Gyasi, Kwaku Addae. "From God's Bits of Wood to Smouldering Charcoal : Decolonization, Class Struggle, and the Role of Women's Consciousness in Postcolonial West Africa." French Colonial History 5 (2004): 173-191.
Kwaku Gyasi’s article compares and contrasts the elements of class struggle, African female power and hopes for post-colonial reform between Ousmane Sembène’s God’s Bits of Wood (1960) and Tiyambe Zeleza’s Smoldering Charcoal (1992). At its outset, the article briefly lays out the historical context in which Sembène released his novel, describing the emergence of a heavily French-influenced class of intellectuals and writers, and a religious elite class influenced mainly by Islam. The article was lengthy, so I focused on Gyasi’s argument about women as a social/political force. She shows how Sembène’s women represent a new force of assertive, combative individuals that reject Western stereotypes of gender roles and personality traits. These women are “architects of their own destiny,” and are portrayed as protagonists rather than submissive sidekicks to the male characters. Additionally, Gyasi expounds upon the women protagonists’ refusal to speak French, or to speak to white men.
Gyasi’s analysis of the characters and themes in God’s Bits of Wood reminded me a lot of Xala. The portrayal of female protagonists, in particular, smacked of Xala’s character Rama, who refused to speak El Hadji in French, and later on confronts her father about his treatment of Adja (his first wife). Not only this, but Rama tries to galvanize Raja and her brother into action, engaging them in dialogue about the unfairness of polygamy and the men that choose it. Additionally, the historical introduction of the article fit well with the opening scene of Xala, when the colonial powers are replaced by locals that end up idolizing and emulating the culture they supposedly kicked out.