Why Must A Black Writer Write About Sex

An exhibition of sex scenes from African literature that contest cliched inscriptions of literature and sexuality.

Concept

America owes an enormous amount to Third World youth. I’m just not talking about historical debt (slavery, the rape of natural resources, the balance of payments, etc); there’s sexual debt too. Everything we’ve been promised by magazines, posters, the movies, television. America is a happy hunting ground, that’s what gets beaten into our heads every day, come and stalk the most delicious morsels (young American beauties with long legs, pink mouths, superior smiles), come and pick the wild fruit of this new Promised Land. For you, young men of the Third World, America will be a doe quivering under the buckshot of your caresses. The call went out around the world, and we heard it, even the blue men of the desert heard it. Remember the global village? They’ve got American TV in the middle of the Sahara. Westward, ho! It was a new gold-rush. And when each new arrival showed up, he was told, “Sorry, the party’s over.” I can still picture the sad smile of that Bedouin, old in years but still vigorous (remember, brother, those horny old goats from the Old Testament), who had sold his camel to attend the party. I met up with all of them in a tiny bar on Park Avenue. While you’re waiting for the next fiesta, the manpower counselor told us, you have to work. There’s work for everyone in America (the old carrot and stick, brother). We’ve got you coming and going. What? Work? Our Bedouin didn’t come here to work. He crossed the desert and sailed the seas because he’d been told that in America the girls were free and easy. Oh, no, you didn’t quite understand! What didn’t we understand? All the songs and novels and films from America ever since the end of 1950s talk about sex and sex alone, and now you’re telling us we didn’t understand? Didn’t understand what? What were we supposed to have understood from that showy sexuality, that profusion of naked bodies, that total disclosure, that Hollywood heat? You should know we have some very sophisticated devices in the desert; we can tune in America. The resolution is exceptional, and there’s no interference in the Sahara. In the evening, we gather out tents lit by the cathode screen and watch you. Watching how you do what you do is a great pleasure to us. Some pretty girl is always laughing on a beach somewhere. The next minute, a big blond guy shows up and jumps her. She slips between his fingers, and he chases her into the surf. She fights, but he holds her tight and both of them sink to the bottom. Every evening it’s the same menu, with slight variations. The sea is bluer, the girl blonder, the guy more muscled. All our dreams revolve around this life of ease. That what they want: the easy life. Those breasts and asses and teeth and laughter – after a while, it started affecting our libido. What could be more natural? And now, here we are in America, and you dare tell us that we didn’t understand? Understand what? I ask the question again. What were we supposed to have understood? You made us mad with desire. Today, we stand before you, a long chain of men (in our country, adventure is the realm of men), penises erect, appetites insatiable, ready for the battle of the sexes and the races. We’ll fight to the finish, America.

– from Why Must A Black Writer Write About Sex by Dany Laferriere

Aryan Kaganof “wall writing” excerpts from Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry Of Winnie Mandela (New Africa Books, 2003).

Texts

A1, O3, S3
p’Bitek, Okot: Song Of Malaya
East African Publishing House, 1971.

A1, B5, D1, F5, H1, H3, H5, I4, O3, P1, P4, R1, R2, S2, V1
Rampolokeng, Lesego: Black Heart
Pine Slopes, 2004.

A1, D1, F5, F6, O3, P1, P4, P8, T3
Head, Bessie: A Question Of Power
Heinemann Educational, 1974.

A1, R1, F3, F6, I4
Aidoo, Ama Ata: Our Sister Killjoy
Longman, 1977.

A3, E1, H3, M1, S5, S9, V1
Duiker, K Sello: Thirteen Cents
New Africa Books, 2000.

A3, B1, D2, D5 Achmat, Zackie: “My Childhood As An Adult Molester”
Defiant Desire, (eds, Mark Gervisser and Edwin Cameron)
Routledge, 1995.

A3, F4, M2, M4
Liking, Werewere: It Shall be of Jasper and Coral
University of Virginia Press, 2000.

A3, F3, F6, L2, S2, W3
Baigana, Doreen: Tropical Fish
Oshun, 2005.

A3, F3, L3, W3 Foster, Dayo: Reading The Ceiling
Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2007.

A3, D4, M1, M3, M4, S9
Abani, Chris: Graceland
Picador Africa, 2004.

A3, D3, F5, F6, M2, M3, M4
Agualusa, Jose Eduardo: My Father’s Wives
Arcadia, 2008.

B1, I3, S2, S9
Kan, Toni: Nights Of The Creaking Bed
Cassava Republic Press, 2008.

B1, B7, C2, D4, I3, S1, W2
Taylor, Liz: “Jozi, The Night Moses Died”
Chimurenga 7 (ed, Ntone Edjabe), 2005.

B2, F5, P5
Mabanckou, Alain: Broken Glass
Serpent’s Tail, 2009.

B3, C6, D1, F3, S4, F6, V1
Vera, Yvonne: Under The Tongue
Baobab, 1996.

B3, C6, S9, V1
Garland, Muthoni: Tracking The Scent Of My Mother
Storymoja, 2007.

B3, B7, F5, L3
Kwahule, Koffi: “On The Bridge”(translated by Dominique Malaquais)
Chimurenga 12 (ed, Ntone Edjabe), 2008.

B5, C3, C4, F4, P4, R1
Ouologuem, Yambo: The Yambo Ouologuem Reader (ed, Christopher Wise)
Africa World Press, 2008.

B7, H1, W1
Dongala, Emmanuel: Johnny Mad Dog
Farrar,Straus & Giroux, 2005.

C2, C3, C5, H5, I1, L2, P4, P8, S2
Mbembe, Achille: On The Postcolony
University of California Press, 2001.

C2, S2, S8
Beti, Mongo: The Poor Christ Of Bomba
Heinemann, 1971.

C2, F2, M2, P8, R5
Kourouma, Ahmadou: Waiting For The Wild Beast To Vote
Random House, 2003.

C4, D2, E3, F5, M1, R3, R7, S2, V1
Armah, Ayi Kwei: Why Are We So Blest?
Heinemann, 1974.

C4, F5, H1, M2, P4, S2, V1
Ouologuem, Yambo: Bound To Violence
Heinemann, 1971.

C5, D1, L1, T3
Dangor, Achmat: Bitter Fruit
Kwela Books, 2001.

C5, L2, P4, P8, S2
Tansi, Sony Labou: La Vie et demie
Seuil, 1979.

C5, F5, R2
Marechera, Dambudzo: Black Sunlight
Heinemann International, 1980.

C5, L2, P8
Lopes, Henri: The Laughing Cry.
Readers International, 1987.

C5, P1
Achebe, Chinua: A Man Of The People
Heinemann Educational, 1966.

C6, E1, F3, F6, S3, V1
Beyala, Calixthe: Your Name Shall Be Tanga
Heinemann Educational, 1996.

C6, H4, L3, S9, W1
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi: Half A Yellow Sun
Fourth Estate, 2006.

C6, F3, F6, L3, M2, R6, W3
Ndebele, Njabulo: The Cry Of Winnie Mandela
New Africa Books, 2003.

D1, D3, H5, S4, T3, V1
Diop, Boubacar Boris Murambi: The Book Of Bones
Indiana University Press, 2006.

D1, D5, H5, L3, P1
Jamal, Ashraf: The Shades
Brevitas, 2002.

D1, S3, W3
Emecheta, Buchi: The Joys Of Motherhood
Heinemann Educational, 1980.

E1, S2, S3
Ekwensi, Cyprian: Jagua Nana
Heinemann Educational, 1975.

F4, M3, P5
Laferriere, Dany: Why Must A Black Writer Write About Sex?
Coach House Press, 1994.

F4, F6, S2, V1
Abani, Chris: The Virgin Of Flames
Jonathan Cape, 2007.

F6, L3
de Nyeko, Monica Arac: “The Jambula Tree”
African Love Stories (ed, Ama Ata Aidoo), Ayeba Clarke, 2006.

F6, S2
Garland, Muthoni: Halfway Between Nairobi And Dundori
Storymoja, 2008.

F6, S2
Garland, Muthoni: Kissing Gordo
Storymoja, 2008.

L3, O2, S2, V1
p’Bitek, Okot: “Acholi Love”
Transition 17 (ed, Rajat Neogy), 1964.

M1, M3, P5, S2
Njami, Simon: African Gigolo
Seghers, 1989.

M4, P3, S2
Ondjaki: The Whistler
Aflame, 2008.

P4, P8, S2
Du Plessis,V. Clinton: “gross violations”
glass jars among trees (eds, Alan Finlay and Arja Salafranca) Jacana, 2003.

P5, P8, S2, W2
Nkosi, Lewis: Mating Birds
Kwela Books, 2004.

R1, C3
Dikeni, Sandile: “Short Changed”
West Coast Line (ed, Roy Miki), 1996.

R3, O1
Naude, Francois and Stacy Hardy
dis.grace (digital), 2009 *

S1, S2 Mda, Zakes: Madonna Of Excelsior
Oxford University Press, 2002.

*dis.grace is a digital project that re-appropriates JM Coetzee’s novel, Disgrace (1999), to explore the failure of language to maintain its authority in the postcolony.
The project translates the full text of Coetzee’s novel into images using the Google Search Engine’s “Image Search” functionality. It matches each word in the book with its equivalent No.1 Google search image to create a new book, a visual text rewritten through the eyes of a global digital popular culture.
[Google images search rates pages according to popularity thus creating a seemingly “democratic voice”, based on the consensus of the majority of internet users.]