Migrants, Multiculture

A cross cultural analysis of West African literature

Cross-culturalism remains a current research topic in this contemporary era. It has become the focal point of linguists, psychologists, anthropologists and literary writers among others.



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Rabiu Olayinka Iyanda*


They all continue to make discoveries on the factors militating against language, literature and culture and how they can contribute to the mutual existence of people from different backgrounds and climes.

This research is an attempt to complement the existing findings and to specifically x-ray the challenges stretched by cross- culturalism to literary researchers, and its prospects in the West African coastal nations such as Nigeria, Benin Republic, Senegal and Ghana. Among several factors discovered as an impediment to researches in these nations are multilingual and multicultural issues, varied economic fortunes, and difference in socio-infrastructural developments.

Language, culture and literature remain salient factors in literary studies and writings on human affairs. They determine to a large extent the level of human interaction and co-existence of irrespective of their social, political or economic affiliations.

This research looks into some examples of literature from Nigeria, including Tunde Ajiboye’s Le Témoins; The Republic of Benin, with Jean Pliya’s “La secrétaire particulière”; Ghana, with Ayi Kwei Armah’s, “The beautyful ones are not yet born”; and Senegal, with Sembène Ousmane’s Xala in a bid to find out the similarities and differences that are being encountered and exposed for a mutual African society irrespective of different geographical identities.

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Culture is a dynamic phenomenon encompassing the totality of attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and world-views.

African writers, irrespective of their linguistic background, or their language of expression, safeguard their cultures and transmit them from one generation to another.

Others, such as anthropologists, psychologists, historians and linguists also focus their research on this field of the human paraphernalia of existence.

Before the development of printing technology, literature was orally transmitted across societies.

The early or late transition of oral literature to the written form depends on the time and level of technological discovery. Many examples of African written literature show significant inspiration from their oral literature.

That accounts for why we have proverbs, fables, myths, songs and several forms of oral literature incorporated into written literature, presented either in the local languages or foreign ones. These elements add to the aesthetic of African literature (both the written and the oral literatures) and distinguish them from others.

The term cross-culturalism is invariably reserved for communal diversity arising from racial, ethnic or language differences.

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As a normative term, cross-culturalism implies a positive endorsement of communal diversity, based upon the rights of different cultural groups to recognition and respect. In this sense, it acknowledges the importance of beliefs, values and ways of life in establishing a sense of self-worth for individuals and groups alike.

Cross-culturalism, as the name implies, is mostly concerned about cultures which encompass language and traditions.

It hardly delves into the political or economic situation of any area of human endeavours. Dalrymple (2004) opines that all cultures are equal, and no fundamental conflict should arise between the customs, beliefs, and philosophical outlooks of two different cultures.

Fraternization of cultures encourages globalization, which is defined variously by different scholars according to their point of view and areas of specialization.

Cross-culturalism can be taken to mean the social fact that societies, now more than previously are made up of different cultures. In both oral and written African literatures, cultures continue to traverse one another. This influences to a large extent the ways these peoples relate. Could this be linked to globalization?

Globalization could be also termed global trans-culturalism. In sum, literature, oral or written, like all other human activities reflects current social, political and economic conditions and social classes. It also requires linguistic intelligibility and competency both for the audience and the storyteller or the writer in the case of written literature.

African literature either written or oral is known for preaching some of the following: Respect for parents, elders and those in power of authority; the importance of hard work and decisive commitment; respect for constituted authority and societal norms; respect for morality as a guide to behavior in public and private places; the essential need to do well always and shun vices.

One way to intensify the agitation for an egalitarian African society is to make those Anglophone nations and francophone nations bilingual. The ways of doing this will be made public. This could bring more mutual exchange between literary writers.

Communicating and establishing mutual relationships across nations, most especially the west African states, can lead to a whole host of benefits including increased international, national and local commerce, reduced conflict, healthier communities and increased tolerance which will enhance the personal growth of the citizenry

For references and notes click here.

*Rabiu Olayinka Iyanda: International Multicultural Network  Country Representative in Nigeria






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