Panel 1

Myth and Reality of Migration from Africa to the Global North

Panel organiser: Stephen O. Eyeh, Department of English, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, Nigeria.


A reversal of adventures by Europeans to Africa in quest of glory, fame, power, or material wealth in empire days, as portrayed in colonialist texts such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, present-day migration of Africans to the global north in pursuit of academic qualifications, better economic opportunities and security of life is both real and delusionary. Paradigmatic was the search for the magical city of El Dorado by Spanish explorers in South America in the sixteenth century, which was not only bloody, delusionary and extremely wasteful of the lives of the autochthonous population, but also brutalized the collective mind of the conquistadors. Any form of migration stems from a condition of disenchantment with reality and a strong belief in a future that holds great promise of prosperity for migrants at the end of their hazardous journey. Sometimes, after settling down in their adopted home, immigrants meet their expectations and realise their dreams but at great costs to cultural-cum-personal identity. At other times, hopes are shattered and despair overwhelms them. Between the two extremes lies a third possibility, the commonest, which is a paradox of fulfilment of certain desires, goals and disappointment that the destination arrived at is blighted and different from the dreamt-of paradise sought. African travel literature is replete with the three kinds of migration experience. The panel invites original essays that examine creative works that explore the theme of migration from Africa to either America, Asia or Europe. Pertinent issues for consideration are factors that propel people into exile, problems engendered by migration, experiences that either confirm or negate previous beliefs and expectations about where immigrants are domiciled, perceptions of their home from exile, and choices made to either accommodate or evade emergent realities.

Approved abstracts panel 1

1. Narrative Agency and the Contradictions of Migration in the Selected Novels by Ben Okri

Author: Sola Ogunbayo, Department of English, University of Lagos, Nigeria.

Ben Okri creates a series of relationships in In Arcadia (2002) and The Age of Magic (2014), exploring nature as a site of signifiers to foreground the view that ethical issues exist in the mobility of humans. As the human characters travel from Paris to Basel, they relate with non-human agencies such as Arcadia, luminous lakes and towering mountains, which eventually determine their levels of material development. In their mobility, issues such as disenchantment, separation, wonderment, beautification, degradation and death are experiences in the woods, lakes, deserts, mountains and gardens, all of which serve as humanist signals to the contradictions of migration. These archetypal narratives are intricately stored in and imaginatively derived from the contacts of human and non-human agencies.  In Arcadia and The Age of Magic justifiably reveal how, for instance, the pain of exile and the pang of disillusionment mix with the beauty of discovery and the titillation of novel cultures as human and non-human agencies relate in a process of migration. Advancing the Material Ecocritical paradigms of Serpil Oppermann and Serenella Iovino (2012) with detailed attention to their notion of nature as “narrative agency”, this paper presents a process of human mobility by paying keen cognizance to the relationships in the odyssey of human and non-human agencies in the selected narratives.  The concept of “narrative agency” is integral in explaining the experiences of migrating characters in these novels because new epistemological representations are decipherable in the mobility of human and non-human agencies.  In all, Okri mythologizes the crises of identity as well as the illusion of personal and corporate fulfilments because he generates his narratives from the interactions of the constituents of nature like man, light, caverns, shadows, dreams and Arcadia all of which are agencies which reveal contamination, ethical decay, mythmaking, ozone depletion and other existential contradictions of migration.

Keywords: Migration, Narrative Agency, Contradictions, Nature

2. The Archetypal Search for the Lost Self in Foreign Places in Segun Afolabi’s "A Life Elsewhere"

Author: Abayomi Olusola Awelewa, Centre for General Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.

The search for the lost self is a special mobility in Africa tied to individual and corporate quests for identity and spiritual well-being. Identity in Africa has many layers: cultural, socio-economic, religious and political. Within the different layers, the African, given the recent past history of colonisation and the unfortunate leadership challenge in post-independence African States, is condemned to seek life ‘elsewhere’ in order to escape socio-economic hardship which confronts him at ‘home’. So, he wanders from place to place seeking comfort that eludes him in his original homeland in foreign places. Segun Afolabi’s A Life Elsewhere provides a yardstick to measure, in literary terms, the myth and reality of migration from Africa to the Global North. Afolabi projects archetypal waifs who battle for relevance in foreign places as they search for the Golden Fleece.

Deploying Carl Jung’s theory of the archetypes and the collective unconscious and Hippolyte Taine’s theory of sociological positivism which projects race, milieu and moment as keys to unlocking the meaning of literary texts, Afolabi’s A Life Elsewhere is critically analysed to portray the life of an African as a mirage in the different short stories purposively selected from the anthology for this paper.

The paper concludes that the diasporic archetypes found in Afolabi’s A Life Elsewhere are reflections of the reality every African faces in their newfound ‘homelands’ and that projecting the metaphors of diaspora as an Eldorado, a Utopian space where every problem dissolves at the snap of a finger, is just in the imagination of the emigres.

Keywords: Archetypal waifs, The lost self, Migration, Metaphors of diaspora, African history

3. Re-contextualising the Other in African Mobility Narratives: A Study of Chimamanda Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck

Author: Monica Udoette, Department of English, Akwa Ibom State University, Nigeria.

Globalization has opened up contemporary societies to promote social mobility and create room for cultural affiliation. African mobility narratives therefore, presuppose narratives chronicling the social and migrant experiences of Africans in the global north. This paper examines mobility and its effects on cultural affiliation using Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s collection of short stories The Thing Around your Neck. The select stories “On Monday of Last Week”, “The Thing Around Your Neck” and “The Arrangers of Marriage” offer insight to the innumerable disappointments that trail characters expectations as migrants in America, the choices made, and the impact of failed expectations. The collection accentuates the contrast of crudites and curiosities among countries and repeatedly brings up the significance of the politics of dislocation. Our argument is that the problems engendered by migration are both real and unreal and that the struggle for the retention of cultural and national affinities is both wise and unwise. We conclude that the “Other” emerges in characters personal development and the re-shaping of their perception of America and their relationships.

Key words: Globalization, African Mobility, Politics of Dislocation, Migration, Other

4. Transcending the Physical Spaces: Psychological Mobility in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Prose Fiction

Author: Stephen Kekeghe, Department of English, College of Education, Warri, Nigeria.

Existing literary studies, on mobility and migration, focus mainly on physical exodus with a little reflection on the psychic effects of such relocation on the migrants. Though earliest scholarly efforts, on migrants’ literature fall within the domain of diasporic studies, there exists a large body of literary works in Nigeria that explore the positive and negative manifestations of migration, and in such texts, the writers realistically create a constant conversation between the homelands and the new settlements. However, psychic voyage, as a major constituent of travel literature, has not been adequately explored in Nigerian migrants’ literature. This article examines psychic and physical journeying in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Americanah and selected short stories in her The Thing around Your Neck, highlighting the interplay of mental journeys on the physical, as conveyed through the characters’ imaginative consciousness. Psychoanalysis is adopted as a theory of the mind to account for the streaming of the characters’ thoughts while imagining the new world of their choice. In actual sense, the characters first of all embark on imaginative voyage of the new settlement before the physical mobility. In most cases, the imaginative romanticism of the new world turns to be an embittering reality to the migrants.  

5. Africans and the New Diaspora

Author: Stephen O. Eyeh, Department of English, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, Nigeria.

This paper examines movements from Africa to other parts of the world.  Such movements began with slavery and changed to the search for political asylum and now the quest for trade, education and employment for the facilitation of both information and industrial development.  Relevant literature are reviewed and analysed for their symbolic implications beyond the texts in order to establish the dialectic of fact and fiction.  The relevant literature include Equaino’s Travels, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and other Stories and Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Trafficked (2008). The paper posits that prior to the 15th Century, Africans were free in their natural milieu with no threat to their lives or alienation from their ancestral homes until the period of slavery. Sequel to the attainment of Independence by most African countries with the hope of self-retrieval and economic development, bad governance, corruption, civil wars, foreign debts, economic depression, famine and poverty truncate the people’s hope for true liberation and a better living.  Africans, therefore, seek refuge abroad in countries with viable economy. Globalization, education, cultural diffusion and modern technology especially Information and Communication Technology (ICT) play key roles in population drift all over the world, but the unchanging pattern in Africa has been to the rich North.  There lies an absurdity that Africans now flee their once free homeland or countries to foreign lands, which are perceived as “heaven on earth” because of their functional systems through effective governance.  Thus, this paper concludes that the new movement of Africans to the diaspora is self-initiated and self-imposed, irrespective of its breeding alienation from home and the risks involved, since the migrants believe that the end will justify the means.

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