Towards reconstructing Africa: Recuperation and responsibility in Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Healers




Ayi Kwei Armah, The Healers, African recuperation, African responsibility, African reconstruction


A product of Africa’s pre-colonial and colonial history, Ayi Kwei Armah’s fifth novel, The Healers (1978), is steeped in an African communalistic worldview and the functional conception of art. In this article we examine the multiple dimensions to recuperation within the context of the reconstruction of Africa, the continental search for utopia, and the responsibility that this places on Africans. Using Armah’s communitarian perspectives on health as a guide, we identify six interlocking subsets of recuperation as healing, re-creation, renascence, repossession, recall, and Sankofa (return). Informed by Molefi Kete Asante’s construct of agency and Armah’s communalistic injunctions to readers, we establish that permeating each of these building blocks is the responsibility of Africans to operationalize the reconstruction of Africa, the leitmotif of the novel. As helpers, visionaries, and custodians of vital traditional knowledge and skills, the healers facilitate the sharing of information on Africa’s past and future against the background of British colonial domination. We also show that Armah deliberately gives the novel this polysemic title to transcend the spatial, cultural, and epistemic limitations imposed on the continent by the colonial order. We conclude that the social orientation and creative configuration of health in the work are consistent with the diverse and intermingling meanings of recuperation.


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Author Biographies

Augustine Asaah, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana

Augustine H. Asaah is professor in the Department of French, School of Languages at the University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana. His areas of research interest include postcolonial literatures, Afropeanism, and women-centered discourse.

Tao Zou, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China

Tao Zou is professor of English and vice-dean in the School of Foreign Languages and vice-director in the Center for West African Studies at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, Sichuan, China.



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How to Cite

Asaah, A., & Zou, T. (2022). Towards reconstructing Africa: Recuperation and responsibility in Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Healers. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 59(2), 40–49.



Research articles