Literary Landscapes: Momplé and Kuakuvi


An interview between Mozambican Lília Momplé and Togolese Kuamvi Mawulé Kuakuvi.

The beauty in post-independence African literature is often in the landscape - that is, the historical, social, political, linguistic and geographical backgrounds - from which the author's characters are shaped. It is in the cultural representation, or perhaps reporting, and the colonial heart notes that beguile the setting. In Lília Momplé's stories, it is in the folktales cradled tenderly by her grandmother's storytelling and distilled as prose in her tellings of identity and gender-power dynamics.

It is evident in the quasi-candid tongue with which Kuamvi Mawulé Kuakuvi and Momplé shared their experiences as they interviewed each other in 1997. In the video, the two discuss the shared unacceptability of their work by their respective French and Portuguese colonial predecessors, for reasons linked to the authors' necessity "to share the truth." This then launches a conversation about race, the role of education and technology in Africa; polygamy, polyandry, religion and the concept of a 'Third World Country.'

What is peculiar about the interview is the authors' ability to dichotomise traditional and 'modern' African settings, without losing the authority with which their stories are told. Through this authentic dialogue between Momplé and Kuakuvi, the power of literature is illustrated as a tool for advocacy, transcending boundaries and transposing cultures. It points to the relevance and responsibility of post-independence African literature. It is a clarion call, of some sort, to (re)define why African authors write.


This interview was recorded in 1997 and remains copyright of the University of Iowa libraries. It was broadcast on Iowa City Public Access Television 2 and University of Iowa Cable Channel 12 on September 9th, 1997 at 3pm. Both Kuakuvi and Momplé attended the 1997 Iowa International Writers' Programme. A full list of the participants for the 1997 residency can be found here.


This Nigeria Sef

Ken Saro-Wiwa

Your own come pass two hundred:
Sanu, ekaro, deeyira, tank you, doo
kakifo, nonsense, you no go fit take one!
Nigeria, you too like borrow borrow
You borrow money, cloth you dey borrow
You borrow motor, you borrow aeroplane
You borrow chop, you borrow drink
Sotey you borrow anoder man language
Begin confuse am with your confusion
Anytin you borrow you go confuse am to nonsense
Idiot debtor, wetin you go do
When de owners go come take dem tings?




Ken Saro-Wiwa was a writer and activist, born in Port Hartcourt, Nigeria in 1941. His first novels, written in pidgin English, were both released in 1985: Songs in a Time of War and Sozaboy. He also wrote poetry and children’s stories, and was well known as a journalist and for his stance against corruption and the ecological damage on the Ogoni community.


Image: S. Mores, 1950.