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Ba, Mariama (1929-1981)

Writer and political activist Mariama Ba was born in1929 in Dakar, Senegal to a well-to-dofamily.  Her father worked in the Frenchcolonial administration and in 1956 became the Minister of Health ofSenegal.  Her mother died when she wasyoung.  Ba was raised by her maternalgrandparents who emphasized conservative Muslim values.  She attended a religious school, but was alsoeducated in the French tradition.  Due tothe intervention of her father, she was enrolled in 1943 in the Ecole Normale (Teacher Training School)at Rufisque, a town some 25 miles away from Dakar where she received her diploma in1947.  Ba worked as a teacher from 1947to 1959, before becoming an academic inspector. During this period, Ba had nine children with her husband, Obeye Diop.  The couple separated and Ba was forced toraise her children as a single parent. 

By the late 1970s, after most of her children wereadult, Ba turned to political activity.  She became a vocal activist for women"s rights in Africaand a critic of the neocolonial system that had evolved in most of the newlyindependent African nations.  She wasalso concerned with and wrote about a number of feminist issues such as polygamy,mistreatment of women in Senegalese society, ostracism of the castes, the exploitationof women, violence against women, and lack of educational opportunities forgirls. 

Her first and most significant novel, UneSi Longue Lettre (So Long a Letter)was published in 1979.  It stands as alandmark of African and Francophone literature which received widespread criticalacclaim as well as the Noma Prize for African Literature. Her novel has beentranslated into numerous languages and is a staple of francophone literaturecourses worldwide.  So Long a Letter is an epistolary novel, written in the formof a letter from a widow to a friend who lives in the United Statesfollowing the death of her husband.  Thewidow grapples with her polygamous situation as well as the rise ofmodernity and Westernization.  She recountsthat, despite the fact that her husband has

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