Seasons of the heart

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« You seek me and I seek you,
But the meeting is impossible.
And yet,
I only exist through you. »
LŽopold Congo Mbemba
DŽjˆ le sol est semŽ
(L’Harmattan, 1997, p. 27)

The 1929 war against taxation in the east of Niger is still legendary today. When the soldiers came to crush the revolt, the women of Aba stripped half-naked and paraded and danced obscenely. Some men took fright and ran away…
Shield or seduction, women’s bodies have always been their means of emancipation. The ambiguity of this is immense, and is reinforced by precariousness in the poor countries. It is through their exploitation of men’s desire that women can hope to improve their statute. But in so doing, they set themselves up as an object of sexual conquest and perpetuate their subjugation.
The new African States have not really encouraged the emancipation women hoped for anymore than nineteenth-century Europe did. They have had to take things into their own hands! In male-female relations that remain dominated by the violence of the relationship, cultural changes have opened up often little-known margins of freedom, which are testified to by the frequency of pre- or extramarital sexual relations, or by a certain freedom of clothing.
But this doesn’t get around the ambiguity referred to earlier. Which has encouraged women to explore a new attitude: they refuse to confuse love and sexuality. That is to say, they position themselves as subjects in their own right and as equal to those who desire them. But we first of all have to rid ourselves of the images the media convey of a universal love-passion, of the divine unity of the couple with each partner ultimately staying in his or her place.
It is this place – and this relation – that this dossier merely touches on, so vast is the subject. African artists – and particularly the young male and female writers, filmmakers and visual artists – tackle these with a great deal of lucidity and provocation. Indeed, their writings, films and works often speak of women’s indocility and revolts. By attacking the patriarchal norms, they (both men and women) question tradition. In what name is this unfaithfulness founded? Their betrayal is simply a faithfulness to their own origin, to those myths heard in the night-time storytelling sessions which, through the essential values they defend and the models they propose, give the energy to rebel.
This often involves love stories. In them, both men and women posit love not as a state to be attained, but as an act that has to be undertaken together. Isn’t this the very experience of this unfaithfulness, of this loss of identity, of this void that needs filling? And thus the revelation of a revival through the exploration of the possible? Isn’t it because the Other offers this living corporal experience that the eros explodes?
Whilst this revelatory and liberating love is often illicit in Western art, Africa’s novels and films suggest that conjugal love might be a brand-new concept. A wonderful way of opening new territories on which to ponder, for, as VŽronique Tadjo writes in conclusion to A mi-chemin (poems, L’Harmattan 2000, p. 97), « There is only one love story which we dress and undress with our words and our hopes, only one real season of the heart the universe can hatch in, only one moment of grace in which to be reborn and rebuild the world against all odds. »

///Article N° : 5479


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