AfricanLiterature on Migration
Africanliterature focuses on different issues that have defined the societyover the years. Some of the stories are derived from folklore as thecontinent is rich with folklore drawn from the various communities onthe continent. However, some stories focus on African experiencesespecially after colonialism. The issue of immigration to westerncountries is a recurring theme especially in modern literature asmost immigrants imagine that life in the west is better than life athome. The stories of African immigrants are often characterized bysuffering and pain. The discussion shall discuss migration, bothlegal and illegal in three literary works.
‘Hopeand other dangerous pursuits’ by Lalami is a gripping story aboutillegal Moroccan immigrants who tried to illegally migrate to Spainfor better lives. The Moroccans had been promised colorful jobs andbetter conditions of living once in Spain. Those who had migrated toSpain earlier had always sent money and other gifts back home andthis motivated the illegal immigrants (Lalami22).This was also the case of four women in the story ‘On black sistersstreet’ by Unigwe. The story featured four women who had migratedto Belgium, a country they imagined having good standards of livingfor its occupants. The four women left their mother country on thepromise of good jobs once in Belgium. However, once there the womenhad to pay the debt of their facilitator by becoming prostitutes.
Mostimmigrants move to Europe to chase dreams that they eventuallydiscover are lies. The immigrants often risked their lives so as tocross over to the European countries so that they could achieve theirdreams. The immigrants in ‘Hope and other dangerous pursuits’risked their lives as they were travelling across the ocean on a boatand they faced many dangers due to changing weather conditions. Thewomen in ‘On black sisters street’ also risked their lives whiletravelling as they had no legal documents and they risked beingarrested in Belgium as they had no legal status. In ‘TheGranta Book of the African Short Story’ Habila told the story ofAfricans who dreamt of better lives in Europe and who risked theirlives so as to cross over to the Promised Land (Habila 98).
Immigrantsfaced many challenges in their new homes as they had to do odd jobsso as to sustain themselves and send money back home to theirfamilies. In ‘On black sisters street,’ the four women in thestory had to work as prostitutes in the red light districts so as toearn a living (Unigwe 20). The women were forced into prostitution bytheir master so that they could repay their debt to him. The womenoften worked dangerously as they were under the command of theirboss, who defiled them or mistreated them if they did not followorders. The women could also not go to the authorities because theywere illegal immigrants.
Theimmigrants in ‘On hope and other dangerous pursuits’ worked oddjobs once in Spain as they could not get favorable jobs because oftheir illegal status. This was after overcoming many challenges asthey were crossing over to Spain. Those who could not survive thechallenges at sea died. The immigrants worked under harsh conditionsas their bosses knew that the immigrants had to survive in Spain(Lalami 61). The Moroccans were escaping the poverty and harsh socialand cultural conditions in their home countries only to experienceworse lives in Spain.
‘TheGranta book of short stories’ told of the hope and dreams of youngAfricans who wished to move to America so that they could live theAmerican dream. The young people believed that America held a betterfuture than their motherland. The young people often immigratedillegally to America, risking their lives so that they could achievetheir dreams. Once in America they faced many challenges as theycould not obtain dignified jobs. The immigrants did odd jobs and theylived under poor conditions yet they could not appeal for help fromthe government.
Theillegal immigrants often have personal problems that drive them intodesperation and they thus seek for any means to improve their lives.The four women in ‘On black sisters’ were escaping troubles intheir homes and they hoped that they would help their families oncethey got to Belgium. The women were looking for better lives fromtheir previous lives that were filled with poverty and despair(Unigwe 18). For their families, the women were willing to risk theirlives. However, they later realized that the dream of a better lifein Belgium was an illusion especially because they had to work asprostitutes so as to earn a living.
‘TheGranta book of the African short story’ told stories of youngpeople who were tired of the poverty and despair in their homecountries and who dreamt of better lives in America. The young peoplebelieved that America was a land of prosperity and abundant humanfreedoms (Habila 16). This was especially because their homelandswere ruled by dictators who ruled with iron fists. The young peoplethus wanted to move to America because it was the land of humanfreedoms and prosperity. However, once in America, they faced manyhardships and they longed for their home countries.
Manyimmigrants often get into modern day slavery where they facehardships in their new lives as opposed to the good life than theywanted. ‘On black sisters street’ was a story about four womenwho risked it all to travel to the land where their dreams would berealized. The women became prostitutes so as to survive in Belgium.Sex trade is a modern day form of slavery with women travelling fromAfrica to Europe ending up as sex slaves as they are controlled bytheir masters who exploit them for their own monetary gain (Lalami79). Most immigrants die in the hands of their bosses who are notinterested in the welfare of their “business toys.” In the novel,Sisi was murdered and her boss, Dele, did not care about her death orwelfare.
Thosewho migrate to Europe face many challenges and they have limitedoptions since they are often illegal immigrants. In ‘The arrangersof marriage’ in ‘The Granta book of the African short story,’Agatha had to marry an American man so that she could acquirecitizenship. This depicted the story of many African immigrants whohad to use any means within their reach to obtain citizenship andavoid deportation (Adichie 100). Most of the immigrants, such asAgatha, had to live miserable lives in their marriages as they had tostay in the marriages in order to maintain their citizenship and livea good life.
‘Hopeand other dangerous pursuits’ was a story about differentimmigrants who were moving to Spain to find better lives. The storyhad many different characters with different abilities and dreams.However, once in Spain, the truth hit them hard as they realized thatthey could not find decent jobs due to their illegal status. Forexample, Aziz the graduate lamented that he had a degree and he didodd jobs so as to survive in Spain. The people of Spain did notrecognize the hardships or qualifications of the immigrants. Theimmigrants cannot find good jobs as they have no legal status andtheir bosses misuse them because the immigrants cannot go to theauthorities.
Mostof the immigrants survive through strong friendship networks whichgive them a sense of family while abroad. Life in the new countriescan be cold and unfair and the only way to survive is through strongnetworks that give the immigrants a sense of community. The threebooks share tales of immigrants who faced so many challenges in theirnew countries and they had to form strong friendships in order tosurvive (Lalami 56). Life in the new countries was full ofdifficulties and hardships as the immigrants realized that the lifethey dreamt of was far from possible (Unigwe 67). They thus had tohold together in order to survive and overcome the challenges.
Prostitutionis also a major challenge that faces many immigrants especiallywomen. The ladies have no choice but to sell their bodies so as toearn a living. The women are also exploited by people who help themto move to Europe because they sell them as sex slaves in order tomake profits (Unigwe 30). Once in Europe, the women realize that theycannot find good jobs and the only way to earn a decent living isthrough prostitution. The three books represent the stories of womenwho had to join brothels abroad so as to earn a living. In thebrothels, the women were under the control of ruthless bosses whoexploited them in order to make profits.
Humantraffickers also play a major role in the migration of Africans toEurope. The human traffickers are influential people who haveconnections and they profit from their illegal businesses. In ‘Onblack sisters street’ Dele was the main human trafficker whobragged about his business of moving between four to five girls toBelgium, per year (Unigwe 22). In ‘Hope and other dangerouspursuits,’ the characters were all brought together by a humantrafficker who risked people’s lives using motorboats to taketraffic people abroad. In ‘The Grant book of African short stories’numerous human traffickers were featured in different stories whosneaked people into America with colorful stories of successfulimmigrants. The human traffickers are usually greedy business peoplewho exploit people’s desperate situations so as to make profits.
Inconclusion, the stories of African immigrants are often characterizedby suffering and pain. The immigration stories represent modern dayslavery in which people seeking better lives abroad risk it all so asto live good lives. The African immigrants risk their lives so as tomove abroad but once there, their lives are faced with many hardshipsas they realize that they cannot get good jobs. The three bookschosen feature the story of Africans escaping different hardships athome, human exploitation, prostitution, the need for community andthe life of the immigrant in the west.
Adichie,Chimamanda. “The Arrangers of Marriage” TheGranta Book of the African Short story. London:Granta books, 2001. Print.
Habila,Helon. TheGranta Book of the African Short Story.London: Granta Books, 2011. Print.
Lalami,Laila. Hopeand Other Dangerous Pursuits. ChapelHill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005. Print.
Unigwe,Chika. OnBlack Sisters Street: A Novel.New York: Random House, 2009. Print.