…Or How the Art of Cunnilingus Can Be
an Unsuspected Practice of Domination
Meeting Togolese writer Sami Tchak is to enter into extra lucidity, getting rid of all religiosity; it is looking at the world while coming out of the cave. Having left for Paris with great certainty as to the devastating effects of post-colonialism, which has hampered the development of our countries, I came back distraught.
I promised the editors of Schlosspost his portraiture and the reading notes for his essay The Color of the Writer ( La Couleur de l’écrivain, Editions La Cheminante, juin 2014) as well as his latest novel, The Ethnologist and the Wise (L’Ethnologue et le Sage, Editions Maganga 2013), but just as a teaser, I would blame myself if I didn’t deliver this note of my journal.
Last October, a symposium on the revival of African thought was held in Dakar, Senegal, at the instigation of two famous African thinkers, Felwine Sarr and Achille Mbembe. The symposium was held at the French Institute (Institut Français) in Dakar. And a columnist of the French daily newspaper Le Monde laughed at the organizers – accused as a result for having organized a conference on the re-foundation of African thought in a highly symbolic place of French neo-colonialism in Africa.
This criticism, sent as an uppercut to the idea of an African Renaissance, may seem pertinent, but it is only relevant to the eyes of those who misunderstand the history of literature and thus African thought.
One Is Always the Vassal of Someone
In fact, the great intellectuals of France, a democratic country, have sponsored the production of African thought. This is not pejorative. Both thinker-instigators of the symposium are published in France: Exit from the Great Night (Sortir de la grande nuit, Editions de la Découverte, 2013), and Policies of Enmity (Politiques de l’inimitié, Editions de la Découverte, 2016) , two major works by Mbembe are published by La Découverte whereas Afrotropia by Felwine Sarr was produced by Phillipe Rey.
»In fact, the great intellectuals of France, a democratic country, have sponsored the production of African thought.«Tony Feda
Roughly speaking, African literature has always been a literature supported by masters. The unmistakable Aimé Césaire was knighted by André Breton, who, on a trip to Martinique, had the surprise of his life by discovering in a wrapping paper an excerpt from Notebook of a Return Home, and, therefore, decided to edit the author. André Breton prefaced Notebook of a Return Home (Cahier d’un retour au pays natal) just as Jean-Paul Sartre had prefaced the Anthology of the New Negro and Madagascan Poetry (Anthologie de la poésie africaine et malgache) by Senghor (1948).
The authors of Negritude founded Présence Africaine to publish the works of African authors but none of them were published by this house. Black American authors James Baldwin and Claude Mckay were also first published in France before becoming famous in the United States. It was France who held out its hand to them before they became the great authors of American literature.
It is sometimes necessary to beware of any Manichaeism. The relations between dominated and dominating far exceed those of master and slave. One is always the vassal of someone.
In the long history of capitalism and its aftermaths, imperialism and the oppression of the peoples of the South by the North, it must nevertheless be acknowledged that the West, and especially Europe, still remains, in spite of everything, the place where a certain humanism takes place.
»The relations between dominated and dominating far exceed those of master and slave. One is always the vassal of someone.«Tony Feda
Reacting to my criticism on Facebook of the Chronicle in the French daily newspaper Le Monde, mainly to the reaction of a Cameroonian writer-poet who would like – Oh, supreme idiocy! – that African writers set up their own houses in order not to depend on the influence of France, Sami Tchak said to me: »Western patterns of thought further undermine those in Africa and elsewhere in the world who do not have sufficient intellectual resources to understand all forms of dependence and domination of which they are the victims. People must know that even in our sexual ways we are bound to Western civilization, that we do not need to have gone to school to be caught up in a system that has cross-ruled the entirety of humanity.«
Well, after centuries of domination, we are totally ignorant of the origin of the ties in which we are chained or which underpin us to the West.
My Grandmother’s Sexual Frustrations
Then comes to my mind this tendency of some Togolese girls today – not most of them anyway! – to claim as a due cunnilingus, whereas five decades ago my grandfather would give a horrific cry if my grandmother dared to request him to visit the eminence of her Mount Venus.
It comes to my mind the express requests of my friends to bring them sex toys from Stuttgart when I talked to them on Whatsapp about the business of erotic gadgets in the red light district of Sankt Pauli!
»Language is a medium of domination. It is difficult to hate and fight cleanly the oppressor when his language is nearly your native language.«Tony Feda
I am reminded of Chris Hani, the anti-apartheid black activist, a member of the African National Congress, who advised his party to refuse at all costs the teaching of Afrikaans to black students. Afrikaans is the language of the oppressor. This refusal led to the Sharpeville Massacre. Language is a medium of domination. It is difficult to hate and fight cleanly the oppressor when his language is nearly your native language.
I am reminded of these remarks by Sami Tchak (I quote from memory) in a Bobigny restaurant: »Just like the Africans, the Chinese do not have an autonomous thought because of the absence of an area of freedom. I found them totally ridiculous when they made all a din around sending taikonauts into space. Certainly it’s beautiful, but it does not mean anything. They have merely followed what the West has already produced. Now they are preparing to go to Mars, just to exhibit their power. But that is what the Americans are doing. What is the real value of spending billions of dollars on Mars? What does China really bring to the world of the 21st century? Nothing!«