IN DEPENDENCE - Sarah Ladipo Manyika

It’s been a couple months since I read this novel, but I believe that it’ll be able to give you credible insights about the book and why it’s now one of my most treasured books about Africa.

In dependence is a story of individuals struggling to find their place within uncertain political times, it’s a Tory of passion, idealism, courage, and the universal desire to love and be loved. The author Sarah Ladipo Manyika provides an insight into the period of colonialism to the days before and after Independence in Nigeria. The novel speaks to the complexities of contemporary Africa and its interdependence with the rest of the world, and in the midst of all these complexities, a story of love between two people from different racial backgrounds.

Tayo and Vanessa’s story is a beautiful one of two people who fall in love with each other, Tayo from Africa and Vanessa from Europe, it’s a brave and bittersweet love affair especially with Vanessa’s father being an ex-colonial officer and openly racist. It’s a story of two people struggling to find themselves and each other. Although love exist as a theme in this novel, the theme that runs through the novel is racism. It highlights periods in their relationship where they had to face scrutiny from family members and outsiders, Tayo having to struggle with hearing news about the deteriorating condition of his country, Nigeria and not being able to do anything about it.

The author created each character with their own unique strengths, weaknesses and contradictions, in such a way that they would be more relatable to the readers. It really did seem like Tayo, Vanessa and all the other supporting characters are people you would come across in the real world.

In dependence can be described as a love story but it covers a much wider scope. Imperialism, Pan-Africanist, racism and colonialism are all raised in the novel and are mired in heated discussions by the characters, I found these discuss fascinating and insightful in such a way that it made me develop an interest in the current affairs of the world, especially in Africa.

“The novel traces the trajectory of Nigeria’s political history; military coups, the bad and treacherous leadership and it’s experimental steps towards dopemocracy. It speaks to the demise - in the 1980s - of Nigeria’s international reputation and the country’s rapidly destabilizing reality. It looks at the poor whose situation never improved but actually worsened. Using the events in Tayo’s life, it describes the effects of misrule on the country’s universities and ensuing massive brain drain that Africa experienced. Sarah Ladipo Manyika achieved all this with a voice and an outlook that is truly authentic and objective. The author perfectly captures the mood and feel of diff decades and three continents - Africa, Europe and America - that serve as setting for the story.”

In dependence is a convincing narrrative on the prize we pay for the division we make, and life sometimes is about doing what makes you happy regardless of people’s opinions. Unfortunately most African cultures reject this philosophy. For us, our life is not only about us, but also about family, religion, communities, tradition, culture and unwritten social rules.

What I enjoyed most about the novel was how the African culture manifested itself, it felt beautiful as if I was there; Tayo’s family decorated in aso-ebi when they went to see him off at the airport, the fact that his mother packed large tins of cooked meat with dried okra, the use of pidgin English and other Nigerian languages such as Yoruba and Hausa, how happy Tayo felt whenever he would meet a Nigerian while in Europe, the letters Tayo and Vanessa sent each other when they were apart and so on. There were so many instances and little things like this that made you feel like you were connected to the characters even if you never met them, in a way you understood them and hoped for the best for them.

In my opinion, independence is a book for everyone and anyone who feels like a misfit like Tayo did even in his own country, or is very passionate about political development and philosophy, or is like Vanessa who falls in love with Africa and wants to write and know more about it but wrestles with the question of who can write about Africa because she feels that being an outsider cannot allow her to give unique insight into the culture. If you’ve read this book or any other books like this, please leave a comment below, I’d also love to read your comments about African Literature.