Lens Essay


Thequestion of different cultures and their meet have been raised bymany scientists and writers of fiction. The story by Taybe SalihSeasonsof Migration to the North representstwo main characters that are very different this is explained bytheir way of life and places they lived in. Some new concept to theperception of people based on their cultural background is one of theissues that help to understand the novel of Salih after reading theessay of Mary Louise Pratt ArtsoftheContact Zone.The introduction of the notion The Contact Zone by Pratt can be usedfor the discussion of the novel Seasonsof Migration to the North fromthe perspective of the multiculturalism.

Thesetting of the novel may be considered a contact zone for theinhabitants, as it connects many aspects of people’s life and hasan effect on it. In his essay Pratt explains contact zone as a placeon the earth where “cultures meet, clash and grapple with eachother” (Pratt 34). On the example of the Salih’s novel it becameclear that Wad Hamid is exactly such a town. I suppose that withoutreading Artof the Contact ZoneI would pay no attention to one of the main themes of the novel whichspeaks about culture. Nevertheless, it is necessary to state thatMustafa’s lectures on Arabic and the development of theireconomics Richard’s and Mansour’s debates about economicallyadvanced Sudan, and violent reaction of Mustafa to British culturehad no result for people and the town. Disputes caused by differentviews of people only deepen the abyss between the cultures andprevent people from a peaceful way of life. For sure the applicationof the term contact zone complicates the understanding of thecultural issue however, at the same time it helps to understand theessence of the problem which influenced the lives of people.

Culturalgap in Wad Hamid is caused by people themselves. On the example ofGuaman Poma’s writing NewChronicle, whichends with the “revisionist account of the Spanish conquest”(Pratt 35) the author explains that an oppressed person and his/herresistance or even the group of people resisting hegemony are all theprerequisites of the contact zone creation. In the novel, it becameobvious that the contact zone of Wad Hamid has been formed by peopleof different points of view. No one who on his/her owns mind has aninnovative idea wants to be convinced of some other thoughts. Theresistance of one people against other and their struggle againstother points of view that shown in the novel is a cause of contactzone existence.

Tosome extent, it is possible to state that studying in Europe was fora narrator a “safe house,” which Pratt says is a place where aperson can be a part of a group, which share common rights (40).Also, the example used by Pratt with students who interacted in thecommunication with the contemporaries from different cultures remindsthe main hero. In the classroom students face conflicts based on thedifferences of their cultures but it is a good lesson for them asthey realize the meaning of contact zone. In Europe the narrator musthave experienced something similar and that contact zone he wasaccustomed to was substituted by new and maybe more important forhim. The absence of “safe house” which he was used to duringseven years makes the boy feel uncomfortable.

Inaddition, he came back a new person because since that moment he wasa boy who in some sense was a multicultural member of society. Theprocess of transculturation in the life of a boy played a rolebecause it changed him and the way he lived. Pratt considers thattransculturation is a phenomenon of the contact zone. A boy who livedin the absolutely different culture could not come back the same ashe was seven years ago. He was forced to live according to thetraditions and laws of dominant culture and this had a long-lastingeffect. Now it is possible to connect the contact zone of his townwith to some extent distinct points of view of the narrator.

Theanalysis of the Seasonsof Migration to the North canbe also conducted through the lens of the Orientalism. According toEdward Said Orientalism is a term used by Western scientists todescribe Middle East culture, to put it simple it is the study ofother culture in a specific context. In the novel Salih identifiesMustafa as a person who uses Orientalist ideas to woo girls fromBritain. He uses this belief with the aim to limit the rights ofwomen he entices. Mustafa sees women as a prey, he aligns them withthe world of Western culture which as he supposes should berepressed. The stereotypes of British women about Arab and Africanmen who want only lure women into a bed based on illusion and liesare used by Sa’eedagainst the women themselves (Salih).

Inaddition, the narrator is portrayed as a person who is connected withthe idea of Orientalism. In one of the first episodes of his meetingwith people he expressed the idea how Europeans view people of hisnationality. What is more, he knows how his people, who Said call“other” view the Europeans. On the other hand, he states thatdespite differences between people in Europe and the Middle East,they have much in common.

Multiculturalismis one of the themes of the novel Seasonsof Migration to the North writtenbyTaybeSalih. The context and the meaning of the essay by Mary Louise PrattArtsof The Contact Zone letto conclude that the contact zone as a theoretical concept includemulticulturalism as a driving force that can cause it. Throughthelens of Artof theContactZone situationexplained in the novel can be easily understood and interpreted.People of different cultures who live in one and the same towncreated a gap in their relationships because of the misunderstandingof each other’s points of view. A narrator who faced the process oftransculturation on his own example because of studying in Europe isan example of a community where the contact zone was created.Transculturation that is clearly portrayed in the novel is, as Prattstays, the phenomenon of a contact zone. From the perspective ofreviewing the novel through the lens of the theoretical concept, itcan also be analyzed according to the connection with Orientalism. Inthe context of Orientalism, Salih showed Mustafa as a person who usesthe stereotypes about Arab men the British women believe in to woothem and limit their rights.


Jhally,Sut. “EdwardSaid on Orientalism.”MediaEducation Foundation.2005 Web. 5 Oct. 2016.

Pratt,Mary Louise. Artsof the Contact Zone.Modern Language Association: Profession, 1991. 33-40. Print.

Salih,T. SeasonofMigration to the North.Trans. Johnso-Davies D. Great Britain: Cox &amp Wyman Ltd. Print.