“Friendship has splendors that love knows not. It grows stronger when crossed, whereas obstacles kill love. Friendship resists time, which wearies and severs couples. It has heights unknown to love.”
― Mariama Bâ,
Why We Love Her: When Mariama put her life frustrations into her first novel, I imagine she did not expect it would become such a well-loved a classic of Francophone literature. The Noma Award-winning, So Long a Letter (Une Si Longue Lettre) is a moving account of the female condition. The story takes the form of a letter, so personal it could be considered a diary, sent from a recently widowed woman, Ramatoulaye to her childhood friend in America, Aissatou. Bâ speaks through her main character describing crises of faith, polygamous marriages, death traditions and hope in the face of adversity.
“Each life has its share of heroism, an obscure heroism, born of abdication, of renunciation and acceptance under the merciless whip of fate.”
― Mariama Bâ,
Throughout her life Bâ, a teacher and academic, referred to herself as a “modern Muslim woman” and the struggle she suffered to get an education as a girl child shaped much of her critical thought. She used her position to expose the injustice of traditional power structures, agitate for better education for women and foreground the important link between literature and politics. Today an all girls boarding school on Goree Island, named for her carries out the vision she stood so strongly for.