Who Owns African Literature?

Seems like a simple enough question, right? Well, you’d be amazed at how such a simple, straightforward question evokes such divergent opinions and perspectives.

This past Monday, the Comparative Literature Department had their weekly Brown Bag seminar and the issue of who owns Africanliterature was the topic.  For those of you who do African literature I’m sure you’ll agree that it was a star studded event.

Binyanvanga, Patricia, Helon, Gabeba
Binyanvanga, Patricia, Helon, Gabeba

This week’s session was a roundtable with Gabeba Baderoon, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and African and African American Studies, Penn State University Park acting as moderator. Gabeba is the author several books of poetry as well as numerous scholarly articles. Some of her publications: The Dream in the Next Body (2005), The Museum of Ordinary Life (2005), and A hundred silences (2006). Her website: http://www.gabeba.com/

The Panelists:

Helon Habila, Assistant Professor of English, George Mason University.

Helon is the author of the much acclaimed novel, Waiting for an Angel (2004) which won the Caine Prize in 2001. The novel has been translated into many languages including Dutch, Italian, Swedish, and French. He is also the author of Measuring Time as well as several works of poetry and short stories. His website: http://helonhabila.com/

Binyavanga Wainaina, Director of the Achebe Center, Bard College

Binyavanga is the author of the very famous, funny, very enlightening satirical piece, “How to Write About Africa” in Granta 92, first published in 1995. In July 2002 he won the Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Discovering Home”. He is the founding editor of Kwani, the first literary magazine in East Africa since Transition Magazine. Here’s a good interview with him: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/African_Writers/57076

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Assistant Professor of English, Penn State Altoona

Patricia is the author of The River is Rising 2007, Becoming Ebony, 2003, and Before The Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa (1998). Visit her website: http://www.pjabbeh.com/. You’ll find information about her works, reviews, her blogs, etc.

This, as well as all the sessions in the Comparative Literature Lunch series, was recorded for broadcast on C-NET, the local educational television network, usually during the subsequent week.  See http://complit.la.psu.edu/news-luncheon-cnet.shtml for the broadcast time.

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