BOOK REVIEW: The African Child by Camara Laye.

His name was Laye.

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He was born in Guninea in 1924.
His Father was a blacksmith. His mother could be said to have supernatural powers and abilities, like one time when a horse refused to get up after all had been done by his master and all she had to do was to command the horse and it got up.
Or the times she walked a few steps,turning her head in one direction of another to warn the witch-doctor to stop his nocturnal activities.

He was The African Child.

This book gives an insider of the typical African Child experiences. From the superstitious beliefs like when he was told that a snake was his father’s guiding spirit because it had appeared to him in his dream, and his Father would therefore stroke this snake whenever he was at work. To the mysterious white threads which were tied to the bombax trees during the circumcision ceremony for the young boys of 12-14 years, or was the it the roar of Kondèn Diara which roared during the circumcision ceremony only for them to eventually find out that it wasn’t really a lion roaring, while their foreheads were bent to the ground. But sounds made with small boards, which were thick at the centre, sharp at the edges with a hole on one side in which a string is tied to, such that when the boys swing it round like a swing, the board cuts through the air and produced a roaring sound similar to a lion’s roar. Interesting hey.
But these things were kept secret to them, till they were older and knew more. That was the fun of it. The fun was their innocence of these things which they were made to believe, and the mystery of the happenings which they had no understanding of. For if they understood these occurrences as young boys, they would have no stories to tell as adults.

Camara tells us of the senior boys who bullied them and the way he made his Father teach them a lesson. The guava tree litters which they had to pick up as second-year pupils, but were never allowed to taste any of the fruit. The leaf-litter was so much, he could’ve sworn that it was their sole-purpose: to litter the ground and make their back breaks while picking them with their bare hands. Or was it the vicious cows they had to rear as senior boys? And their untimely death which awaited them if a single head went missing from the herd?

He took us on his journey to the capital, Conakry for his studies and falling in love with Marie. She was half-caste (bi-racial), with a very light skin, almost white and very beautiful like a fairy. And she had exceptionally long hair which hung down to her waist. The feeling of belonging and acceptance which he got from his Uncle’s family whom he was staying with while studying in the technical college in Conakry.

Losing a childhood friend to an unknown disease, and eventually leaving his family for the second time amidst tears, pleadings to further pursue his studies in Paris.
“You won’t leave me alone, tell me won’t leave me alone” his mother said between tears when she learnt that he was to leave again, soon.

Laye wrote about love, dreams, hope, sorrow, pain, mystery, knowledge, ignorance, belief, faith and most importantly the love of family.

This is a beautiful book which has our very own African roots. Although it’s really old, if you’re opportuned to get THE AFRICAN CHILD by CAMARA LAYE, take a deep breath, have some tea, sit back, allow your mind to be free and ready to explore its depths of imagination and enjoy.

Till next post. Love xx.

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