The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah

This book was published in 1968 and can be read as a reflection of the first decade of independence of Ghana. Ghana gained its independence in 1957 and the 60’s have often been referred to as the ‘Decade of Disillusionment’ in many African countries.

The book is about an unnamed character simply referred to as ‘The Man’ who refuses to accept a bribe. The book shows how corruption is embedded in the society of the time and seems to suggest a certain inevitability to it as is shown by the following quote:

““How Long will Africa be cursed with its leaders? There were men dying from the loss of hope, and others were finding gaudy ways to enjoy power they did not have. We were ready here for big and beautiful things, but what we had was our own black men hugging new paunches scrambling to ask the white man to welcome them on our backs.” (Chapter 6)

This is a good book to read as it brings to light the myth of independence in places that have been heavily exploited by colonialists. Moreover, as this exploitation continues to happen in an obscured manner it is difficult for people to build their societies. In this way this text seems to be in conversation with books such as No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe and House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera. 

The title of the book comes up on the very last page of the book and is seen at the back of a bus that boldly claims ‘THE BEAUTYFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN’. The misspelling in the word ‘beautyful’ is never explained. However, the title has been claimed to be a reference to the bust of Queen Nefrititit as the word Nefrititi itself means ‘The Beautiful One Has Come’. This may also be a reference to the fact that this bust is found in a museum in Berlin and is a representation of the stolen heritage of Africans by colonizers.