A discussion with Ken Bugul, Senegalese Francophone novelist and author of The Abandoned Baobab (1982), La folie et la mort (2000), Mes hommes à moi (2008).
Ken Bugul, whose official name is Mariétou Biléoma Mbaye, was born in Ndukumane, Senegal, in 1948. In Wolof, the pseudonym means "nobody wants her". As the daughter of an 85-year-old Marabout, an Islamic holy man, Bugul grew up in a polygamous environment. She attended a French school, studied at the University of Dakar and then stayed in Belgium on a grant. She returned to Senegal in 1980. During her search for cultural identity, Bugul rediscovered Islam. At the age of 32 she voluntarily entered the Marabout’s harem in her home village (as his 28th wife). She saw this as an opportunity to make a new spiritual beginning. Soon afterwards, however, following the death of the patriarch, she returned to urban life.
Her first novel, "Le Baobab fou" ("The Abandoned Baobab"), caused an international sensation and was on the West African best-seller list for many months. The fact that author and narrator share the same name reveals the autobiographical nature of this work. It culminates in the heroine's bitter recognition that she is "not wanted" in Western Europe either, although she had once longed to live there. The return to her homeland is her salvation: "I had tried to spite myself, I had almost succeeded, but were the stakes worth the risk? I had come to my senses in time." The author therefore casts a critical eye on both her colonized homeland, increasingly deprived of its identity, and the reality of a free, supposedly open, multicultural society. While the author identifies almost wholeheartedly with her narrator in her debut novel, in "Riwan ou le chemin de sable" she approaches her authentic experiences of life in a Marabout's harem from the perspective of three different characters: the young, latest bride-to-be, Rama, the emancipated, European-educated narrator, and Riwan, who has gone insane. This novel was awarded the Grand Prix litté-raire de l'Afrique noire.
Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Time: 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
6275 Bunche Hall (6th Floor)
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Cost: Free and open to the public.
Pay-by-space and all-day ($10) parking available in lot 3.
African Studies Center
Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, UCLA School of Arts and Architecture, The Mellon Postdoctoral Program “Cultures in Transnational Perspective”.