The Republic of Congo is the most populous Francophone country, ranking even higher than France in population. However, the appearance of French literature is a fairly recent development, with one of the first French works being published in 1954.
Congolese women writers did not begin publishing written works until the late 1960s or early 1970s (The information available for the exact year varies). Since then, Congolese women authors have become more prominent, publishing a variety of novels, short stories, articles, and collections of poetry.
As of 2001, only about half of Congolese women were literate.
Most of the women who have been published have not acquired much online publicity for their writing; in the course of my research, I was only able to find at most a paragraph-length biography for each of the writers that I searched.
It also seems that these women do not have more than one or two written works to their credit, with the exception of Ghislaine Sathoud, a female Congolese writer who has published multiple novels, five collections of poetry, a few essays, and eleven short stories.
Ghislaine is a passionate advocate for human rights and is involved in a number of campaigns dedicated to improving the status of women. One of her most popular novels is called L’Art de la maternité chez les Lumbu du Congo, which describes the rituals and customs of motherhood in Congo. Although Ghislaine was born in Congo, she later moved to Montreal, Quebec, where she currently lives.
This is not an uncommon practice, for it seems that many Congolese women writers end up leaving Congo and settling in other Francophone nations, such as France, Belgium, and Quebec, Canada. In fact, Belgium and France are ranked number five and six (respectively) in terms of the number of Congolese migrants who currently live there. Although we did not research why these women are leaving their home country, the frequent wars and fighting in Congo, as well as the widespread occurrence of sexual violence, would be sufficient motivation for many.
Although data is scarce for Congolese women writers at this point, we can hope that as their country finds a peaceful settlement, the literacy rate may increase and we may see more women publish their written works in their home country. Through the Internet, they could gain access to an international readership.
To read a brief outline of the history of Congolese literature, or to view a list of women writers from Congo, visit http://aflit.arts.uwa.edu.au/CountryCongoEN.html.
Victoria Shockley is the Assistant Editor for Women Writers, Women Books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. She’s currently in her sophomore year at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and is majoring in English with a concentration in language and writing.
Visit Victoria’s website at http://victoriashockleywrites.wordpress.com/.
Follow Victoria on Twitter: @Victoria_Writes.
Category: Being a Writer, Contemporary Women Writers, French-African Women Writers, Multicultural Writers, On Writing, Women Writers, Women Writers Across Cultures, Women Writing Fiction, Women Writing Non-Fiction
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