WRITING PROTEST: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF CHIKA UNIGWE’S ON SISTER’ STREET AND NIGHT DANCER
1.1 Background of the study
The Nigerian-Belgian writer Chika Unigwe wrote the satirical inspired by the Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina’s piece “How to Write about Africa”, and which is also digitally available as “How to be an African,” albeit in revised form. In this column, Unigwe writes that before coming to Europe she had no clear idea of what it meant to be black, suggesting that she did not experience race to be the defining social identity in Nigeria. She goes on to describe with great irony what she has learned about blackness since living in Europe. “It was revealed in the literature that being black means that the person is perceived as a charity project. That she had to be grateful for the opportunity granted to her to be in Europe”. These lessons further include dressing in an authentically African way, always to be prepared for police control or to be able to dance. Stating that blackness has no connotation on its own, but is assigned meaning from the outside, Unigwe’s literature reminds us of the social construction of blackness (Adesokan, 2012).
However, the African sex workers in On Black Sisters’ Street become black in Belgium and how they negotiate a sense of self vis-à-vis the already pronounced social order. Deploying BecomingBlack in Seven Lessons as interpretative lens, an author, Adesokan argue more specifically that their self representations reveal the mediation of dominant historical images and Western symbolic meanings and their attempts to wrest control of the construction of their bodies away from the distorted visions of dominant culture. Although Unigwe’s situation as a black middle class author in the Flemish literary field can of course not be conflated with the position of the four Nigerian women working in the sex industry described in the book, parallels can be drawn between them, as Adesokan wish to contend, in the ways in which their agency is established in the performance of certain cultural configurations which have seized hegemonic hold. On Black Sisters Street tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe—and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives (Adesokan, 2012).
On the other hand, ‘Night Dancer’ is set in Nigeria and tells the story of Mma, a young girl to whom life has not exactly been kind. When her mother Ezi dies unexpectedly, Mma is confronted with a past she knew nothing about. She finds out her mother left her father after he got their servant girl pregnant. Ezi then returned to her home city of Enugu and started working as a prostitute – bringing shame on the family and also mortgaging Mma’s future. After her mother’s death, Mma wants to restore the bonds with her family. When she visits her father, he claims that Evi is the only one to blame – not him (Nwakanma, 2015).
Both, night dance and on black sister’s street by Chika Unigwe are satire display of African drama. Satire is a kind of literature and sometimes graphic and performing arts, where vices, follies, abuses and falsities are bound to ridicule ideally with the intention of humiliating individuals and society itself. Even in improvement although, satire is usually funny, a more important purpose is often social corrective or constructive criticism using the mind as a weapon.
According to Abramas, satire dissipates the illusions that man needs to live. Because he always deals with the contemporary, he runs the risk of living only a short life. It is said that satire offers neither the escape of comedy nor the purgation of tragedy. It is only a mixture of unresolved irritating pleasure (Abramas, 2008). Satire is a creative genre in which the criticism of certain cultural or other activities is manifested by a strong use of irony and sarcasm. This type of criticism can be humorous, although entertainment and humor are not necessarily the main goals; humor is often used to compensate for the harshness of the criticism itself. Satire works effectively in a society that is aware of the acceptable standards of morality and manner. To achieve this goal, the satirist must take certain values against which one can depict a sudden drop in the standard of behavior or aberration.
This study is based on the contrast that exists between tradition and modern life in present-day Nigeria. Chika Unigwe shows the dilemma that many people in modern Africa face. Her portrayal is effective and is done with subtlety and a keen eye for the complexity of African society.