Senghor from Senegal. All the literature produced under the umbrella of Negritude was preoccupied with the problem of colour, the beauty of the Negro race and the warmth and humanity of black people; it "was a reaction against the French colonial policy of assimilation and especially against the readiness of the older generation to accept assimilation as a goal."5 In his poem "Murders," Senghor sings to those who have been captured and made prisoners in France:

You are the flowers of the foremost beauty in stark
absence of flowers
Black flower and solemn smile, diamond time out of
You are the day and the plasma of the word's vivid
spring symbol.
Flesh you are of the first couple, the fertile belly, milk
and sperm You are the sacred fecundity of the bright
paradise gardens
And the incoercible forest, victor over fire and thunder.6

Senghor was, however, more inclined to the reconciliation of cultures and "stressed the complementarity and interdependence of cultures and their evolution toward the civilization of the universal."7 Although his emotional allegiance will be primarily to his African mother, Senghor also acknowledges that he is a child of two cultures, that he is "a cultural half-caste;" his sisters and his mothers "who cradled [his] nights" are African and European:

To have to choose! deliciously torn between these two
friendly hands
—A kiss from Soukeina!—these two antagonistic
When the pain—ah! I cannot tell now which is my
and which is my foster-sister.8

Writers from Anglophone Africa, such as Achebe, Soyinka and Mphahlele, representing a new generation some twenty years later, expressed their skepticism about Negritude.9 Recently, Emanuel Ngara has concluded that "the Senghorian school of Negritude does not accurately reflect the real conditions of existence of black people."10

Negritude poetry has always romanticized women and portrayed them as Mother Africa, an image divorced from reality. Simmering with rage against the colonizers, this poetry has overlooked the sufferings of women and sidetracked the lives of the "true" mothers. Therefore, women's role in healing the disrupted culture was not taken into consideration.

What most African nationalist theorists and critics, who reject Senghorian Negritude, have been unwilling to concede is the clearly incontestable proposition that the discourses of nationalism have marginalized those to do with gender. Mariama Bâ has protested to obliterating the liberation struggle as reflected in literature:

The nostalgic songs dedicated to African mothers which express the anxieties of men concerning Mother Africa are no longer enough for us. The Black woman in African literature must be given the dimension that her role in the liberation struggles next to men has proven to be hers, the dimension which coincides with her proven contribution to the economic development of our country.11

Although Mariama Bâ refers here to the Francophone African poetry associated with the Negritude school, her characterization of literature which expresses "the anxieties of men concerning Mother Africa" is also applicable to much Anglophone literature, including fiction by Kofi Awoonor and Ayi Kwei Armah. Asked in a 1986 interview what she thought of Armah's portrayal of women, Ama Ata Aidoo responded:

He is like any of the male African writers. They can only portray women the way they perceive them—Armah's female characters are very much out there to act as foils to his male heroes.12

Aidoo is against the male-centered society which denies women the right of agency. It is a society that relegates women to a secondary position by giving priority to politics, disguised as a national movement. Hence, the obliteration of women's role in the struggle.

When African women started to formulate their own voice, they did not dissociate themselves from their own culture. In her central book Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World, Kumari Jayawardena explains that:

… the new woman could not be a total negation of traditional culture. Although certain obviously unjust practices should be abolished … they still had to act as the guardians of national culture, indigenous religion and family traditions—in other words, to be both "modern" and "traditional."13

By acting as the "guardians of their national culture" in the post-colonial period, African women restored their original roles in the community as transmitters of stories. Indeed, they managed to establish their own identity which stands in a stark opposition to the paradigms of a Western feminist identity. In her article "First Things First: Problems of a Feminist Approach to Afri- can Literature," Kirsten Holst Petersen relates a story which is significant in this context. A group of German feminists had been invited to participate in a conference entitled "The Role of Women in Africa" held in Mainz in 1981. They discussed Verena Stefan's book Shedding and they debated their relationship to their mothers, i.e., whether they should raise their mothers' consciousness and teach them to object to their fathers or whether it was best to leave them alone. The African women told their German sisters

how inexplicably close they felt to their mothers/daughters and how neither group would dream of making a decision of importance without first consulting the other group. This was not a dialogue! It was two very different voices shouting in the wilderness.14

Explicitly, the Malawian poet Felix Mnthali states her rejection of adopting or even appropriating a Western feminist identity in her poem "A Letter to a Feminist Friend":

The woman of Europe and America
after drinking and carousing
on my sweat
rise up to castigate
           and castrate
their menfolk
from the cushions of a world
I have built!

In the penultimate stanza she declares: "No, no, my sister / my love, / first things first!"15 Thus, in the emergent poetry of the last three decades African women showed a deep understanding of their socio-historical reality and an awareness of the ravages of following the Western feminist path. In other words, if the African male intellectuals "bear their past within them—as scars of humiliating wounds, as instigation for different practices, as potentially revised visions of the past tending towards a post-colonial future, as urgently reinterpretable and redeployable experiences,"16 women also bear their own past within them, interpreting it poetically from their own point of view; a fact that does not imply by any means that African women have become the foils of their male counterparts.

One is aware, of course, that a revolutionary change does not guarantee an automatic equality of the sexes. The history of revolutionary struggles where women's issues are considered "secondary" or "divisive" are all too common. Women were simply the ground on which debates about tradition were thrashed out. In literature, they were constantly assigned certain roles and images by their male counterparts. They were perceived but not perceiving. Thus, they embarked on challenging the nostalgic image of the African Mother as symbol with a series of mothers whose characters and roles as well as their plurality prevent them from being seen either symbolically or nostalgically. Their poetry is very much down to earth showing pride in being women and mothers, confronting new struggles in a decolonization process. Sub-Saharan women are extolling motherhood in their poetry to oppose the reification and even mystification of the female body. They are restoring themselves as part of society.

In this paper, I will attempt a reading of six poems from West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria), East Africa (Malawi, Mauritius) and Southern Africa (South Africa). A common feature of these poems is that they deal with the experience of motherhood from different perspectives. This experience—rich in itself—and its variations constitute the point of departure in the poems. The fact that these women choose to speak about the experience of motherhood implies that they are establishing a poetic identity of their own, derived from their own convictions, independent of the experiences of their male counterparts and different from the Western feminist identity.

Poetics/Politics of Identity

Abena P. A. Busia's poem,17"Liberation" 18 opens with a forceful assertion:

We are all mothers,
and we have that fire within us,
of powerful women
whose spirits are so angry

The pronoun "we" immediately establishes a collective identity powerful enough to formulate its own consciousness. Describing the spirits of these mothers as seething with anger creates from the outset a defiant tone. This defiant tone gives way to presenting women in terms of the experiences they have had:

For we are not tortured
we have seen beyond your lies and disguises,
and we have mastered the language of words,
we have mastered speech.

Living through the experience of colonialism, with its claims on one hand and reality on the other, the colonized have realized all the "lies" and "disguises" of the colonizer. The mere understanding of the white masks is knowledge, and knowledge is power. They have learnt how to use the weapon of the oppressor which is "words" and "speech."

Busia goes on to show how the pain and torture—symbolized as "nakedness"—are transformed into a new social consciousness:

we have also seen ourselves raw
and naked piece by piece until our flesh lies flayed
with blood on our own hands.
What terrible thing can you do us
which we have not done to ourselves?
What can you tell us
which we didn't deceive ourselves with
a long time ago?
You cannot know how long we cried
until we laughed
over the broken pieces of our dreams.

To come out of the experience disillusioned, yet stronger, requires a process of self-critique and self-blame. To renounce the role of being the object of history, Africans paid the highest price; they sacrificed their dreams. To start crying and then laughing "over the broken pieces" of their dreams is the itinerary of moving from innocence to maturity, i.e., knowledge:

shattered us into such fragments
we had to unearth ourselves piece by piece,
to recover with our own hands such unexpected relics-
even we wondered
how we could hold such treasure.

No more deceits, no more lies, no more disguises and most important, no more domination. After a long trek of exploration, a new awareness emerged: "we are all mothers" who can and should make their own history. Busia is skilled enough not to announce the discovery of the new treasure/history abruptly. It is only towards the end of the poem and after having depicted all the struggle and the torture that she tells the reader—confidently—about the "treasure." To explain, the discovery of the treasure is not unjustified. It is supported by a strong feeling of self-confidence. It is as if "Mothers" gave birth to a new knowledge, "mutilated hopes" being the fathers.

The last part of the poem is an extended metaphor which reflects the identity stated at the beginning: "So do not even ask, / do not ask what it is we are labouring with this time;" the spirits that were seething with anger at the outset are now "labouring." All the connotations of this word fit unjarringly in the context and heighten the defiant tone. "You shall not escape / what we will make / of the broken pieces of our lives" is a strong decision to re-build, re-cover the "nakedness" and recover the disruption. The poem ends, thus, powerfully as "will" indicates the future and "broken pieces" stands for the past.

Similarly, Ifi Amadiume's19 poem, "Creation,"20 goes into two directions: retrospective and prospective. The whole poem depends on one complex metaphor:

Like a sweet orange sucked by a boy,
You have sucked all the goodness of me.
Still like a boy,
You did not know when to stop.

Likening the colonial forces to a "boy" belittles and denigrates the rationality of the colonial policy, an unscrupulous policy that aimed at destruction and "did not know when to stop." Paradoxically, "still like a boy, / you have left my seed to crop." In spite of the destruction and disruption, the potential to re-start was there. However, the whole process went on violently: the boy "sucked" the orange and "spat out" the seed. The two actions imply gluttony which is the equivalent of the colonial greed that wanted to rob Africa of its treasures and history. At the same time, the whole picture could yield another meaning: a deserted woman/mother who was seduced by a manipulative man.

In the third stanza the idea of "nakedness" comes up again. Imagining herself to be the seed, the poet says:

I was left naked and unshielded by a boy.
It was not the nakedness of the naked;
it was the nakedness of the naked earth;
it was the nakedness of birth;
it was the nakedness of creation.

Amadiume identifies herself with the land, "the naked earth." At the beginning of the season the earth is naked, later, it yields all the crops. Also, a new born baby is naked, later, he grows to become a man. Adam and Eve were born naked as well. So the poet manages to change the negative connotations of "nakedness" into positive ones by linking the concept to fresh beginnings. Having established that link strongly through repetitions and the similar structure of the sentences, the last stanza sounds totally expected and logically accepted:

My seed took root again,
my shield in time regained,
full of sweet juice
again to be sucked

It is the prospective direction of the poem which was prepared for in the previous stanza.

Though "sucking the orange" is the same image of the first stanza, it has a different implication. This time the orange is the mother who is willing to breast feed her own baby. After all the fresh beginnings of the third stanza "the seed took root again"—the land/mother/woman gave birth to an orange "full of sweet juice." Hence, self-determination is "in time regained."

In her poem "I'm My Own Mother, Now"21 the Malawian poet Stella P. Chipasula22 materializes her relation to Africa in the form of a reciprocal mother/daughter relationship. So, there is Mother Africa whose offspring's are taking care of her: "Mother, I'm mothering you now; / Alone, I bear the burden of continuity." The poet states directly the role of women as transmitters of cultural values. Therefore, they are responsible for the continuity of history and to their Mother Africa.

Again, the pattern of retrospective and prospective paths is employed. The poet identifies herself with the oppressed land:

Inside me, you are coiled
like a hard question without an answer.
On the far bank of the river
you sit silently, your mouth shut,
watching me struggle with this bundle
that grows like a giant seed in me.

The drawn picture of Africa is characterized by stoicism and perseverance. Mother Africa has been waiting all the time "on the far bank of the river" watching the struggle of those who bear the burden of oppression. The use of the present tense indicates the acute feelings of patriotism and heroism that haunt the spirit of the daughter. The recurrent image of the "seed" that grows serves to alleviate the pain that permeates the whole poem. It is also an indicator of a complete change in the status of the "hard question":

But, mother, I'm mothering you now;
new generations pass through my blood,
and I bear you proudly on my back
where you are no longer a question.

Throughout, the evocative power of the mother-daughter relationship is enhanced by the emphasis on continuity, "new generations pass through my blood." The "hard question" is "no longer a question." The frequent occurrence of "mother, I'm mothering you now" imbues the poem with a feeling of tenderness and protection which becomes almost euphoric and celebrative. Though the poem is delineated in the form of an apparent emotional outburst, Chipasula manages to convey her feeling of self-affirmation where the question is "no longer a question."

In her poem "The Woman,"23 Shakuntala Hawoldar24 identifies herself again with the land:

What you love in me
Is a woman
Who invites you to discover
The vast continent within her.

The land/woman who is talking to her people/lovers immediately implies the give and take principle that will preserve a land and provide a woman with a sense of security. The poet is careful not to fall into the trap of male versus female in order to avoid any sense of antagonism. So, the tone of the previous images—which, if taken out of context, convey the meaning of a raped or harassed woman—are shrewdly changed to align women to men. Therefore, "the vast continent" is also

—a mother who warms her insides
Beside you,
Carrier of wombs for men
Who ache in their lost hours
For her who is the sea
Without change, without end.

The poet, the woman, the land, the vast continent is a mother who bears the responsibility of continuity. Those who vex her sometimes also feel lost when she is downtrodden. It is as if the poet reminds her compatriots to secure their land and protect their women. Having identified herself with the land, Shakuntala could also identify herself as a mother. So the relation of the people to the land is like the relation of two partners, i.e., solidarity, security and love are necessary to sustain the relation.

From South Africa, Jeni Couzyn25 describes in detail the pain of the experience of childbirth in her poem "The Pain."26 Throughout fourteen stanzas, Couzyn deals with pain as an oppressor who dominates her body and senses:

At first the pains crawl cautious in me
as thieving children.
I am holding my molecules in order with breathing
dream swimming on air I brace my power
concentrate on grace.
The afternoon unrolls its hoard of hours
contractions mounting like a tide
till rearing pains are white tipped breakers
hurling me up slamming me down.

Describing the pain in minute detail institutionalises and generates the idea of resistance which is implied in "I embrace my power." She continues describing the domination of pain using dynamic verbs which express violent actions, "the pain grinding me in its teeth / sweeps me out to sea," until

—a wellspring of rage breaks open in my tongue
but time has stopped
at twenty-five minutes past seven.

"Rage" is building up and the severe pain has hurled the poet into timelessness. It is the ever-going struggle of South Africa against the policy of Apartheid. Again, the poet/woman projects her personal experience on the country, i.e., the country is labouring. Hence, the personal and public are linked through pain and perseverance. The more painful the experience of giving birth becomes, the more stoic and heroic the narrator becomes:

Colours roar in my eyes
and voices reach me as voices reach out over waves
hold on breath you are doing well
distant, meaningless and strange.
Day has slipped into night and night
drifts helpless towards dawn
when I rush into my senses again
words rolling at me like notes of a glass bell
one decent push and this baby would be born!

The experience of a woman in labour and suffering from pain captures the political climate in South Africa. The severity of the struggle is reflected in the prolonged description of the feeling of pain. Only in the last stanza, when pain has become unbearable, does the baby come to life:

my voice releases and my muscles wrench
downwards into their final furious leap
to hurl you free
as you plunge into life.

Having intensified the pain and kept the readers so alert, the poet releases the audience abruptly as she does her baby: she "hurled" it free to "plunge into life." The curve of the dramatic tension suddenly becomes nil whereas the woman has not taken her breath yet.

In part II of the poem, the storm is over and she contemplates the experience as a woman. Recollecting the memory in tranquillity leaves room for the women's vision:

Remembering this pain I feel myself betrayer
of a code we practice in the family of women
through generations.

Solidarity and sisterhood help to make the pain bearable. Parental steadfastness reaches the point of being "a code"—an "Experience of a lifetime," friends tell her. The severe pain of part I is forgotten and even replaced by hope:

We forget the pain
We surrender the memory gladly, at once
hoarding no trace of bitterness or fear.

This is reminiscent of Busia's poem "Liberation" where she says: "We are all mothers, / and we have that fire within us, / of powerful women." So, Couzyn uses the experience of giving birth to project and resolve the binary oppositions: pain counterposed to relief, being locked to being released, despair to hope and bitterness to happiness.

However, having alleviated the tension of the audience and resolved the drama, the poet ends her poem with a note that limits the experience of birth /continuity only to women:

We'll have other children. Gaily
We encourage each other. Only our men
grey and shocked
whisper, huddle together
think themselves shameful cowards in their hearts
and pray with gratitude that they are men.

By the time we come to the end of the poem, the poet is no longer alone and her experience is not personal. All the women join her in a universal experience.

Amelia Blossom Pegram,27 also from South Africa, directly identifies the struggle of her country with a woman labouring. Even the title of the poem is very direct: "Deliverance"28:

Bear down
My Mother Country
You have carried the seeds
full term
Bear down
Only you can give birth
to our freedom
Only you can feel the full
ripe weight
Bear down
We will stand by you
We must relieve your pain
Bear down Bear down

The economy in the use of words is compensated by the lyrical repetition of "Bear down" (5 times) and "Push" (3 times); a pattern that is reminiscent of motifs in Jazz and the African drum. This yields a musical structure which sustains the poem solidly without the need for any punctuation. However, the pursuit of the rhythmic effect never alienates the poet from her political commitment. She structures her poem as one extended metaphor where Africa is a woman in labour and her daughter is encouraging her to "bear down" and to "push" the baby free.

A Voice of Their Own

The analysis of the six poems shows how African women re-define and re-present themselves in their own terms. They offer rare insights into their inner lives and experiences. Through poetry, women could claim independence by advancing their own self-portraiture.

To the extent that African women's poetry emanates from personal sources, the primary thematic tool by which they bridge the chasm between the personal and the public realms is their centralization of Motherhood, pregnancy and birth. These concepts are neither delineated as abstract ones nor as complete metaphors of Mother Africa. They are conceived of as experiences pregnant with affection, tenderness, protection and perseverance. The content, derived as such from personal experiences and linked to Mother Africa, underlies women's identity and add authenticity to their poetic voice.

Contrary to Western feminist voices, African women poets are, powerfully, consolidating their roles as mothers responsible for keeping the cultural heritage and hence, fighting cultural domination and hegemony. Additionally, delineating the pain of being in labour—a common experience in all the poems discussed—allows female poets to depict the violence of resistance while remaining within the limits of the concept of Motherhood. The clever description of pain and suffering serves to unite the experiences of men and women. At the same time, the experience of giving birth remains very personal, private and limited to women. Projecting the private pain on the public through identifying with the land show women as not divorced from public political concerns. Plunging themselves in the public turmoil, without evoking the idea of African women's sexual appeal,29 women poets could find their poetic identity which sets them free from both African patriarchal discourse and Western feminist discourse.

At this point it is important to state that the distinguished discourse of the Sub-Saharan women poets is not completely homogenous. Each country bears its own socio-political context; only at the historical juncture of colonization do the various cultures meet. Collectively formulating their poetic identity, African women poets managed to create gaps to allow for the emergence of their cultural differences. Aligning themselves to men as partners, mothers, daughters and sisters the poets established an essential point of reference in their identity. Individually, each poet weaves her own vision as a woman in the poetic text. That is to say, each text connotes its own cultural ambiance and bears particular signs of its own community. In other words, in mobilizing their force to enunciate identity, women poets did not interpret their reality irrationally. They admitted and recognized cultural differences and, hence, fell back on the theme of Motherhood as a focal point. This focal point is highly functional, multi-purposed and multi-dimensional. It prevents women from falling into the snares of Western feminism; it helps to establish a matriarchal discourse that intersects with the patriarchal one by means of dovetailing not overlapping, and finally, it leaves room enough for articulating the cultural differences of the women themselves. This focal point, in the words of Homi K. Bhabha, is a space that makes it possible

—to begin envisaging national, anti-nationalist, histories of the "people." It is in this space that we will find those words with which we can speak of Ourselves and Others. And by exploring this hybridity, this "Third Space," we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of our selves.30


1. Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and The African World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) 18.

2. Barbara Harlow, Resistance Literature (London: Methuen, 1987) 33.

3. For a detailed analysis of the effects of literacy on African poetry see Isidore Okpewho's "African Poetry: The Modern Writer and the Oral tradition." Oral and Written Poetry in African Literature Today. eds. Eldred Durosimi Jones, Eustace Palmer and Marjorie Jones. (London: James Currey, 1988) 3-25.

4. Kinfe Abraham, From Race to Class: Links and Parallels in Africa and Black American Protest (London: Grassroots Publisher, 1982) 1.

5. "Negritude" in Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, ed. Leonard S. Klein (New York: A Frederick Ungar Book, 1989) 3: 361.

6. Wole Soyinka ed., Poems of Black Africa (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1975) 96.

7. Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, 361.

8. Senghor: Prose and Poetry, eds. John Reed and Clive Wake (London: Oxford University Press, 1965) 110.

9. C. L. Innes, "Mothers or Sisters? Identity, Discourse and Audience in the Writing of Ama Ata Aidoo and Mariama Bâ." In Nasta Sushelia, ed. Motherlands: Black Women's Writing from Africa, The Caribbean and South Asia (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992) 129-151.

10. Emmanuel Ngara, Ideology and Form in African Poetry (Harare: Baobab Books, 1975) 96.

11. Innes, "Mothers or Sisters? Identity, Discourse and Audience in the Writing of Ama Ata Aidoo and Mariama Bâ," 129.

12. Ama Ata Aidoo, "Interview," Wasafiri 6/7 (1987): 27.

13. Kumari Jayawardena, Feminism and Nationalism in The Third World (London: Zed Books, 1986)

14. Kirsten Holst Peterson, "First Things First: Problems of a Feminist Approach to African Literature." The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. eds. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin (London: Routledge, 1995) 251.

15. Peterson, "First Things First," 252.

16. Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Chatto and Windus Ltd., 1993, Vintage edition 1994) 256.

17. Abena P. A. Busia (Ghana) b. 1953, is the daughter of the late Dr. Kofi Busia, former Prime Minister of Ghana. Educated in Ghana, Holland, Mexico and England, she holds a BA (1976), and MA (1980) and a D.Phil. (1984) from Oxford University. She has published Testimonies of Exile (New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1990). Some of her poems have been included in Summer Fires: New Poetry From Africa (Oxford: Heinemann, 1983).

18. Stella and Frank Chipasula eds., African Women's Poetry (Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1995) 53.

19. Ifi Amadiume (Nigeria) currently lives and works in England. Her poems have appeared in Okike, West Africa and Frontline as well as in a number of other journals and anthologies. Her volume of poetry, Passion Waves (London: Karnak House, 1986) was a runner-up for the Commonwealth-British Airways Poetry Prize for 1986.

20. Frank Chipasula, African Women's Poetry, 86.

21. Frank Chipasula, African Women's Poetry, 133.

22. Stella P. Chipasula (Malawi) graduated with a BA in Art History. She has written some poems, worked on Malawian folktales, and is currently writing a romance for Heinemann's Heartbeat Series.

23. Frank Chipasula, African Women's Poetry, 134.

24. Shakuntala Hawoldar (Mauritius) was born in 1944 in Bombay. In 1967 she emigrated to Mauritius and married a Mauritian. Her poetry is collected in I've Seen Strange Things (Port Louis: Mauritius Printing Co., 1971), Moods, Moments and Memories (Beau Bassin: The Triveni, 1972) and You (Beau Bois-St Pierre: Lemwee Graphics, 1981).

25. Jeni Couzyn (South Africa) born 1942, currently lives in London. Her poems have been published in South African, British and Canadian journals. She has published the following volumes of poetry: Flying (London: Workshop Press, 1970); Monkey Wedding (London: Jonathan Cape, 1972); Christmas in Africa (Heinemann, London, 1975); House of Changes (London: Heinemann, 1978); The Happiness Bird (Toronto: Sono Nis Press, 1978).

26. Frank Chipasula, African Women's Poetry, 175-177.

27. Amelia Blossom Pegram (South Africa) born in Cape Town, is widely published and translated. Her books include Deliverance: Poems for South Africa (a self-published chapbook) and Our Sun Will Rise (Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1989).

28. Frank Chipasula, African Women's Poetry, 189.

29. Emmanuel Ngara, Ideology and Form in African Poetry, 31.

30. Homi K. Bhabha, "Cultural Diversity and Cultural Differnces." The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, 209.



Gyimah, Miriam. "Speaking Texts Unheard." Crossings 1, no. 2 (fall 1997): 57-81.

Utilizes Busia's essays "Words Whispered over Voids" and "Silencing Sycorax" in a reading of Ama Ata Aidoo's Anowa and in order to discuss "black women writers' experience with the patriarchal preoccupation to silence and discredit them."

Kumah, Carolyn. "African Women and Literature." West Africa Review 2, no. 1 (August 2000): http://www.africaresource.com/war/vol2.1/kumah.html.

An assessment of the marginalization of African women writers within the African literary tradition, pointing out that Busia's poetry has made a significant contribution to contemporary African literature.