Of Masquerades and Mimicry: Performance, Identity, and Tradition in Chris Abani’s The Virgin of Flames

Madhu Krishnan


This article considers the interaction between mimricy and masquerade in Chris Abani's 2007 novel, The Virgin of Flames, viewing this play of performances as a means of destabilizing the notion of tradition in the construction of an idea of African subjectivity. Focusing on the protagonist, Black's use of cross-dressing and white-face, this article considers the ways in which the of drag-as-masquerade, engaging in the liberatory discourses of perfromativity in identity construction, is re-routed through the intrusion of drag-as-masquerade, read as a deferred desire for ontological stability. Through the rooting of performance in tradition and the routing of tradition through performance, The Virgin of Flames, this article agrues, creates a vision of tradition in African literatures which escapes a singular conception and challenges polemic notions of "authenticity" and "authority", while also presenting a rebuttal to critical dismissals of the novel as one with little to say about Africa and African experience.


Nigeria, Africa, performance, masquerade, mimricy, contemporary

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ISSN: 1920-1222

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