115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Apocalyptic Visions: Ocean and Desert in Nnedi Okorafor’s Fiction

Kristine Kotecki, Hawaii Community College

In this presentation, I analyze how Nnedi Okorafor’s speculative novels Who Fears Death (2010)and Lagoon (2014) imagine an apocalyptic millennialism premised on a clean break with the polluting legacies of the past. They jumble up this linear and developmental model of time, however, in favor of a mélange that brings otherwise suppressed plots and possibilities to the forefront.   

Proposal: 

“‘. . . there are other things inhabiting Lagos besides carbon-based creatures’”

(Okorafor Lagoon 122) 

Anti- and post-colonial texts often grapple with the past in one of two ways: by recuperating a pre-colonial past, in, for example, the modes of novelist Chinua Achebe and film director Souleymane Cissé, or by advocating a complete break with the past, as in the blank slate (tabula rasa) advocated by Frantz Fanon. These modes are not mutually exclusive, but few combine them as thoroughly as does author Nnedi Okorafor in her emerging oeuvre. In this presentation, I analyze her speculative novels Who Fears Death (2010) and Lagoon (2014), set in Sudan and Nigeria, respectively. I argue that these works, on the one hand, imagine an apocalyptic millennialism premised on a clean break with the polluting legacies of the past. They combine this linear and developmental model of time with, on the other hand, a vision of paradise as containing all elements of the past. Only through a recuperation of supernatural deities and the magic of the otherwise threatening landscapes of the desert and the ocean is a better future possible. Whereas the novels maintain a Judeo-Christian reliance on the apocalyptic catastrophe as that which enables a fresh start, the apocalyptic event does not lead to paradise as perfection. Instead, they jumble up the developmental plot of colonialism’s civilizing narratives in favor of a mélange that brings otherwise suppressed plots and possibilities to the forefront.