Writing the Slave Trade Trauma in Francophone Africa: A Study of Selected Novels


Thierry Boudjekeu Kamgang

Research Area:


This study examines slave trade as a profound traumatic episode in African history and the role of writers in revisiting the shadowed memory of this historical trauma with its still prevailing fallouts in postcolonial Africa. The research focuses on selected literary texts that capture disturbing images of the slave trade by Francophone African novelists such as Léonora Miano, Kangni Alem and Wilfried N’Sondé. We contend that in a context where slave trade memory appears to be manipulated, shadowed and eventually misunderstood and forgotten, literature is an alternative pathway to reflecting the sufferings of slave trade victims and reinstating slave memories into the African public arena.


Literary language is instrumental in incorporating both the comprehensible and the incomprehensible, in an attempt to come to terms with the unspeakable stories of dehumanisation during the traumatic period of the slave trade which has only been sporadically discussed in the Francophone African literary spaces. In an act of remembrance and as a therapeutic process, sub-Saharan Francophone writers employ historical narrative, oraliture, magic realism, the fantastic, anachronism, epic writing, and intertextuality among other aesthetic approaches to convey their vision on this subject matter. In the quest for a collective memory, literature plays a cathartic role in the demystification of slave trade and in fostering therapeutic healing of sub-Saharan peoples from a troubled past that hinders an emancipated African self-image.