So Long a Letter
Mariama Ba revered education. Not surprising since she was born into an educated Muslim family in which her father was the first minister of health in Senegal. Her father insisted she focus her studies and Mariama went on to attend a noted French boarding school close to Dakar.
She began writing for local news papers and essays tackling assimilation, African identity politics and culture.As a young woman, Ba was an active participant in women’s organizations as a rising voice for women facing issues in the traditional institution of matrimony. She herself would go on to be a divorcee to a Senegalese politician and mother of nine.
Mariama Ba’s first novel, Une Si Longue Lettre (1980) (So Long a Letter) speaks of the troubles Senegalese women face in society partitcularly concerning polygamy. She won the Noma which is an annual prize for great African writers and scholars for this novel.
The book unfolds a letter from the character Ramatoulaye to her friend Aissatou. Ramatoulaye’s husband has just died and both women has faced suffering with their respective marriages even though they married for love.The women reveal both their marriage began to crumble when their husbands took younger women as their wives.
Her last novel, Le Chant Ecarlate (1981) Scarlet Song in English which also dealt with relationships. This one is that of a Senegalese man and a white French woman whose marriage disintegrates due to family opinions, cultural differences and worldviews.