URBAN LANDSCAPING IN AFRICAN LITERATURE: SELECT NOVELS OF CYPRAIN EKWENSI AND MEJA MWANGI

AUTHOR: OKOYE CHIKE

FROM: AWKA JOURNAL OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERARY STUDIES (AJELLS) VOL. 2

DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE, NNAMDI AZIKIWE UNIVERSITY, AWKA

One thing is clear for both writers in their general view of the city: It is a grossly corrupting place. It IS a place where anything vice can find a breeding place; that behind the thin veneer of supposed glamour and pretentiousness, lies a quagmire of crime and squalor. Ekwensi has described the city as thus: a terribly corrupting influence, a den for Ali Saba where forty thieves have stored all their gold, and anyone who has the magic words can go and help himself. And sometimes greed traps the sesame and the thieves come back and stab the intruder to death as they did to Ali Saba’s brother. For Ekwensi, the city is a place wh;;:re social anomalies like juvenile delinquency, prostitution, syndicated crime, environmental squalor, political chicanery, and violence thrive, the glittering lights notwithstanding. Although he takes his view from the standpoint of a female, semi illiterate character, the depiction he renders of city and urban life is adequately lurid and graphically detailed. Mwangi, a later writer, goes deeper in his depiction of city and urban life and leans heavily on vivid descriptions of grime, filth and squalor almost reminiscent of the “excremental vision” of Ghanaian Ayi Kwei Armah. Pungent odours literarily hit the nostrils as one goes through the novels. He is very apt in his portrayal of Nairobi’s poorest sectors. As opposed to Ekwensi’s depiction of Lagos through the views of a semi-illiterate prostitute, Mwangi’s protagonists are fairly educated but disillusioned men caught in the underbelly of Nairobi. His novels vividly re-create landscapes of stinking back alleys and ramshackle dwellings and the severe social problems that accompany them-inadequate housing and jobs, non-existent waste- removal services, corrupt officials, alcoholism, thievery and juvenile delinquency. The description these writers apply to the portrayal of the city landscape leaves little to be discussed. They are very apt and create pictures that appear almost real and they share a common view in their characters that the city is a place where ‘survival of the fittest’ is faithfully and religiously applied.

TO VIEW THE FULL CONTENT OF THIS DOCUMENT, PLEASE VISIT THE UNIZIK LIBRARY WEBSITE USING THIS LINK, http://naulibrary.org/dglibrary/admin/book_directory/English/11256.pdf

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