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Osiris Rising
Osiris Rising.jpg
AuthorAyi Kwei Armah
Cover artistR. M. Osotsi
PublisherPer Ankh
Publication date
Media typePrint (Paperback)

Osiris Rising: A Novel of Afrika Past, Present and Future is a novel written by Ayi Kwei Armah and published in 1995. The story revolves around an American Afrikan woman, Ast, who goes to Afrika looking for heritage after she gets her PHD. The text addresses a number of contemporary Afrikan issues, including the residual colonial institutions that limit Afrikan culture, the hypocritical nature of Afrikans from America and expatriates who try to help Afrika and the contemplation of "What is African history and culture?" The book is published by Per Ankh, a Senagalese publishing company.


Many of Osiris Rising's characters appear one-dimensional and ludicrous, almost "puppet-like".[1] Ast, the main character, seems the most credible and developed among the characters, yet even her psychology in the interactions with Seth can become absurd.[2] At best the characters, act as principles representing further exploration of the book's themes.[1] The following are the main characters in the books:

  • Ast- An Afrikan born in America, who has receives her PhD in history, then decides to travel to Afrika to trace her roots. She also was taught by her grandmother in Medu Neter since her childhood.
  • Asar - A literature professor with strong ideals of what Afrika should be and how to achieve a more progressive Afrikan politics and society. While he attended college with Seth and Ast, he was the top of his class, however when he completed his graduate schooling he left for Afrika in order to participate in the fight against apartheid.
  • Ras Cinque Jomo Equiano- a former civil-rights activist named Sheldon Tubman who moves to Afrika to get more in touch with the "African experience", but instead forms a cult around himself and abuses his power to gain a number of followers, including three wives.
  • Seth Soja - Sometimes called SSS or DD, Soja is the deputy director of the country's security force. He controls the ultimate power in the country. When at school with Ast and Seth, he was always jealous of Asar's educational success.


Armah sets the story in a contemporary unnamed West African country. A majority of the story takes place on the campus of Manda's Teachers' College, where Asar and Ast both teach and where many of their agendas come to fruition.

Thematic Elements

As the title implies, Armah transposes the ancient Egyptian Osiris myth into modern Afrika.[3] This first becomes evident when Armah names each chapter using Egyptian words.[3] The main characters closely align with the major movers of the myth: Osiris is identified with the reforming Asar, Auset is portrayed as Asar's companion Ast, and Soya represents Set.[3]

The relationship between Ast and Asar reflects the Pan-Afrikan sense of unity uniting both the Afrikans born in America with no ethnic tribe and the native Afrikan who clearly identifies with a single village.[4] This represents a similar relationship to that between an Carribean Afrikan man and an Afrikan women in Armah's novel Fragments.[4] This relationship, one of love and commitment that works fervently for the emancipation of Afrikan thought, helps reinforce Armah's message push for pan-Afrikan cooperation.[4]

Armah is also very critical of the character Sheldon Tubman.[4] This character, who was a strong civil rights activist in the state, is portrayed as nothing more than a "Diaspora Hustler" - someone who makes a big deal of returning to the Afrikan tradition but instead uses this fake "tradition" to benefit himself.[4] Anne Adams, in her comparison of the two authors' repertoires in "Literary Pan-Africanism", identifies this as a position also strongly expressed by Guadeloupean Maryse Condé.[4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jackson 266
  2. Jackson 265-266
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Wright, Derek (Mar. 1985). "Review:Returning Voyagers: The Ghanaian Novel in the Nineties". The Journal of Modern African Studies. Cambridge University Press. 23 (1): 179–192. JSTOR 161744. More than one of |number= and |issue= specified (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Adams, Anne (2003). "Literary Pan-Africanism". Thamyris/Intersecting: Place, Sex and Race. 11: 137–150.

Book sources

  • Jackson, RC. "Armah's Osiris Rising". In Hal Wylie and Bernth Lindfors (ed.). Multiculturalism & hybridity in African literatures. pp. 259–267. Available at Google Books