The Rape of Shavi: A Review
Fiction, African Literature
YEAR OF PUBLICATION
We are transported to the kingdom of Shavi, where the former slaves of the king Kokuma are hidden behind the hills ruled by, the ‘slow one’, king Patayon who has just committed an abominable act. Ogene the God of the Shavian people has sent a stern warning to the king and his people, in form of a fiery bird containing strange albino men. Truly a series of coincidences and man-made acts that leaves the reader wondering whether man is a creation of gods or gods the creation of men.
A calm, elegant and magnificently written piece of writing by Emecheta of our easily forgotten past in Africa. She brings to life the truth, nature and character of Africa in the Ujamah loving, communal living Shavians who consider everything a celebration of and for life. Even happenings as strange as the coming of the pale skinned men calls for celebrations among the people. Strange albinos are treated as the highest of guest, being served by the current queen mother herself with the future queen mother of the whole Shavi.
Buchi produces a sharp contrast with the ways of these strange albino people in their land in the sky. ‘You can tell a lot about a people by the way they treat their visitors’ is the message she tries to pass across as she strings words together to create the metaphor which is our world today. Where in the world would a queen in Europe be subjected to serving strange life forms who are not considered fully developed humans solely based on the colour of their skins.
When these two sharp contracting worlds collide, there can only be chaos. Emecheta bravely reminds us of our history through ‘The Rape of Shavi’ the people are changed forever by this strange albino clan. How their ways have completely changed the way of life of a people loving people. The meeting of the two worlds births a new generation of people who have forgotten their roots; the creation of despots and the greed that comes with the lust for power. A true harmattan haze on an African spring. Shavi has been raped twice and will no doubt be raped a third time, but this time by her sons.
Emecheta weaves a masterful story through this well constructed and profound fable that brings to life a forgotten part of Africa with the entirety of its values, character and screams of reality. For what good is a piece of literature if it does not mirror life.