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African Women, Indigenous Languages

October 2013

This month we present work by women writing in indigenous African languages. In these stories and poems translated from Gun, Hausa, Luganda, Runyankole-Rukiga, Tigrinya, and Wolof, writers depict characters struggling with poverty, isolation, the oppression of women, the devastation of war, and the long tradition of political corruption. Haregu Keleta’s teenage girl flees an arranged marriage to join the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front in the war against Ethiopia. In two tales from Uganda, Glaydah Namukasa explores three generations of a family ravaged by alcoholism, while Hilda Twongyeirwe’s disaffected bureaucrat finds his loyalty at odds with his ambition. In an excerpt from her sprawling novel, Nigeria’s Rahma Abdul Majid tracks the harsh lives of women in the remote villages. And Marame Gueye reveals the slyly subversive lyrics of traditional wedding songs in Senegal.

My New Home
By Glaydah Namukasa
Mukulu says that if there is anything that keeps him alive, it is alcohol.
Translated from Luganda by Merit Ronald Kabugo
Baking the National Cake
By Hilda Twongyeirwe
He feels like opening the door and stuffing the VP into one of the old closets.
Translated from Runyankole-Rukiga by Juliet Kushaba
From Mace Mutum
By Rahma Abdul Majid
We hear that another wife is on her way.
Translated from Hausa by Ibrahim Malumfashi
The Girl Who Carried a Gun
By Haregu Keleta
The family blamed Solomon for me going off to fight.
Translated from Tigrinya by Charles Cantalupo & Rahel Asgedom Zere
Breaking the Taboo of Sex through Songs: The Laabaan Ceremony
By Marame Gueye
Laabaan is a ceremony organized by women for women.