Writing in Emergency Conditions or the Unequal Sharing of the
Sensory by Tanella Boni
Tanella Boni is from Coˆte d’Ivoire. She is a philosopher and member of the Scientific Council of the Groupe d’e´tudes et de recherche sur les Mondialisations (GERM – Research and Study
Group on Globalization). A literary publisher, she also writes poetry and novels. She contributes to many journals including Culture Sud (published by the French Ministry of Culture) and
Dioge`ne (published by the International Council of Philosophy and Human Sciences).
Jacques Rancie`re’s idea of ‘sharing the sensory’ could be an anchoring point for my thesis. He says: ‘What I call sharing the sensory is the system of sensory facts that reveals both the existence of the shared and the divisions that define the places and the respective portions of it’ (Rancie`re, 2000, p. 12). The ability to express oneself through art is common to all cultures. However, although this ability – like articulate language – includes us as part of a shared humanity, the way of participating in artistic practice, in consumption, circulation and recognition of artistic production and cultural expressions differs from one country to another, from one continent to another, and differs even more between decision-making centres, centres of sharing, right out to the fringes of the world.
Writing as a life sustainer that cuts across languages
Here I talk specifically about the artistic and literary life related to the construction of the
ISSN 1350-0775, No. 244 (Vol. 61, No. 4, 2009) ª UNESCO 2010 41
Published by UNESCO Publishing and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ‘fringes of the world’. I also talk about entering into art in all the places that are still controlled by others. As if the freedom to write and create did not exist; as if the artists from these countries must not take part in this sharing that, to my mind, is not geographical or economic division – and thus inequality – but rather proposals of writing, images and meaning that take us back to these ‘fringes’ controlled by others – their ‘legal guardians’.
However, I dare to believe that it is from these distant parts, which remain largely unknown, that pockets of fresh air circulate, original and sometimes inaudible breaths, foreign accents able to shake off the rational or calculated arrangement of that ‘world republic of literature’ that Pascale
Casanova speaks of (Casanova, 2008).
A whole wealth of the sensory exists to be explored in creations from far away, and ironically from near at hand, brought by the individualities that are expressed by artists and writers in their countries, which are still dominated by others.
Sometimes these individualities have made the crossing and, belonging to the ‘Diasporas’ disseminated throughout the world, they carry the ambiguity of current human relations despite the progress in relationships of domination. Memories alone still retain traces of historical violence and new violence linked to post-colonial situations.
Yet in art and literature, individualities are subjectivities with wounded memories, confronted by what I will call the urgency of existing as a human and artist or writer.
However, how can a person be a writer under difficult conditions of creation and reception and where production and communication systems bearly exist? Sometimes, in some African countries a closed system operates which works very well.
This is the case for Onitsha market literature produced locally in Nigeria. However, the question that quickly arises is what language is used for writing? This problem has to be faced because in every language a part of the individual identity is expressed that binds the individual to the group.
Thus writing in the language of the other, by necessity or choice, could pose a problem. It’s as if writers move away from themselves and are likely to lose their own identities. Writers such as
Ngugi wa Thiong’o from Kenya, Boubacar Boris
Diop from Senegal and many others like Wole
Soyinka, Nobel Prize winner for literature, have answered this question. They are writing in the language of the colonizer, but also in their own language. However, they reserve the right to translate a text written in a local language into an ‘official’ language. So Doomi Golo by Boubacar 17. Yann Reinette, Untitled. ª
Ya n n
R ei n et te 17
ART AND RESISTANCE 42 Published by UNESCO Publishing and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Boris Diop, published in Wolof in 2003, has just been translated into French by the author with the title Les Petits de la guenon (The She-Monkey’s
Is it possible to write in a language other than one’s own without losing one’s identity and one’s values? Is it possible to use one’s imagination needed for literary creation while gripped in the vice of that ‘ambiguous adventure’, to quote
Cheikh Hamidou Kane (1962)?Authors sit down to write with that uneasy feeling of being ‘between two stools’, somewhere between two cultures.
Although they have learned to be intellectuals in
Western culture, they regret being uprooted from their own culture. They have the impression that their world has collapsed. So writing becomes a place of extreme tension where authors play out the drama of being bound for other worlds they have not chosen. They carry in their bags some images and snippets of words that cannot flow in their writing, the means of expression they use in their daily physical combat, testing the validity of their knowledge and multiple identities. Thus, right from the first half of the twentieth century
African writers, particularly those of the Negritude
Movement, participated in the fight to emancipate blacks.
The unequal sharing of the sensory and the weight of legitimating entities
Because the urgency of writing as a ‘life sustainer’ is related to the language used, the question arises of 18. Muriel Diallo, Untitled. ª
M u ri el
D ia ll o 18
Writing in Emergency Conditions or the Unequal Sharing of the Sensory