JAGUA NANA’S CHILDREN: THE IMAGE OF THE PROSTITUTE IN POST COLONIAL AFRICAN LITERATURE

AUTHOR: NWAHUNANYA CHINYERE

FROM IN THE PERSPECTIVES OF LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF R.U. UZOEZIE

EDITED BY: NGOZI EZENWA-OHAETO and IFEYINWA J. OGBAZI

This paper, while aligning with the view that prostitution is one of the oldest professions, examines the phenomenon of prostitution as a social fact in post-colonial African society, and the various ramifications of the portraiture of the prostitute in post -colonial African literature, especially male-authored ones. After examining the attitudes to prostitutes and prostitution in ancient Greece, Victorian England and some contemporary societies, the paper x -rays the African novelist’s diagnosis of the causes of prostitution, the social problems associated with it, and the “values” of prostitution. Adopting feminist theory as the implied theoretical framework which need not be reexamined here, the paper asks and tries to answer the larger question: Why do African writers find the prostitute attractive as a choice image in their works? The paper ends by positing that evidence from the works studied suggests that in spite of the negative portraiture of the prostitute by writers, the prostitute is a largely misunderstood and misrepresented person; not only in literatures from other parts of the world where the image of the prostitute first began to appear. It is prominently so also in postcolonial African literature. Therefore, the prostitute’s position demands a more sympathetic appraisal and understanding, especially in relation to the social structures which created her in the first place and still sustain her. The point is also made that although the female prostitute is usually stigmatized while their male clients are often covered up in most patriarchal societies, the men who are served by female prostitutes are as “guilty” as the females for supporting and sustaining an odious institution, since it takes patronage for prostitution to fiourish. It is only when we realize this that the problems associated with prostitution in African and other societies can be properly addressed.

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