I was recently looking for a book called “Allah is not obliged” by Ahmadou Kourouma, it’s on my ‘2015 to-read’ list and I wanted to get a hand over it. But the first book that I found from the same author was The suns of Independance, the title catched my curiosity, so I took it. The Suns of Independence, considered a masterpiece of modern African literature, enabled me to gain unique insight into African culture and conflicts. As an African myself, I feel like coming back to an old family house and getting to know its rooms. The Suns of Independence is a novel of early postcolonial Africa. The central character is Fama, the last chief of the once-powerful Dumbuya tribe that ruled over Horodougou (land of honor), an area that has now been divided between two newly independent fictional African states, the Ebony Coast (Ivory coast) and the Socialist Republic of Nikinai (Guinea). The real name of the countries are never written in the book, and I think it has been strategically shadowed so as to bring out the flaws of these nations that the author criticizes.
In keeping with its title, The Suns of Independence pays close attention to suns, skies, and weather. The struggle between the sun and the clouds almost turns them into characters in their own. I loved the description parts, but the use of colors “black” and “white” as metaphors to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ kind of upset me. Saying that “The Malinke people have souls blacker than their skins and words whiter than their teeth” seemed a little odd to me coming from an African author, I think that this connotation given to colors is what results from colonisation, Africans start seeing colors as a sign of good and bad which has nothing to do with the equation.
In a world turned upside-down, Fama had inherited an honour without the means to uphold it, like a headless snake.
Through Fama and Salimata, the husband and wife at the heart of this story, Kourouma conveys the confusion that torments many Africans when a traditional and a more materialistic culture collide. Alongside with tales and proverbs from the ancient Malinke traditions, the novel captures the struggles, desires, and dreams of a people in a West African country living through the tumultuous days of Independence.
Truly the suns of Independence are unsuited to great things; they have not only unmanned, but also unmagicked Africa.
It’s a strange tale. Fama, the protagonist, is a man clinging to the past honor of his family line, but also seeing the present degeneration and insignificance of his tribe in a brave new world. Alongside him is his wife Salimata: a beautiful woman longing for a child, yet haunted by her past of female circumcision and rape. The book also deals with the complicated nature of spirituality in the West African experience. On the surface, the characters live the lives of good Muslims, praying and looking for Allah’s mercy. Yet when faced with desperate circumstances, the older pagan practices seep through, and we find the characters wondering whether the older paths of sorcery and fetishes might not hold more power over their daily lives.
“Traditional life was hard. Colonialism was harder. Independence is hardest of all.” This is the message that emerges from The Suns of Independence. Ultimately, this book is about the end of an age. About how things just can’t survive the upheavals of colonialism and independence. About how people and traditions can come through such changes as mere ghosts of themselves, in the sunlight of an unrecognizable world. Fatalistic ? Yes. But i read between the lines a lot of hope and love.
Please feel free to discuss the book (or the african struggle through independence) in the comment section down bellow, like and share.