Writing Invisible Lives: Memory as History in Cherno Njie’s Sweat Is Invisible in The Rain
By Toyin Falola
The book, Sweat is Invisible in the Rain, written by Cherno M. Njie and published by the Pan-African University Press, is better classified as a documentation of three interconnected stages of the author’s life, career, vision, and ambition. Such is the importance of the book that a major conference is being convened on it in Gambia on December 14th, 2019. I am glad to be associated with the book, proud to occupy a line or two in the contents, and humbled to be associated with the author.
The book successfully privileges the historical and factual over the literary. It deals with causation using a wide range of facts, explaining why events and actions occurred at particular moments in time. The principal figures and protagonists are revealed in ways that reflect their time, age and day. Sweat is Invisible in the Rain will surely asserts itself as a book to read and be reckoned with, as it captures the commonalities of personal experiences in The Gambia, the shortcomings of the country’s political elite, the intriguing nature of dictatorship, and a wide range of dialogue on the degeneracy of political institutions. The antipathy that the leadership of the country aroused is captured with brilliance, as well as the responses to how to deal with unpopular power. I admire Njie’s voice and courage as he narrates the sickness of leadership, the weakness of followership, the limitations of state power, and the repetitiveness of calamitous history.
The book starts from Njie’s growing up in a relatively unknown and small African country, The Gambia (the first stage), to his transition to perhaps one of the most popular migrant destination countries in the globe, the United States of America (the second stage). The third stage takes center stage of the events captured in the book as it details how the two previous life’s stages induced the author to embark on a series of moves that set in motion the process of acting as a change agent. Consequently, his first stage of existence during his childhood in The Gambia keys into the immense benefits that he experienced in his second stage of existence, The United States of America.
The title of the book aptly encapsulates all that the author went through, which were not noticeable when they were occurring, but which cannot be swept under the carpet simply because of their non-noticeability, disguise and secrecy. Sweat is surely invisible in the rain, but the laborer who worked hard in the rain knows that the rain just served as a camouflage to hide the sweat generated from his labor. And when rain falls, it can create its own problems, with the rain and sweat inducing unnoticeable pains and anguish.
Cherno Njie is able to map out in detail his personal travails, albeit in consonance with those of some others as they, over a period of more than a decade, embarked on missions, as well as developing various strategies to achieve an objective whose benefits are not personal in any way, but rather collective to a large, unsuspecting and ignorant populace. The sweat of the author and his‘band of merry men’ might have gone invisible in the myriad of raindrops of events that happened in The Gambia between 1996 and 2016. However, with the expediency with which this book was written and the fact that the story was told by someone who played a significant part in the many facets of the plot, Njie succeeds in bringing to the fore, the invisible sweat that seems to have been lost in the rain with respect to the journey to free an African people from the reigns of tyranny.
Writing Invisible Lives: Memory as History in Cherno Njie’s Sweat Is Invisible in The Rain is a three-part series.