Day 4 of #WinterABC2022 Blogging Challenge.
Hi everyone! Welcome back to my blog! I made it to Week 2 people. I hope I stay this consistent. I participated in this blogging challenge because I wanted to post regularly and get back into blogging.
I am already 90% towards beating last year’s challenge. I think I posted 5 posts so yay! Anyway, the theme for this week is Stories of Africa and I am responding to a prompt by African Writers’ Trust. The prompt is ” The first book that introduced you to African Literature” and I will be talking about Mission to Kala by Mongo Beti.
I only started reading African Literature when I began my Advanced level studies back in high school. For those that are not familiar with the British education system, we do A levels after 4 years of high school which are followed by 2 years of advanced studies in 3 “combined” subjects which mostly fall under arts, sciences and commercials. I am sure this has evolved somehow but we are not getting into that.
Naturally, I choose arts and Literature was one of my subjects. That’s when I got introduced to African Literature and the first book we read was Mission to Kala and I liked this book because to some extent it mirrored my lived experiences. Also unlike, most books written and set in the colonial period, the book does not focus on the politics of time which in retrospect, is quite refreshing.
The book is set in colonial Cameroon and the protagonist, Medza, is sent to a rural area ( Kala) to bring back his cousin’s wife who had ran away from him because of his lazy and abusive tendencies. Medza has lived most of his life in the city and when we are introduced to him he has just failed his Baccalauréat exams which are written by French high school students and determine your college prospects.
Ironically, his extended family convince him that his education will be able to dazzle the village people, chief and important people to hand over the run away wife and this starts his self discovery journey. His cousin Zambo is also a key character that I will mention along the way. It is important to note that this all happens before he goes home to his strict father obsessed with educating him. He was intercepted by his extended family on his way home and given this mission, hence the title ” Mission to Kala”.
Phew! That was painful to write guys. I am really bad with summaries but now let’s get into the juicy parts.
- COLONIAL EDUCATION
Medza being a city boy realizes that colonial education didn’t give him the “street smartness” that his cousin Zambo has.
Zambo is an animated charismatic personality who is somewhat popular in his village. Although he lacks education, the book somewhat comments on how he doesn’t need it because he has ” life skills” that his cousin lacks.
At the same time, Medza discovers that in the village he held in high regard because most people ended at primary school or did not even go to school all together. He is invited by elders and even the chief himself who ask him a lot about learning with white people and white people in general. Despite his knowledge, Medza still feels inadequate as he realizes he had missed out on life experiences and how colonial education alienated him.
I related to this book because at that time my self awareness was at 2%. Literally 2%. It finally clicked. The effects of being formally educated in the city were not always rosy. I saw this when I went to visit my grandparents at their rural home during school holidays. My cousins, who were formally educated in the rural area, knew so much more about things we weren’t taught at school. What wild fruits were poisonous, how to track lost cattle, how to cross a flooding river. I always found myself out of my comfort zone this was way different from dissecting a Shakespearean sonnet and offering a complex analysis. This was real life.
The difference between the Medza and Zambo are also highlighted by their expression of their sexuality. Zambo is open about his love for women, he is charismatic and easily gets to sleep with women in the village. Medza on the other hand, because of his formal education, arguably finds this behavior appalling and wishes his cousin acts with “more decorum” but eventually admires his confidence along the way.
A funny scene in the book is when the boys are bathing at the rivers, as soon as Medza strips naked, his cousin and friends marvel at his ” size ” because they thought city boys are lacking in that department. Medza is slightly taken aback by this behavior and he is even shocked when they think the city made him more sexually experienced than them when it was the complete opposite because he was a virgin.
Zambo, because , is in awe of his cousin, tries to hook him up with girls. He turns them down and finally settles on the chief’s daughter, Edima. He explores his sexuality with Edima and this whole experience blows him away. This experience also exposes another inadequacy of his colonial education. He was not taught about human interactions, how to talk to women , how to flirt with women, etc. Zambo who lacks education, manages his human interactions, he literally doubles up as his manager because he had become a celebrity in the village. He is Medza’s catalyst on his journey to self discovery.
Guys, I could go on and on about this book. Please try and make an effort to get it. It’s such a good book. In retrospect, one thing I picked up is that the book disrupts narratives about the nature of African people. City people are always painted as morally bankrupt whilst rural people are depicted as innocent and pure.
This notion of purity is disrupted in the novel as we find out teens in Kala were sexually active, drank alcohol and basically behaved like city people. What is the lesson? Africans are complex individuals and are not homogeneous people defined by their geographical locations.
Now in terms of the book itself, Medza’s Mission to Kala becomes a journey of self discovery. He experiences, first drunk episode, first sexual encounter and first marriage too because the Chief tricks him to marry his daughter Edima who is just 15 by the way ( I know). His self awareness is heightened as he realizes there is more to life than school. He ends up fighting his father at the end of the book as he returns home with his wife and news that he had failed his exams.
The book ends with him leaving Edima behind and going away with Medza. There is no resolution to the conflict and the message here being self discovery never ends.
This book was also the beginning of my self discovery journey. Studying the arts in detail. I was introduced to the world of African Literature. Did I suddenly fall in love with it? Truthfully, no. However, it was the beginning.
Oh I just love dramatic endings lol but thank you for reading and see you tomorrow!Take care!