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Togolese literature at a glance
A few reference books
To find out more on Togo
According to Rouch and Clavreuil, Togo is a small country which, more than any other, has been affected by the failure of the colonial powers to take into account the history of the local inhabitants when they were in the process of subdividing the region. The Germans, followed by the French and the English, established zones of influence without giving a thought to the Ewé, Fon and Mina populations which had occupied the territory since time immemorial. Furthermore, the arbitrary partitioning of former German territories by Britain and France following World War I, only served to accentuate the exploitation of local populations and the pillaging of the region's resources by its new colonial occupants. The literary history of the country reflects this period of uncertainty and arbitrary geographical division, as witnessed by Félix Couchoro, an excellent author from Dahomey-Togo-Benin, who was amongst the very first African authors of the Continent. He has published several novels since 1929, however his decision to write in French did not mean he was "a Francophile". At odds with the French intelligentsia, he became one of the first authors to be conveniently "forgotten" by French Africanists until recently. Apart from Félix Couchoro, the first literary texts from Togo date from the early 1950s. Le Fils du fétiche [The Son of the Fetish] by David Ananou, published in 1955, is often considered to be one of Togo's first novels. Several novelists and poets have contributed to the expansion of Togolese literature in subsequent years : Victor Aladji, Gnoussira Analla, Julien Atsou Guenou, Koffi Mawuli Agokla, Towaly and Tété Michel Kpomassié who tells of the time he spent with the Inuit in his autobiography L'Africain du Groenland. Yves-Emmanuel Dogbé also deserves credit for his work both as an author and founder of the publishing house "Akpagnon", that has fostered Togolese literature since the 1960s.
The early writings for theatre in French also began in the 1950s. In 1956 Anoumou Pedro Santos published the play Fasi which was awarded a prize in Dakar the following year. The playwrights Modest D'Almeida, Gilbert Laclé and Henri Ajavon began writing soon after Independence. Since then, several plays have been written chiefly by Senouvo Agbota Zinsou, Kossi Efoui and Koffi Gomez, the latter being in charge of the theatre company Renaissance in Lomé.
So far, only a small number of Togolese women writers have been published, but their contribution is both varied and interesting. Pyabelo Kouly Chaold's Memories of Twelve Years Spent in Germany, published in 1978, was followed in the mid eighties by Gad Ami's and Christiane Akoua Ekue's novels. A number of books published later built on this pionneering work : novels by Jeannette Ahonsou-Abots and Laklaba Talakaena, a collection of short stories by Emilie Anifrani Ehah and the recent autobiography of Henriette Akofa, who like so many young women from Africa and other parts, was conned by unscrupulous characters and fell victim to Europe's new form of slavery. Three authors published recently (2005-6) are also worthy of mention : Fatou Biramah, Kouméalo Anaté and Lauren Ekué who wrote an excellent novel titled Icone Urbaine.
Please note: Authors' cultural heritage and identity extend beyond their association to a specific location [see Angèle Bassolé Ouédraogo's réflexions autobiographiques and Achille Mbembe "Afropolitanisme" Africultures 66 (2006), pp.9-15.].
Jeannette D. AHONSOU-ABOTSI
Emilie ANIFRANI EHA
Pyabelo Kouly CHAOLD
Christiane Akoua EKUE
- Ricard, Alain. Naissance du roman africain: Félix Couchoro, 1900-1968. Paris: Pésence africaine, 1987.
- Rouch, Alain et Gérard Clavreuil. "Togo" dans Littératures nationales d'écriture française: Histoire et anthologie. Paris: Bordas, 1986.
- Decalo, Samuel. Historical dictionary of Togo 2nd ed. Metuchen, N.J : Scarecrow Press, African historical dictionaries ; no. 9. 1987, 331p.
- Ayeva, Bassirou. Miroir d'un rêve brisé : Lettre à Rissa Ivry-Sur-Seine: Editions Nouvelles du Sud, 1998, 270p.
- Amenumey, D. E. K. The Ewe unification movement : a political history Accra, Ghana : Ghana University Press, 1989, 374p.
- Bridgman, Jon M. German Africa : a select annotated bibliography Stanford, Calif : Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, 1965, 120p.
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The University of Western Australia/French
Created: 05 Jun 1996
Modified: 10 Nov 2006
Archived: 25 Oct 2008