African Memoirs and Cultural Representations: Narrating Traditions by Toyin Falola

1. What is your main interest or what aroused your curiosity about contemporary memoirs, particularly in West Africa?

I became interested in delving into the study of this area when I completed a part of my research for one of my books on auto-ethnography a few years ago. I found out that the creation of our lives and the process involved gives importance to language and the methodology of narration. By giving meaning to our lives, we narrate and embody our experiences. However, I realized West Africans are richly blessed in this mode of expression, and little research has engaged in West African life writings.

2. Why is the notion of space and place matter as an intriguing part of the research for this book?

I know the world has significantly moved on to the era of the urban, where we explore the lives of people who live in cities, and that perspective has greatly affected how we view the importance of places and the spaces we navigate daily. However, we often do not pay attention to the cosmopolitan tendencies that the rural environment offers, especially in the West African region. This book focuses on memoirists whose lives are in the cities alone and their encounters in the rural areas, a kind of nexus of both; thus, it is intriguing as it combines the rural-urban dialectics to present an exciting way in which we view space and place in Africa, including the way academics teach these concepts.

3. How do you think this book’s narration of traditions in divergent ways will transform how it is navigated in African Studies?

I believe it will transform the teaching practices of Oral Literature, most importantly in African Studies. The narration of cultures and specific traditions and the teaching in African Studies will help to survey a diverse expose of historical tempers and explore theoretical and literary nodes. As a result, the strategies, approaches, and diverse methodologies and place-based, which this book has adopted in critically analyzing the memoirs, will be an essential guide on how the scholarship of traditions will be conducted in a decolonized and diverse setting.

4. The book shares a distinct pool of particular traditions and cultural notions; how universal are they in today’s contemporary world?

There is no gainsaying that, long before print media, West Africans told their stories and experiences in a distinctive manner and approach, and they were often relayed to be didactic. In doing so, they mostly adopted narrative techniques to mask their messages and create an open-ended narrative in an adventurous style. In the third chapter, this book shares different stories that are particular but emote universal tendencies, and the struggles presented in the memoirs carry the outlook of a collective one. These collective struggles can be used as a template for West Africans to navigate their lives in new lands because traditions mostly bind them to the cultural nodes they have either experienced or narrated.

5. What will the readers appreciate most and benefit from the book?

Specifically, the readers of this book on contemporary West African memoirs will appreciate the seeming introduction and embrace of narratives of newly recognized West African memoir writers from a wide range of historical periods in the continent and different countries. As a result, this exposure to readers will significantly help to widen the autobiographical field of African readers to understand the diverse methods in which West Africans and Blacks in the Diaspora have critically engaged the concept of self and the African identity. Also, the readers will find that the narration of culture and traditions and the methodologies employed to analyze the texts have helped to ease out new and exciting layers in African life writings and studies.