In Search of Africa (Paperback)
  • In Search of Africa (Paperback)

In Search of Africa (Paperback)

Paperback 304 Pages
Published: 15/11/2000
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"There I was, standing alone, unable to cry as I said goodbye to Sidimé Laye, my best friend, and to the revolution that had opened the door of modernity for me--the revolution that had invented me." This book gives us the story of a quest for a childhood friend, for the past and present, and above all for an Africa that is struggling to find its future.

In 1996 Manthia Diawara, a distinguished professor of film and literature in New York City, returns to Guinea, thirty-two years after he and his family were expelled from the newly liberated country. He is beginning work on a documentary about Sékou Touré, the dictator who was Guinea's first post-independence leader. Despite the years that have gone by, Diawara expects to be welcomed as an insider, and is shocked to discover that he is not.

The Africa that Diawara finds is not the one on the verge of barbarism, as described in the Western press. Yet neither is it the Africa of his childhood, when the excitement of independence made everything seem possible for young Africans. His search for Sidimé Laye leads Diawara to profound meditations on Africa's culture. He suggests solutions that might overcome the stultifying legacy of colonialism and age-old social practices, yet that will mobilize indigenous strengths and energies.

In the face of Africa's dilemmas, Diawara accords an important role to the culture of the diaspora as well as to traditional music and literature--to James Brown, Miles Davis, and Salif Kéita, to Richard Wright, Spike Lee, and the ancient epics of the griots. And Diawara's journey enlightens us in the most disarming way with humor, conversations, and well-told tales.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674004085
Number of pages: 304
Weight: 404 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


In Search of Africa is a smart, rewarding study by a native-born African attempting to recapture the mystique of a distant past. In his search, we are enlightened as we grapple with his conclusion that 'the salvation of Africa lies in modernization, the creation of a secular public sphere, and the freedom of individuals.' Diawara convincingly demonstrates that we left not only our minds in Africa but a portion of our hearts and souls. - Herb Boyd, Washington Post Book World

In Search of Africa is not contained neatly like an American mall, but operates like the stalls of an African market, offering from chapter to chapter a bit of memoir, a study of Black American and African cinema, African music, 20th-century art, and political and economic theory. But the African market is more than a metaphor...Diawara believes the market has the potential to liberate women...and reduce Africa's dependence on European aid and economic models. - Charles Mudede, Voice Literary Supplement

This is a serious book by one who cares deeply for Africa. It does not descend into the level of travelogue or voyeurism. The book raises deep questions about Africa, its people and culture, and its future. Although the book concentrates on West Africa and on Guinea in particular, the issues examined are continental and applicable to the social and political situation of Africa today. The author writes with deep knowledge of Africa and is able to connect Africa with the diaspora. His view of Africa is thoughtful, rather than romantic...This masterful book deserves the widest circulation. - Sage

While friendship quest provides the basic narrative structure of Diawara's In Search of Africa, the book is interspersed with a series of important 'situational' essays that give the text an additional rich layer of intellectual depth. From considerations of Jean-Paul Sartre's essay Black Orpheus, which served as an introduction to Leopold Senghor's landmark 1948 Negritude anthology of new African poetry in French, to contemporary Afro-American hip-hop, 'homeboys,' and the films of Spike Lee, Diawara's meditations on African and Afro-American culture and politics are wide-ranging, provocative, and never less than engaging...Once more, a sometimes abstract 'search for Africa' bumps up against real-life experience. The result is illuminating not only for Manthia Diawara, but equally for those of us for whom Africa remains an unknown continent. - Stan Perksy, Vancouver Sun

In 1996, after a 32-year absence, Diawara returned to his childhood home of Guinea, West Africa. This is his account of that prodigal son's journey...Though fluent in local languages and deeply conversant with local custom, he was still overwhelmed by Africa: 'How many times I have retreated from Africa into my hotel room!' he writes, with typical honesty. He also embarked upon a poignant search to find his childhood best friend, leading to a series of incidents where his writing sparkles. His account of his teenage gang organizing the festival Woodstock-in-Bamako is fascinating. - Publishers Weekly

The balanced essays range broadly, moving from Richard Wright to Williams Sassine's Afro-pessimism, 'homeboy cosmopolitanism,' Malcom X, griot culture, contemporary mask-carving, and West African market culture...Highly recommended for all libraries as an 'insider's view' of contemporary West Africa. - Anthony J. Adam, Library Journal

In Search of Africa is one of the most outstanding works of cultural criticism/memoir I have ever read. It is dazzling in its range and extraordinarily compassionate in its judgments. - Houston A. Baker, Jr., author of Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance

As a cultural boomerang--someone who has traveled from Guinea and Mali to America and back--Diawara has a unique perspective on the struggles of Africa to define itself in a postcolonial age. For those of us on the opposite side--Americans looking to Africa--this is a crucial new perspective on an Africa in constant transition. - Farai Chideya, author of Don't Believe the Hype

Part commentary, part memoir, Manthia Diawara's In Search of Africa is a deeply moving and honest exploration of personal and national loss and renewal in today's Africa and black America. - Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory

Whatever our ideas about African culture and politics, Manthia Diawara's In Search of Africa will disturb them deeply. If we insist on the importance of ritual and purity, this book will compel us to take seriously the impact of the political quest for modernity and the hybridity of contemporary West African culture. If we believe that a progressive African future will be predicated on leaving religious traditions behind, Diawara's long lost friend, who carves masks for the tourist market, will convince us otherwise. Like its author, this provocative text crosses borders, boundaries, and disciplines to offer one of the most thoughtful, complicated, and ultimately illuminating reflections on Africa we have seen in decades. - Angela Y. Davis, author of Blues Legacies and Black Feminism

In Search of Africa brings us, all of us, home to a place we never knew. By traveling back and forth between cultures, continents, and languages--by wrestling, and momentarily defeating, the deceptions of racial and class identities--Manthia Diawara ís rare intelligence exposes the shared heart of modernity in Europe, Africa, and America. - Walter Mosley, author of Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

This is a book the author could have titled 'Ce que je crois: What I Believe In.' It is a testimony, and a very courageous one. Diawara posits himself squarely as a witness and testifies about Africa, being black, and the African-American context. - V. Y. Mudimbe, author of The Invention of Africa

In Search of Africa is a classic--it is very strong medicine for an age of cynicism and pessimism. Diawara blasts a passage through most of what has been written about the vibrant continent which gave us the beats and moves of the world's dances. His honesty and passion for the truth make the text riveting, and the search for his old schoolyard chum has novelistic bite and power. This is a book I will treasure. - Robert Farris Thompson, author of Flash of the Spirit

Manthia Diawara's In Search of Africa avoids the extremes which characterize contemporary writing about Africa. The scholars and writers whose objective seems to be that of discrediting the continent and its people and the starry-eyed romances about the Africa of the griot. With cogent and brilliant prose, Diawara illuminates our understanding of an Africa caught between the ancient and the modernity, the Africa of the early heroic epics, and that of the Afro-Pessimists. As a bi-continental cosmopolitan writer Diawara not only tells the reader what it means to be an African but an American as well, and Diawara, this African, is more American than any of us. - Ishmael Reed, author of Mumbo Jumbo

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