CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Co-Wives, Co-Widows by Adrienne Yabouza

There is a really rich vein of literature that centres around women and their responses to polygamy across Africa, especially it’s power dynamics and how traditional practices are interpreted today. For some, polygamy is a confining and threatening loss of autonomy, like in Angèle Rawiri’s The Fury and Cries of Women, and others, the structure and responsibilities of traditional polygamy are a way of flipping the script on a philandering husband, like in Paulina Chiziane’s The First Wife.

Adrienne Yabouza takes a different angle in Co-Wives, Co-Widows – the first Central African novel translated to English. Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou face the sudden death of their beloved husband, Lidou, and the upturning of their everyday lives. The shock of his death is just the beginning, as they have to face Lidou’s cousin, who is bent on using all the tools at his disposal – violence, courts, bribes – to force the wives and their children off of their inheritance and take control of Lidou’s property.

It’s a story of female friendship, as the two women go from being only connected by a man, to partners (sisters, really) who rely on each other as they fight a system stacked against them. It’s a short, sharp, funny novella about resourceful women.

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