In Search of Africa by Manthia Diawara, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
In Search of Africa

In Search of Africa

by Manthia Diawara
     
 

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"There I was, standing alone, unable to cry as I said goodbye to Sidimé Laye, my best friend, and to the revolution that had opened the door of modernity for me—the revolution that had invented me." This book gives us the story of a quest for a childhood friend, for the past and present, and above all for an Africa that is struggling to find its future.

Overview

"There I was, standing alone, unable to cry as I said goodbye to Sidimé Laye, my best friend, and to the revolution that had opened the door of modernity for me—the revolution that had invented me." This book gives us the story of a quest for a childhood friend, for the past and present, and above all for an Africa that is struggling to find its future.

In 1996 Manthia Diawara, a distinguished professor of film and literature in New York City, returns to Guinea, thirty-two years after he and his family were expelled from the newly liberated country. He is beginning work on a documentary about Sékou Touré, the dictator who was Guinea's first post-independence leader. Despite the years that have gone by, Diawara expects to be welcomed as an insider, and is shocked to discover that he is not.

The Africa that Diawara finds is not the one on the verge of barbarism, as described in the Western press. Yet neither is it the Africa of his childhood, when the excitement of independence made everything seem possible for young Africans. His search for Sidimé Laye leads Diawara to profound meditations on Africa's culture. He suggests solutions that might overcome the stultifying legacy of colonialism and age-old social practices, yet that will mobilize indigenous strengths and energies.

In the face of Africa's dilemmas, Diawara accords an important role to the culture of the diaspora as well as to traditional music and literature—to James Brown, Miles Davis, and Salif Kéita, to Richard Wright, Spike Lee, and the ancient epics of the griots. And Diawara's journey enlightens us in the most disarming way with humor, conversations, and well-told tales.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1996, after a 32-year absence, Diawara, a professor of comparative literature and film at NYU, as well as that school's director of Africana Studies and the Institute of African American Affairs, returned to his childhood home of Guinea, West Africa. This insightful but awkwardly constructed book is his account of that prodigal son's journey. Ostensibly traveling to do some research for a documentary about the country's former dictator, Sekou Toure, Diawara found himself circling around and, ultimately, spinning in confusion about Africa and the continent's uneven quest for a modern identity unbeholden to the West. Though fluent in local languages and deeply conversant with local custom, he was still overwhelmed by Africa: "How many times I have retreated from Africa into my hotel room!" he writes, with typical honesty. He also embarked upon a poignant search to find his childhood best friend, leading to a series of incidents where his writing sparkles. His account of his teenage gang organizing the festival Woodstock-in-Bamako is fascinating. But readers will have to hunt, because Diawara also seems to carry with him another cargo: the weighty academic burden of African American studies, and what was perhaps meant as ballast nearly sinks the boat. In his book's first line, Diawara announces, "I have organized this book into chapters and Situations, borrowing a concept from Sartre." The "Situations" turn out to be big wedges of stiff academic porridge. These essays on such topics as "Richard Wright and Modern Africa" and "Malcolm X: Conversionists versus Culturalists" only bloat what should have been a beautiful, slender book. (Nov.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674446113
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
11/15/1998
Pages:
294
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.47(h) x 1.03(d)

What People are saying about this

Walter Mosley
In Search of Africa brings us, all of us, home to a place we never knew. By traveling back and forth between cultures, continents, and languages -- by wrestling, and momentarily defeating, the deceptions of racial and class identities -- Manthia Diawarai's rare intellingence exposes the shared heart of modernity in Europe, Africa, and America.

Meet the Author

Manthia Diawara is Professor of Comparative Literature and Film, as well as Director of Africana Studies and the Institute of African American Affairs at New York University. He is the founder and editor of Black Renaissance Noire.

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