Baho! by Roland Rugero is an interesting read from an African author. This story is almost like a hazy memory thrown into other snippets of a person’s life. Much like Tram 83 by Fiston Mujilla, this book jumps around from character to character and memory to memory, barely linear in nature. The story surrounds the unfortunate incident between a man who cannot speak and a young girl in a small village. A blunt gesture and social fear follows this situation and it begins to involve others. Essentially the man is mistaken as a would-be-rapist and quickly found guilty (mostly because he’s mute and can’t defend himself) with people of the village flogging to the victim and her family. This is where Rugero begins to give his seemingly unimportant background characters some life and the story becomes a bit interesting.
Rugero talks about the women who are “accompanying the survivor” (24) and gives the readers background information on otherwise flat characters. We hear about the woman who’s elbow was broken by her husband’s drunken tantrum, the old too-tall “spinster” (24) of an ungodly thirty-two years old, and the widow-maker who lived most of her life as a refugee. These women become front-and-center, if just for a page or two, in the story and give some context into the way women react to potential sexual violence.
Why does Rugero decide to give his female characters some background out of the blue without properly introducing them in the beginning of the story? I think Rugero makes a point of what women go through in that village to give power to them, power is normally given to the men. The men are off rumbling about their women are in danger of being ruined and “the ass on that woman” (45) while the women are the one’s enduring the pain of being “ruined” and being objectified. I think Rugero makes a slight U-turn to talk about the other women’s experiences to highlight the fact that they too have something to fight for. The struggles of one woman becomes the struggle of all the women because the outcome of this “trial” determines what the women mean to the village. It may seem like a lot to be put on a sad situation but clearly the villagers all have their own demons to bury and this incident gives them an outlet to take out their frustrations on. It definitely doesn’t fare well for the mute man who has to deal with being mistaken for such sinful monster and the women who project the men in their lives on him.