MariamaBa

Mariama Bâ

Author of "My longest letter", one of the three most important novels in African literature, Mariama was one of the first writers to offer a description about the conditions of African women.

She was born in Dakar in 1929, into a wealthy family. She was brought up by her grandparents, in a traditional Muslim household, as her mother died when she was a child. This made her critical from a very young age of the system that discriminated against her for the fact that she had been born a woman and denied her the education which she had to fight for, as her grandparents did not believe that a woman should have an education.

Her father was Minister of Health in 1956. She finally studied at the Normal School of Rufisque where in 1949 she qualified as a primary school teacher. She taught for twelve years and became the regional school inspector.

She was the wife of member of parliament Obèye Diop with whom she had 9 children and later divorced. A pioneer in the struggle for women's rights, she participated in different women's organisations and wrote articles in local newspapers. She had delicate health and died from cancer in 1981.

She published her first novel Une si longue lettre [My longest letter] (1979 and Noma  prize 1980) when she was 51 years old and it deals with the confidences a Senegalese widow, Ramatoulaye, shares with her best friend, Aïssatou, who is divorced and has left her country. Amongst the resignation and will to change her life, the reader accesses an intimate portrait on the women's conditions in Africa, especially the injustice and indifference that takes in polygamy and criticises issues such as the caste system, family and religion.
Une si longue lettre has been translated into Spanish as Mi carta más larga (Ed. Zanzibar, 2005) and into Catalan by Takusán Ediciones. It is considered as one of the three most important novels in African literature.

Her second novel, Un Chant écarlate [Scarlet song] (1981) deals with the breakdown of a mixed marriage between Ousmane, a humble Senegalese Muslim young man and Mireille, a French diplomat's daughter, both students of philosophy in Dakar in the 80's.

She is the first Senegalese writer to offer a description, with extraordinary lucidity and a poetic tone, on the condition of the African woman, her lack of rights and polygamy. 
 
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