The Labour Of Love Landscaping



ften, we African women find that we live in societies where there seems to be a collective ownership of our lives. Our bodies. Our futures. From young ages, our bodies (and minds) are policed, whether through words designed to mold us into meekness, or through physical acts that are often harmful. In Nigeria, for example, 25 percent of women1 between the ages of 15 and 49 are victims of Female Genital Mutilation.

That is only one example of how, from early years, force, coercion, and pressure dog the female life. Another, more prevalent, is the pressure to get married. To submit our lives over to the control and protection of a man, as it is believed that women need to. Because of this, early marriages are quite common, with 43 percent of Nigerian women married by age 18, and 17 percent2 by age 15.

While education may have significantly reduced the number of women forced into marriage overtly, it has not stopped the covert questions asked once a girl hits the turn of her 20s. Uncles, aunties, parents, even peers, wrap the pressure in words crafted to sound like well-meaning concern. No one asks what we want — if we even want marriage, or want it yet.

The Labour of Love Landscaping, a poem by Assumpta Victu, gives a voice to the women who are at the receiving end of this pressure to be meek; to give more while receiving less; to enter into matrimony or other ideas of what society thinks we should be. The poet speaks about the familiar feeling of bearing the burdens of loss and what is broken, yet none of the glory of what is good. Yet, in all of that, her voice and message are steady to those women: stand firm.

Quit beating your individualism into submission to fit close minded cookie-cutter stereotypes.
— Assumpta

Assumpta is a writer, poet, blogger and storyteller born in Nigeria, and raised in London where she now lives with her husband. She received her LLM in Law from Coventry University and her MA in Creative and Professional Writing from Brunel University. Assumpta's work centers on love, loss and deracination. This poem was written and performed by her. All rights reserved.

Image: Inès Longevial.


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.