How can magical realism be used as a counternarrative to the history of colonization? Contrary to the single story of Africa as a “black” continent, magical realism in works by authors around the continent attempts to run counter to the colonizers’ “official” account of what occurred in the past. In Nigerian literature specifically, magical realism is seen most often in texts attempting to fill in the gaps of the country’s history: From Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe to the works of Ben Okri, fantastical elements like shamans, visions and dreamlike journeys work as a means of adding the personal to the political. Instead of allowing one version of their national history to be told, authors of magical realism draw on extraordinary events to resist the limits of one understanding of the past, from the arrival of Europeans onto the continent to the Nigerian oil boom. That literary tradition is mirrored in the contemporary practice of and belief in witchcraft and the occult, social structures that resist governmental authority and instead choose to self-fashion themselves as their own definitive systems. The uncertainty of the government leads individuals into these organizations and pseudo-religious groups, which promise them the riches, stability and power the government cannot. Therefore those who engage in university cults, identify themselves as teenage witches or otherwise engage in the occult are resisting a Nigerian identity being given to them by the country’s government or mainstream, much like magical realist authors use the fantastic and supernatural to provide another explanation of colonialism’s and capitalism’s effects on Nigeria. This paper will examine how, viewed together, the tradition of magical realism and the modernity of witchcraft are working—sometimes at odds with one another—to create a multilayered version of Nigeria that resists a single identity and instead transforms itself to fit its citizens’ needs. This paper will use Things Fall Apart, “Stars of the New Curfew” and other Okri short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, Graceland and postcolonial and magical realist theory.


About roxanahadadi

First-year literature graduate student! Planning on drinking enough Diet Coke to develop an ulcer during class discussions.

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