Baho! is a novel by Roland Rugero that portrays a horrible injustice in an African society. But something I love about this novel is that it recognizes that things need to change. The mob mentality in any society is always a dangerous one. A mob can be a powerful force that can do terrible things to people and if this a normal thing than something has to change. The book ends with the contemplation of change in society. Change is necessary in a society when there are horrible events, such as the one that took place in this novel, but change is hard and it takes time.
“Disturbances mark our entire life, whichever way you look at it. The most important thing is to disturb life itself without letting it fall to pieces.”
This quote refers to change as disturbances, which could be viewed as a negative thing but when disturbing something that is already negative can turn it into a positive. Like the quote says, it is important to not let everything fall to pieces. So, changes for the better need to be implemented slowly as to not anger or frighten people away from the idea. The fact that the woman saying this quote refers to changes as disturbances could show that she could also not necessarily be open to change herself. She is only human and it is ridiculous to say that there is any human out there not afraid of change on some level. Being afraid to change your lifestyle is scary but if that lifestyle is a negative one then it needs to change.
This novel made us live through Nyamuragi’s horrible and traumatic experience so that we could understand it was wrong. While reading we were granted a bird’s eye view on this scenario where we could see that people were falsely accusing Nyamuragi. By adding this bit at the end about change just reinforces what we have been thinking while reading this novel and I am glad the author acknowledged it.
“Izobikora turns toward his brothers and summons them to respond to Nyamuragi’s affront. Sullying precious goods acquired with great value over many years (a dowry, a marriage proposal, and long nights to convince the shy girl)? No! That’ll be enough of that! By raping Kigeme, the cursed mute has defiled all the other women in the region, and the men of Kanya consider themselves all affected. It is time to crack down.” (26)
Justice will come swift and unrelenting for anyone who dares harm a woman. Even if Justice does not fully understand the situation, Justice will form a mob of people and come at the person possibly committing the injustice with full force. It makes it even easier to punish someone like Nyamuragi because he physically cannot speak back to defend himself, due to the fact he is a mute. This situation cannot get anymore unjust. This is just taking a misunderstanding and making it a reason to impress a Kigeme, the woman who was “almost raped.” The remark calling her, “precious goods” really must imply that she is a very desirable person. So these men see an opportunity to make themselves look good in front of her and dispose their form of justice.
This whole scenario prominently displays both Rugero’s meditation on justice and gender relations. Nyamuragi is a mute, therefore he already has a disadvantage in defending himself. He cannot communicate his side of the story or explain what he was actually doing opposed to what they thought he was doing. The angry mob treated him as guilty until he was proven innocent but the only person that could prove he was innocent was him. Everyone assumed that Nyamuragi was going to rape Kigeme and that is why they sprang into action but the way they handled it was not justice. To be just is to be fair. Beating a mute person for not explaining himself is not fair.
The men in the novel Baho! treat women as if they are objects. In the quote the act of raping Kigeme is referred to as “sullying precious goods.” As to say that she is very beautiful and the act of raping her would be tarnishing her beauty. The parallels between raping a human and making a valuable object less valuable is truly disturbing. Then the quote goes on to say that by Kigeme, Nyamuragi has “defiled all the other women in the region.” This is really just meant for amplifying the situation to make the men look more like heroes than they actually are. Every opportunity these men get to impress and “earn” these women is an opportunity they will take.
Tram 83 is the place to indulge in sin, debauchery, and, surprisingly, comradery. The setting for Tram 83, by Mujila, is a broken down City-State where the best place to be is at Tram 83 where all the food, drink, and prostitutes are. The fact that the most entertaining spot is a place where everyone gets together to do immoral things should say something about the state of this City-State. It is very easy to pick out every negative aspect of the scenario taking place in this novel but instead let’s can pick out a theme not much discussed, togetherness.
Nearing the end of the novel Lucien publishes a book that has pictures of the dissident General nude. This did not sit well with the dissident General and he tried to shut down Tram 83. Well, this did not sit well with everyone else living in the City-State. Everyone in the City-State loves Tram 83 and that is very clear. People who were once enemies switched sides and became part of the same team just to protect Tram 83.
“A hundred mercenaries broke away from their leader and switched camps with arms and ammunition. For two months, the baby-chicks, the musicians, the dandy sapeurs, the suicidals, the diggers, the tourists of all nationalities combined – in short, the whole of the City-State – ate, drank, pissed, idled, and shat in Tram 83 and its vicinity” (206).
Throughout the novel the phrase “unfinished metal structure” is used a lot. It is usually used as a descriptor for things that are sketchy. This of course is actually in reference to Tram 83 itself and yet almost every member of the City-State visits there on a regular basis, despite the sketchiness. This place is more than just an “unfinished metal structure” it is what ultimately brings everyone together. It is a place where everyone is equal. Everyone is also behaving in rather inappropriate ways but at least there is no shame amongst it because everyone around them is doing the same thing. It might be a strange way to bring people together but anything that brings unity can’t be all bad.
Makina is a woman who was given a huge responsibility but she may not be up for the task. She is definitely willing to venture out to find her brother and she is definitely a smart woman able to protect herself but her outlook on the world may not be as developed as it should be. There is a difference between being smart and being wise to the ways of the world. Her outlook on life still seems rather childish and her decision making skills can be questionable at times.
Makina has been sent by her mother, in Mexico, to deliver a message to her brother, somewhere in the United States. Makina’s mother refers to her as a child and yet sends her out on this dangerous quest. This seems to be a lot of responsibility for a girl with little real world experience like this. Again, when she is with Mr. Double-U, “She thanked him, Mr. Double-U said Don’t mention it, child, and she versed” (15). When referring to someone as a child it is implied that those people have a lack of experience. Everyone seems to see this girl as a child but despite that she seems fairly confidant in her ability to complete her task.
It is true that Makina handles some situations poorly because she didn’t quite understand them but in the long run that is fine. She is still alive and she is still able to complete her mission. Also it is impossible to learn from an experience if you never go through it, so these can be considered learning experiences. In the beginning of her journey it may have been true that she was not ready for this task but as she went through her journey, she became more prepared each step of the way.
Humanity, or should I say the lack of humanity is an extremely important theme in the novel Utopia, by Ahmed Towfik. Commonly the characters in this novel are referred to as animals, of course showing the lack of humanity. But for Alaa an animal could be a step up from where he was in the beginning of this novel
At the beginning of this novel we find Alaa, a member of the rich, utopian society, so bored out of his mind that mind altering drugs cannot entertain him. Sex has also become just another thing to do for him. If we analyze this scene it’s obvious to tell that this is a man without a purpose. He has no goals he wants to achieve but honestly why would he? He already lives in Utopia.
There is something to be said about a person with no purpose. A person without a purpose is hardly a person at all. Someone who does not contribute and actively causes trouble is not a person anymore, if anything they are just a burden. But one day this burden decides he wants more trouble so he wanders into the lower section of the city where all the poverty lives.
Speaking of poverty, now seems like a good time to talk about Gaber. Gaber is referred to as a dog. It is very dehumanizing to be called any animal, let alone a dog. Dogs are usually seen as vicious and dirty street animals, which actually does fit his character very well. This being said dogs do what they can to survive. A dog’s purpose is to survive, this is more than anyone can say about Alaa.
Eventually people start using animals to describe Alaa just like they do with Gaber. Somehow I see this as an improvement from before. He is an animal now, he has a sense of purpose now. I believe that venturing into the streets of poverty and being put in very dangerous situations was exactly what Alaa needed. It will show him the importance of life and that may force him to stop wasting his. Hopefully if this affects him in a positive way and he can regain his humanity.