For my class on tuesday, i just finished reading Asare Konadu's remarkable book, A WOMAN IN HER PRIME. And i thought about it and decided to share my note with West African literature students who have to study this book if they intend to pass their O' level literature in English exam, and for other book lovers like me.
The novel, which was written by Ghanaian author Konadu(i think he died in 1994) in the 60's is number 40 in the African Writers' Series.
The story is about a middle-aged woman, Pokuwaa who has been unable to bear a child.
Pokuwaa is a feminist figure who gracefully rejects subjugation of any sort in a society that demanded a child from her. She has a mother whose paranoia over her daughter's plight causes her to subject her daughter to different rituals and sacrificial offerings and ceremonies.
Pokuwaa's bears the ridicules of her society in good stride. I think it has something to do with the matriarchal Ashanti culture but Pokuwaa's role of family head is carried out in a manner that may frighten most men. She is a hardworker who knows her way around a farm. She is 'rich' as she tells her husband Kwadwo jokingly when the latter sees her counting cowries and says, 'is that to show me how rich you are?' to which she answers gaily, 'don't you know? I was rich even when i was ten years old' and tells the story of her childhood when the old chief showered her with gifts.
She has been married twice before and divorced her husbands because of her barrenness(another feminist input by Konadu, because one would have thought it the other way round). Her current husband, Kwadwo, is sore afraid that the same fate will befall him so he makes extra effort to please her.
Pokuwaa exudes strength, she loves her husband and it shows even though her longing for a child hangs like a dark cloud over their happiness sometimes. Her strength is evident in her resolution to give up the sacrifices and rites to appease the god, Tano in order to conceive. We also see her breaking the news to her mother amid the old lady's tantrums of witchcraft.
Her concealment of the pregnancy when it finally comes, until the third month to avoid raising the hopes of her loved ones if she turned out not being pregnant after all.
Her husband's love supports her, for Kwadwo is a good man and his patience is rewarded when Pokuwaa conceives. He is simply overjoyed at the news:
He took off her cloth himself and gazed at her figure in astonishment... 'cover yourself, beautiful one'... While Pokuwaa was doing so, she heard him sobbing... She rushed to sit beside him on the bed where he was crying like a baby...
Asare Konadu's preoccupation in this fine novel is an iconoclastic dethronement of the superstition of that era, presenting a woman whose worth is measured, not by her child-bearing prowess but by her qualities as a human being.
The entire 107 pages of this novel fascinated me because in Pokuwaa, i saw the new generation of the African woman who has emerged out of darkness, above the shackles of societal expectations to true freedom, without on such things as child- bearing to validate her womanhood.
Interestingly, like our Pokuwaa, most of these women have also been blessed with children because they desire the joy of motherhood for it's own sake.
I hope my students grasp this knowledge irrespective of their culture or sex and that it will tickle the creative nerves in them and take them on a journey of the African experience.