boiled books and fried paradigms

Consider this my attempt at diverting attention from the lack of posts/any kind of (good) writing at all over the course of the holidays. I’ll soon be returning to my other real life where it will no longer be acceptable to just lie around my grandma’s house demanding to be fed as much fried yam with bissap (I don’t want to hear it) on the side  as possible. This is another extract from the “mini feminist manifesto” I posted about a few weeks ago.


boiled books and fried paradigms

-I don’t blame you. You have swallowed strange ideas and they’re knocking against your ribs. They have floated upwards into your brain and you have forgotten who you are. It’s poison.

-Ah, Mama! In fact! You’re not a woman ooh! See the way you’ve tried for your daughter! In fact, you must be a man.

-Tell me, how would you call this in your language? Tell me, what is the meaning of women’s empowerment in Ewe? What are you going to do with all this? How will your children eat?

-But don’t you see, it’s very problematic for you as a part of the bourgeois, with your foreign education and British mimicry, to impose your ideologies on poor, rural women whose concerns are far removed from your–

-So are you a feminist, or what?

Feminist because I say so. Because my great-grandmother did not clench her teeth, because my grandmother did not fold her lips inward, because my mother did not still the throbbing vein in her forehead, because they did not do all that for me to soak my voice in sugar and gari so that you can enjoy. African because there is a part of me that I left on the other side of a trading vessel, because the ship is blocking my view but has permanently anchored on my shore so I will never fully be able to see. African feminist because I scream and my voice echoes here, and here and here.


I am dangling my crown off the tips of my fingers. With my other hand I am swinging from the edge of your margins. My existence has been pressed between the worn pages of your manuscript. I live there only as you saw me last. I only live there. My body is the s-curve at the beginning of your sentence. The skin on my hands is tinged with grey and peeling from overuse. The skin on my hands is unbelievably smooth and smells faintly of incense and desire. The skin on my hands is patched with raw pink in the places where acid and exploitation left their mark. These hands have held your face steady, so that you could see your own reflection so clearly that it almost comes to life. I am real only in the parts of which I am made. You have gargled with my salty tears to clear your throat before your lectures. You have stretched your legs and crossed them at the ankles on the aching flatness of my back. In the swaying of my hips, you have watched trees waving on the shores of tropical paradise #233. I have been spat on and then polished, ground into dust and then made into an altar. I am picking my way through your incomplete descriptions on tip toes stained orange with henna. I am sanctified oppression and sensual decay. I remain forever in your words as all and none of these things.

(Image: Cover of Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. If you were in Mr. Kwofie’s ‘A’ Level Literature class you probably remember the resounding kissing of teeth and other exclamations of disgust  when Jeremiah asked Tambudzai what she was going to do with an education: “Are you going to cook books and feed them to your husband?” That unforgettable line inspired the title “boiled books and fried paradigms.” Looking up recipes for how to feed a family solely on book learning, starting now…)


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