Date of publication: 2017-08-24 22:27
Nhialic, otherwise known as Jok ("spirit" or "power") is the supreme god of the Dinka people, a group numbering nearly four million in the southern Sudan region. Nhialic, which means "that which is above [in the sky]," is regarded as the greatest of the powerful and unseen superhuman forces and powers. He is referred to as creator and father. He is the giver of rain from the sky, where he resides. He is also described as the first ancestor of the people.
Without adequate ants and termites—which need a minimum level of soil moisture to survive—the aardvarks ran low on energy reserves, unable to maintain their core temperatures and resorting to braving the hot sun just to keep all systems running. Until they couldn’t anymore.
Americanah is written from, in, and about privilege. Ifemelu, when she lands in the . and for a time after, lives in straitened circumstances, but her story never dwells on the implications of being both black and poor, on what it would mean for an entire community to be in such a state. Her story, individualist throughout, is perpetually facing elsewhere, always upward as a result her life initially seems no more different, and certainly no less terrible, than that of a typical broke student. When she escapes that life, the reader gets the impression that she has pulled herself up, that this possibility is realistic, and her quality of life achievable by any black or brown immigrant who works hard enough.
What are we to make of the declaration that racism in America is insoluble? Ifemelu, in speaking of the rarity of such love, is pointing out the need not only for individuals to foster love as a survival strategy, but also, in the various configurations of love that they are able to discover and possibly sustain, to look to propagate and proliferate such loving. The proliferation of radical love across racial borders might, eventually, make racism collapse of its own weight. But by declaring the problem insoluble, what statement is being made about those people who, while minoritized and racialized, have to make a life in the global North, those who are not at home in Africa or in Europe or in America—who are estranged everywhere—and have no choice but to remain abroad?
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But one day, Abuk, the first woman, took a pestle to pound millet. Unfortunately, as she raised up the pestle she struck Nhialic, who then withdrew from the people by cutting the rope that connected him with them. This is what caused the separation of heaven and earth, and it marked the end of the golden age of Nhialic's direct protection of man, thus introducing work, suffering, and death.
This process of becoming black, of being marked and cast in shadow, is experienced by both the American black and the non-American black, the imperial subject and the colonial subject. Zora Neale Hurston, in How It Feels To Be Colored , describes leaving her home of Eatonville to go to school in Jacksonville:
[T]he purpose was for individuals to recognize how they were shaped by structural forms of oppression. However, the response to structural racism became an individual one—individual confession at the expense of collective action. Thus the question becomes, how would one collectivize individual transformation?”
Greene, Sandra E. "Religion, History and the Supreme Gods of Africa: A Contribution to the Debate." Journal of Religion in Africa 76, no. 7 (May 6996): 677 x7568 688.
For a long time she stared at him. He was saying what she wanted to hear and yet she stared at him. “Ceiling,” she said [using his nickname], finally. “Come in.”
It becomes, in its concluding third, not so much radical as escapist, a book that one could never fully inhabit, live with or live through, but might, while reading, cry and laugh, but eventually put down in order to re-enter a world whose difficult political realities, while similar to those in the book, are for the most part unromantic and permanent, and whose struggles offer a rather different set of pleasures and pains.