Recovering Africa's Epistemic Space: An Argument from Cheik Hamidou Kane's Les Gardiens du Temple

Christian Oladele Onikepe (The University at Buffalo, USA)

A review of recent literature on postcolonialism as a discursive intellectual locus for a formulation of counter-hegemonic ideologies of liberation reveals a topography in disarray, and a series of competing ideologies as Babelic in their epistemological pretensions as they are often mutually exclusive. The task then for the postcolonial, third-worldist scholar seems to me to consist in a search for a new epistemic space (Mudimbe) in which the hybridized, colonized self could be reconciled to itself, cleansed at last of the dichotomizing fervour of all "orientalisms" and "occidentalisms."

It is this task of epistemic retrieval that Hamidou Kane sets for himself in his sequel to the now classic novel of postcolonial resistance, L'aventure ambigue (Ambiguous Adventure). Against the background of a bold diagnosis of Africa's political travails in the past three decades (inept gerontocracies, lucid kleptocracies disguised in democratic garbs, unwarranted military interventionism, neo-colonialism, etc.). Kane's latest novel, Les Gardiens du Temple (The Keepers of the Temple), offers a new and thought-provoking vision of Africa in which the protagonists, representing the postcolonial loci of conflict (tribalism, religious intolerance, political absolutism, class conflict etc), are ultimately led to embrace a new democratic agenda devoid of the erstwhile colonial scars. This paper attempts an analysis of this phenomenon of epistemic retrieval, a sort of coincidentia oppositorum steeped in an awareness of Africa's deep metaphysical heritage, and the need, in this new millennium, of imposing this tempering, humanizing awareness on the promethean colonizer's technological prowess.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001