Liking, Werewere 1950-

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Werewere Liking 1950-

Cameroonian novelist, essayist, poet, playwright, and short story writer.


One of the first female Francophone writers of African literature, Liking is noted for the diversity of her literary oeuvre and the innovative nature of her work. Her novels, poetry, essays, plays, and stories explore the tension between African tradition and modern Western culture, and search for a way to reconcile the two traditions in a way that will bring about beneficial social change in Africa. Critics assert that her establishment of a Pan-African artistic community, known as the Ki-Yi Training Centre, has had a valuable influence on the African artistic community and reaffirms Liking's commitment to her creative interests and to effecting social change through artistic expression.


Liking was born in Bondé, Cameroon, in 1950 and was raised in the Bassa ethnic tradition. Her parents were traditional musicians. She has been deliberately ambiguous about her early education; she has implied that she did not attend a formal school, but instead was taught in the traditional African ways and educated herself about the West. She was profoundly influenced by Cameroonian independence from French colonial control in 1960 and the growing Pan-African movement that was spreading across the continent. As a young girl, she became a singer and developed an interest in traditional literature and Bassa rituals. In 1974 she pursued her interest by taking a research trip with a French ethnographer named Marie-José Hourantier to Mali and the Ivory Coast to learn more about oral traditions, with a particular focus on rituals and initiation rites. A visit to France in 1976 also offered her new perspectives on artistic expression. A collection of her verse, On ne raisonne pas le venin, was published in 1977. A performer and director, Liking began to write, stage, and act in several dramatic productions. Liking and Hourantier moved to the Ivory Coast in 1979 to pursue their shared intellectual interests. Liking became a research fellow at the University of Abidjan's Institute for African Ritual and Aesthetics. There she was able to teach students about their own cultural traditions and facilitate a form of expression that incorporated African culture and rituals. With these tools, Liking believed that students did not have to rely on Western modes of expression and could instead utilize age-old African traditions. In 1983 Liking and Hourantier opened the Villa Ki-Yi in Abidjan, a space for academic research, dramatic performance, and artistic endeavors. The Villa hosts a variety of actors, painters, singers, sculptors, and dancers from all over the African continent who support each other through a shared emphasis on African culture and tradition. Two years later Liking founded the Group Ki-Yi, a creative troupe involved with theatrical performances, fine arts, and literature. The Villa officially became the Pan-African Ki-Yi Training Centre in 2001. Liking is also a painter, actress, singer, producer, and jeweler.


In her life and work, Liking articulates her conviction that social change in Africa can be mediated by a modern adaptation of traditional African ritual. In several of her theatrical pieces, she adapts traditional Bassa initiation rites for performance on stage in the théâtre ritual, or ritual theater, which she founded at the Pan-African Ki-Yi Training Centre. Her first novel, Orphée-Dafric (1981), centers on the doomed love story of Orphée and Nyango. When their families oppose their marriage, the couple undergoes the trial of the canoe: if the couple successfully crosses the White River in a canoe, God will sanction their union and their families will accept their marriage. When the canoe capsizes and Nyango disappears into the choppy waters, Orphée refuses to accept her death and decides to undertake an arduous journey to find his beloved in the underworld. At each stage of his journey, Orphée must successfully complete a series of demanding rituals, which culminates in a process of self-discovery. Critics find the novel to be an intriguing adaptation of the Orpheus myth. In Liking's second novel, Elle sera de jaspe et de corail [1983; It Shall Be of Jasper and Coral], the female narrator crafts a journal and in the process creates a new race of people drawn from a squalid African village. The novel synthesizes various narrative modes, including dramatic dialogue, journal entries, songs, chants, poetry, and conventional narrative. Critics note that Liking's blending of narrative techniques confuses conventional classifications of It Shall Be of Jasper and Coral and function to obscure the boundaries between written and oral narrative forms.

L'Amour-cent-vies [1989; Love-across-a-Hundred-Lives], Liking's third novel, traces how Lem Liam Mianga is transformed from a cowardly, unprincipled young man into a strong, open-hearted individual through the support of his grandmother, Madjo. Yet the novel reveals that Lem and Madjo's strong bond and love has existed for thousands of years, over a hundred lives. Liking switches between the present and past lives, illustrating the unbreakable bond between the two souls. Her 2004 novel, La Mémoire amputée, translated as Amputated Memory in 2007, explores the tension between traditional African culture and encroaching Western values through the story of a young African woman named Halla. Through her struggle to recall childhood traumas, Halla discovers a sense of self and an understanding of her role in family history. Liking received a NOMA award for the novel in 2005.


Liking is recognized as an innovative and multifaceted artist. Reviewers maintain that her works are difficult to classify because they incorporate a variety of narrative forms and intertextual material and blur the boundaries of space and time. In addition, commentators note that her works are unified by their emphasis on the importance of African ritual to the process of social change in contemporary Africa and provide an authentic and strong voice for African women. Much of her work explores the tension between African tradition and ritual and the alluring influence of modern Western culture, and strives for a way to synthesize the two without abandoning essential African values and traditions. Regarding her as a visionary and proactive artist, performer, and writer, scholars praise her contribution to African theater and literature, especially her work encouraging and mentoring young artists and performers at her artistic community, the Pan-African Ki-Yi Training Centre in the Ivory Coast. As Liking describes her work, "my first motivation is thus the awakening of consciences and desires for constructive action, spanning as broadly as possible in this African continent where everything is set up to maintain people, especially young people, in this state of frivolity and inconstancy which leads to consumption and dependence."


On ne raisonne pas le venin [You Can't Reason with Venom] (poetry) 1977

Du rituel à la scène chez les Bassa du Cameroun [with Jacques Scherer and Marie José Hourantier] (essays) 1979

La puissance de Um [Um's Power] (play) 1979

Une nouvelle terre; suivi de Du sommeil d'injuste (plays) 1980

Contes d'initiation féminine du pays Bassa (Cameroun) [with Marie José Hourantier] (short stories) 1981

Orphée-Dafric (novel) 1981

Elle sera de jaspe et de corail: journal d'une misovire [It Shall Be of Jasper and Coral: Diary of a Manhater] (novel) 1983

Une vision de Kaydara d'Hamadou-Hampaté-Bâ (essays) 1984

Marionnettes du Mali [Puppets of Mali] (essays) 1987

Statues colons [Statues of Colonialists] (essays) 1987

L'Amour-cent-vies [Love-Across-a-Hundred-Lives] (novel) 1989

Singuè mura (play) 1990

Un Touareg s'est marié à une Pygmée [A Touareg Married a Pygmy] (play) 1992

African Ritual Theatre: The Power of Um and A New Earth (plays) 1996

It Shall Be of Jasper and Coral; and, Love-across-a-Hundred-Lives: Two Novels (novels) 2000

La Mémoire amputée: mères Naja et tantes Roz: chantroman [Amputated Memory: Mothers Naja and Aunts Roz: A Song-Novel,] (novel) 2004


Irène Assiba d'Almeida (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: Assiba d'Almeida, Irène. "The Intertext: Werewere Liking's Tool for Transformation and Renewal." In Postcolonial Subjects: Francophone Women Writers, edited by Mary Jean Green, Karen Gould, Micheline Rice-Maximin, Keith L. Walker, and Jack A. Yeager, pp. 265-84. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

[In this essay, Assiba d'Almeida elucidates the function of intertextual elements in Elle sera de jaspe et de corail, focusing on Liking's allusions to feminism and to the negritude movement.]

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi (essay date 1997)

SOURCE: Nfah-Abbenyi, Juliana Makuchi. "Sexuality in Cameroonian Women Writers: Delphine Zanga Tsogo, Calixthe Beyala, Werewere Liking." In Gender in African Women's Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference, pp. 73-107. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

[In the excerpt that follows, Nfah-Abbenyi focuses on the centrality of the erotic in Elle sera de jaspe et de corail.]

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.

This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.



Assiba d'Almeida, Irène. "W/Riting Change: Women as Social Critics." In Francophone African Women Writers: Destroying the Emptiness of Silence, pp. 123-68. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1994.

A section on Liking offers an explication of Orphée-Dafric and maintains that the novel reflects the author's personal concept of art.

———. "Werewere Liking: A Deeply Original Voice." In It Shall Be of Jasper and Coral and Love-Across-a-Hundred-Lives : Two Novels, pp. ix-xliii. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

Provides an overview of Liking's life and career.

Ippolito, Christophe. "Eurydice Lost: African Identity and Cruelty in Werewere Liking's Orphée-Dafric." In Literature and Cruelty: Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Graduate Conference in French, Francophone, and Comparative Literature, edited by Vincent Desroches, pp. 97-103. New York: Columbia University, 1996.

A research paper presented at the 1996 Annual Graduate Conference in French, Francophone, and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, this essay considers Orphée-Dafric to be Liking's rewriting of Jean-Paul Sartre's Orphée noir from a Pan-African perspective.

Mielly, Michelle. "The Aesthetics of Necessity: An Interview with Werewere Liking." World Literature Today 77, no. 2 (July-September 2003): 52-6.

Liking discusses avant-garde aspects of her work, the link between her teaching and her literary endeavors, and the role of the Other in fiction and drama.

Miller, Judith G. "Werewere Liking: Pan/Artist and Pan-Africanism in the Theatre." Theatre Research International 21, no. 3 (autumn 1996): 229-38.

Traces Liking's development as a performer and dramatist and investigates various influences on her artistic aesthetics and practices.

Willey, Ann Elizabeth. "Ritual and Roles for Women in Werewere Liking's L'Amour-cent-vies." The French Review 76, no. 3 (February 2003): 545-61.

Contends that L'Amour-cent-vies "reinvents received tradition while at the same time claiming the historicity of women's roles."

Wright, Katheryn. "Extending Generic Boundaries: Werewere Liking's L'Amour-cent-vies." Research in African Literatures 33, no. 2 (summer 2002): 46-60.

Argues that the hybrid style of L'Amour-cent-vies compels readers to reassess their preconceptions of certain literary genres.

Additional coverage of Liking's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Gale: Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, Ed. 3; and Literature Resource Center.