1. Samuel Asare Konadu (1932-1994), a Ghanian publisher and novelist who wrote many novels. A Woman in her Prime was probably first published in 1967.It was the 40th novel in the African Writers Series, and his other novel Ordained by the Oracle was the 55th
2.The novel of 107 pages was set in the 60’s and the story is about a middle-aged woman, Pokuwaa who has been unable to bear a child.
3.The opening chapter skillfully draws drama from a simple situation. It is the appointed day for sacrifice to the god Tano, but Pokuwaa is running late. She washes herself, rubs her skin with shea cream, and purifies herself with white clay powder, then looks for the black hen she means to sacrifice. She finds only a post in the ground and a broken string. The hen has escaped! She asks some children if they have seen it, and when one child admits to having thrown a stick at a stray black hen she sees that he is a fetish child — the product of prayers and sacrifice like the child she wants for herself. Rather than being harsh with him, she enlists him and the other children to search for her hen. They find the hen in the bushes, about to be swallowed by a snake, but Pokuwaa is just in time to pin down the snake, rescue the hen, and make her sacrifice.
4.Pokuwaa is the leading character and her role has really given a vivid picture and beauty of the story. We were informed that Pokuwaa could not sustain marriage in view of her childlessness. Konadu describes Pokuwaa as one of the industrious female farmers in Brenhoma. This really portrays African culture where women endure deadly farming work.Pokuwaa demonstrates a habit of hard work and she is known as an industrious house wife who always goes to the nearest stream to fetch water to feed the family.
5.She experiences two different marriages with the unproductive problem. Pokuwaa has divorced two husbands, apparently with little fuss, when they prove unable to give her children. (Oddly, there is little suggestion than the villagers think the fault is with her.) She becomes the second wife of a kind man named Kwadwo, and in less than a month she shows signs of being pregnant. She loses the child and a medicine man chides her for not making the proper sacrifice.
6.Pokuwaa’s mother, who had pressed her to leave her second husband, seems nearly as concerned about the lack of a child as Pokuwaa herself. Kwadwo’s first wife also resents her husband’s attention to Pokuwaa. But Pokuwaa and Kwadwo have a gentle, teasing relationship, full of good-natured humor. Pokuwaa has good friends, too, and a thriving farm. Her wish for a child doesn’t prevent her from enjoying her life.
7.In a few pages we learn a lot about Pokuwaa: about her courage and resourcefulness, her faith, the strength of her desire for a child, and the fact that she is good with children and able to gain their trust. Pokuwaa goes through a broad range of sacrifices with a view to recuperating from her barrenness, but all these efforts are always in vain. Some of the medicine men deliberately mislead her and turn to provide frivolous solutions.
8.Her mother is highly concerned and ensures her advices and consolidations are always enforced. She also has a compassionate friend, Koramoa whose companion is significant in many social ways.
9.Another small drama arises when Pokuwaa discovers a dead body in the forest.We were informed in the novel about Pokuwaa’s terror of dead bodies. She prefer sitting with and confiding in her mother when the benevolent chief who reigned for fifty years dies. The chief has been nice to Koramoa, her best friend in many standpoints. She describes him as the only chief who shares food as well as so many other things with their families. We understand that the chiefs in Ghana are of great celebrity and that they frequently receive gifts from their disciples.
10. No sooner had she discovered dead body near her farm (and failed to reveal the news to the people of the town, except her trusted mother) than she felt discomfort and nostalgia till the burial of the deceased Yaw Boakye. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, she tells only her mother and keeps quiet as the villagers search for the missing man. Her feeling of guilt comes out in her tears at the man’s funeral, causing Kwadwo to suspect she knew the dead man better than she admits.
11.Perhaps because finding the body has caused her to think more deeply about life and death, or perhaps because she has simply had enough of endless rituals and sacrifice, and her mother’s nagging, Pokuwaa finally says, “I think I am going to have peace at last. I am going to give up crying inside me for that which I cannot get. I am not going to sacrifice any more.”
12.She is optimistic that God is the only initiator of a child and not the great god Tano. She rejected all the encouragement received from the mother and the husband with connection to spiritual sacrifices. We sense from this performance that Pokuwaa is not naturally inspired by traditional practices. She may demonstrate an outmost interest in praising the supreme Almighty God than these lesser gods in Brenhoma. No one dare blame the supreme God.
13.Pokuwaa shows sign of pregnancy within a few months after she boycotts the sacrifices of the great god Tago. She has even forgotten about her barrenness. Her husband Kwadwo doesn’t bother much about the sudden change of her mind and they live happier than before. He is a great hunter so as he brings bush meat home to impress his wife.
14.Her mother, the old lady becomes happy with the sign that her daughter has finally become pregnant. Her best friend Koramoa was full of joy while the husband, Kwadwo has shock. Good wishers contribute their mature compliments and advices. We were inspired by Maame Fosua’s information; we are informed that when a woman is pregnant she needs to eat more of palm nut soup and chew sugarcane which in turn provide breast milk in abundance.
15.Brenhoma is the setting of the story. A farming community where traditional religion is mostly prevalent. We recognize lack of formal education among the people of this community. They guess their time by associating it to the rotation of the globe in connection with the position of the sun.
SOURCES OF PREGNANCY
18.Woman is a critical novel of village life with a progressive message that is modern but not reactionary. It deals with the problems of an African woman, Pokuwaa, who is in her 30s and has not had any children, considered a tragic condition by her society, not least by her mother. She has fired two husbands for this reason and her third, Kwadwo, is fearful of losing her. He loves her for her own sake: she has grown up to be a strong person and a good farmer. It is Kwadwo who provides the unconditional acceptance that helps her to resist the psychological pressure of her life (although the author understates this nicely).
19.Abetted by her obsessed mother Pokuwaa has been visiting various shamans and healers. But the omens are never good. When lightening strikes and burns an old tree near the village there is ominous talk of looking about for a witch. Pokuwaa’s mother sees things the old way and is much alarmed. The last straw for Pokuwaa is when she comes across the body of a man near her farm. Out of fear, she doesn’t say anything, letting the men go out and find the missing man themselves. A dire episode indeed.
20.But the last straw is a good thing for Pokuwaa. She gives up on the magic, on the theories of fate. She decides that she must just let life run its course. She gives up her burden. Ah, but this is a West African 60s novel, all 107 pages. So in no time at all she is pregnant and lives happily ever after. I think that Konadu wanted to make the point that a woman needn’t have a child to be fulfilled (at least, no more than a man does): she comes to peace with herself first, gets pregnant after. But his view is that the traditional folkloric account that defined the emotional regime under which Pokuwaa lived was oppressing her, and perhaps contributing to her problems. That is, his target was not so much sexism as superstition, although he understood the negative social consequences for women of magical explanation.
21.In this way his novel is interesting to the western reader today. The western stereotype of the African novel is that it illuminates the positive side of Africa as a cultural soldier defending the homeland. But 60s African writers, like feminists, are often critics of traditions that have come to seem unenlightened and abusive. They did not have much international readership and thus were not as self-conscious as the modern African writer, who tends to criticize regimes more than societies. They thought that they were living through a transformative time, and they try to open doors to the future. They are gentle prophets of modernity, at times, and it is interesting to put their optimism up against the reality of modern Africa (I don’t say that presumptuously, there are lots of ways that comparison could be played out). And there is the persistent theme that good character will out: that is a theme that links African and North American letters.
By Anderson Brown