African American 1 The Healers by Ayi Kwei Armah Ayi Kwei Armah published the book “The Healers” in 1978. The setting of the story is taken place i


The Healers by Ayi Kwei Armah

Ayi Kwei Armah published the book “The Healers” in 1978. The setting of the story is

taken place in Africa. During this time, the British took over different kingdoms. The British

took over the “kingdom of Ashanti” in the nineteenth century, in Astana country. Astana country

is now known as Ghana (Armah 12). The main character of this story is Densu. Densu is twenty

years old and growing into a young mature adult of his community. He is unsure about what he

wants to do with his life. Densu is a powerful young man, but he does not want to fight back the

disadvantages he faces. The author Ayi Kwei Armah’s primary purpose in writing “The Healers,”

is to grab the reader’s attention by illustrating that Africans should unite. There are two elements

of the story that could have welded to the destruction or survival of Africa, which are disunity

and greed. However, conflict was occurring between Africans or in the kingdom of Ashanti. For

example, the King and chiefs of the kingdom oversee orchestrating this vice (Mtshali 25). In

addition, to their lust, for food to fill their stomachs, a thirst for a drink to quench their thirst, and

a desire for clothes made of silk to sit on. The chiefs and kings plotted the disunity of the African

continent. The tides changed when those who had taken the oath by God’s sword, sworn to serve,

and protect became the oppressed and the subject of their dominance. Greed was another element

in this story between the leaders. According to the author, Africa’s failure and destruction were

due to the desire for power and the leaders’ lack of knowledge. As portrayed in the book “The

Healers,” contemporary African society suffers from a lack of unity due to poor leadership. More

than that, the desire for power and a better life by supporting the British colonial rulers played a

decisive role in the destruction of the African community and continent. Some of the leaders on

the African continent saw as the primary reason the continent came to its knees to the colonialists

(Correa 145). Some Africans tempted to fight fellow African members to get food, drinks, and

clothes by the leaders due to internal conflict among Africans. However, like plots to overthrow


the throne or to undermine the war strategy, as by the queen mother, the famous quote of divide

and rule became helpful in colonizers. Africans chose to destroy themselves due to their disunity.

Ababio’s greed for power led him to frame his godson, Densu, the orphan. Densu was framed for

murder by Ababio so that he, Ababio, could ascend with ease to the throne at Esuano.

Correspondingly, the queen mother undermined the war strategies of Asamoa Nkwanta when she

fought against the colonists in Kumase. According to the author, the queen mother fears that

should the mighty warrior Asamoa Nkwanta win the war, he will return and contest for the

throne at Kumase. Queen mother cited that a king’s wisdom lies in his knowledge of how to

remain King (Armah 33). Then, she thinks it would be better to yield a little to the whites than to

lose all power to the whites general. In this statement, the representation of the African leaders is

naive and unknowledgeable. Instead of abandoning their people and bending to the colonial’s

promises for a better life, they should have unified their subjects and fought off the white man

from their continent. Africans tend to be naive and poorly informed about their origins as well.

As the author explains, the Africans did not understand their roots, which blinded them from the

fact that they were all Africans and should be fighting for a common goal instead of fighting

amongst themselves. This vice resulted in the Asantes seeing themselves as distinct and different

from the Akims, Fantes, Ekuapems, Dahomey, Hausas, Ada, Ga, Aneho, Kru, Temne, Mande,

Sussu, and many other communities (Mtshali 28). Due to their confusion about their origins,

incompetence to reason and comprehend, and inability to identify their common enemy, the

Africans fought against one another. They drifted apart, allowing the white man to conquer them

easily. Despite the lack of unity, a group of people called the healers whose primary mission was

to unify the African continent. Even though African kings, queens, and chiefs oppressed the

Africans, the healers never lost hope to unite the people. The more challenging things got, the

more resolute they became (Correa 147). In the healers’ view, the individuality and scattering of


the Africans were only a temporary phase in the indigenous affairs of men, and it would soon

pass, thus achieving their long-term objective and goal. The path towards achieving this

objective was perilous and engulfed in thickets and thorns. Consequently, the Asante kings sent

soldiers to hunt down and kill the healers, and then, soldiers blamed them. Though Armah wrote

the book to strive for the unification of Africa, he is not blind to criticize, understand and despise

some of the traditions accepted in Africa and despise his own culture. He ascribes these practices

and acts to selfishness, ignorance, and a lack of power (Lindfors 39). When we look at the

author’s presentations and ideologies, we see a lot of parallels between present-day Africa and

the past. For example, people can think about how Africans worked to unite and see how many

people were spiritually or physically killed due to separation. In that regard, Kwame

Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba come to mind. After publishing ‘Two Thousand Seasons’ and

‘The Healers, he fell from grace. These people fought for the unification of the African continent,

but they have quickly gone down the drain for some reason or another. However, the struggle for

unity in Africa is far from over. Suppose the results are not realized now, just like the healers.

For example, Damfo knew at some point the fruits of their work would be discovered, even if it

was centuries later. According to the author, all man matters are about self-interest and

competition. Rather than helping dying people or children, a television crew prefers to fight and

struggle to tell their story (Horne 65). According to Armah, one day, Africans will wake up and

discover their origin, hold hands together, and spirits of dead souls will awaken and heal Africa’s

wound together.

Overall, “Healers” is an excellent book for the readers to learn more about their African

ancestors. I suggest, for the readers that wants to know more about African American history,

they should read the “Healers.” It shows a great example of how Africans are trying to promote


unity. Another example, from today young black men are killing each other during the 21st

century. This a great book to read to get the understanding about our history!



Armah, Ayi K. The Healers: A Novel. Popenguine, Senegal: Per Ankh, 2012. Print.

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