ARDA Executive Director Alison Data Phido presented a paper at the 2017 African Literature Association Conference. The Conference, which takes place annually at various academic institutions across the world, was this year organised in the United States by the esteemed Yale University.
Mrs Phido’s paper was entitled “Women at War: The Ways that Mothers and Daughters Navigate Chaos and Mayhem during Wartime.” She was part of a panel called Writing Trauma and Violence Against Women which looked at how literature, particuarly African literature, dealt with some of the challenges and threats women face in wartime, peacetime and just the day-to-day experience of being a woman in Africa.
Various traumas were discussed over a wide-range of works including rape, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse and much more. Mrs Phido’s paper looked at the experiences of women in war and the often-horrific things they had to do to survive.
Using her own experiences as a young girl during Nigeria’s Civil War in 1967-70 as a starting point, Mrs Phido discussed the effect of war trauma on the characters, and raised the interesting point it wasn’t until women started to write about war that the effects of these traumas and traumatic events were really explored.
She talked about a character in one of the novels she read- Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (set in Sierra Leone who more recently endured their own brutal Civil War)- who had seemingly moved on but every rainy season would enter a fugue state and wander miles away from her village due to the memories and trauma she faced during the war and was still facing actually, even years after the fact.
She contrasted this with some of the novels written in the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war by some of the literary titans like Wole Soyinka or Elechi Amadi who did not shy away from depicting the trauma that women faced, but did not necessarily explore how they felt and how they dealt with this trauma.
“I think I managed to encapsulate the important points I wanted to make,” Mrs. Phido said after her presentation was over. “I feel very happy about being able to introduce some books that some people might have not heard about,” she continued.
She referenced The Forest Dames by AdaOkere Agbasimalo as one of such books calling it “an important book on the Biafran War experience for women.”
In an interesting coincidence, the aforementioned Aminatta Forna was one of the keynote speakers at the conference and Mrs Phido got to meet with her briefly during one of the official luncheons of the Conference.
The African Literature Association Annual Conference brings scholars, writers, and enthusiasts of African Literature, Studies and Culture from all over the world together to discuss, learn and network together. Mrs Phido had attended a few as an observer before making the jump to a participant this year.
She says she thoroughly enjoyed the experience, stating that she would try to present again next year if she found a topic she was as passionate about like this one.
We congratulate our ED on her successful presentation. Stay tuned for video clips from it both here and on our Facebook page.