and Published 2 May 2014
About the Book
Essays In Honour of Wole Soyinka at 80, edited by two award-winning African writers is a celebration of the literary life of Wole Soyinka at an important stage in his life. The volume provides the most extensive anthology ever produced on Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature and features 30 essays with a foreword by the former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku. With contributions from three Nobel Laureates: Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer and Derek Walcott and other contributions from African leaders, scholars, writers and literary critics from around the world, they assess Soyinka’s perspectives on power, politics and the arts to create dialogue and debate. Diverse aspects of his life are reflected in six themes in this volume that also documents the literary and cultural histories of West Africa from the 1950s to the present day. The Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o describes Soyinka as: “A writer and public intellectual, who has voiced his concerns over major happenings in different parts of the continent over the last fifty years and more, Soyinka has become the moral and democratic conscience of Africa”.
Back Cover Blurbs
I am permanently grateful for his gifts. Wole Soyinka makes the world intelligible.
-Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate in Literature and Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University.
As for serving the need for justice, Wole Soyinka went further than words.
-Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
As a writer and public intellectual who has voiced his concerns over major happenings in different parts of the continent over the last fifty years and more, he has become the moral and democratic conscience of Africa.
-Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Director, International Centre for Writing and Translation, University of California, Irvine.
-Soyinka works magic with the English language... but it also throws into focus the predicament of modern African writers.
-Ama Ata Aidoo, Writer and Scholar on Gender & Developmental Issues and Executive Director of Mbaasem, Ghana.
-Soyinka is often compared favourably to his direct antecedents, Euripides and Shakespeare, Yeats and Synge, Brecht and Lorca. Statements such as this sound necessarily hyperbolic, no doubt. But it is impossible not to make such comparison when one searches for a meaningful comparison of Soyinka’s craft with Western writers.
-Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University.
-He is part of what is positive in the postcolonial generation.
-Ali A. Mazrui, Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies, State University of New York.
Soyinka forces us to sometimes see our own unpleasant images in the mirror.
-John Dramani Mahama, President, Republic of Ghana.
We are privileged ever to interact with those who bear the burden of our admiration.
-Margaret Busby OBE, Writer, Editor, Critic, Publisher and Broadcaster, UK.
About the Editors
Ivor Agyeman-Duah: Director of the Centre for Intellectual Renewal in Ghana is an Advisor to The Lumina Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria, Administrators of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.
Ogochukwu Promise: Founder of The Lumina Foundation, Administrators of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa and its Chief Executive is an award winning novelist, poet and painter.
Africa Beyond the Mirror
By Boubacar Boris Diop
Translated from the French
by Vera Wülfing-Leckie and Caroline Beschea-Fache
Publication Date: 22nd May 2014
About the Book
The media tend to portray Africa in a manner that grossly distorts reality. The picture they paint is intended to make people of African descent feel ashamed of their past and their identity. This is unacceptable and must change. It is therefore a moral imperative for all those who can make themselves heard, to speak out.
These texts reflect the point of view of an African intellectual who has selected them for this book since they were all born out of the desire to tell the truth as it is.
Besides chapters that pay homage to Cheikh Anta Diop and Mongo Beti, the wide variety of topics in this book includes the dilemma of the writer who is stuck between two languages, the shipwreck of the Joola in Senegal, the continuing waves of migration towards Europe and the cultural challenges of globalization.
The genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, which too many people are still trying to deny, has been given special importance. The implication of the French government is stressed, because its responsibility in this tragedy, via François Mitterrand, is neither well-known nor accepted, despite all the irrefutable evidence.
Projecting one’s gaze beyond the mirror means trying to expose the lies that hide behind so many clichés that are common currency about Africa. Above all, it means ringing the alarm bell as a warning against the sinister political intentions that feed a growing Afrophobia.
Key Selling Points
Diop’s Africa Beyond the Mirror is a must read for anyone interested in the developmental aspects of Africa and the hidden hands behind these conflicts. These essays are aimed at projecting one’s gaze beyond the mirror to expose the many clichés that are common currency about Africa as a caution against the political intentions that feed a growing pessimism about Africa.
The volume interrogates the portrayal of Africa in the international media by questioning the motives of outside forces in fuelling continuing conflicts by citing the Rwandan genocide as an example and France’s involvement as the foreign hand in collusion with misguided African rulers.
This book will contribute valuable insights into African identity on courses in Francophone Literature, African History, Developmental Studies, Social Anthropology, Cultural Studies, International Relations and Immigrant Studies as well as Diasporic and Transnational Studies internationally.
About the Author
The Senegalese author Boubacar Boris Diop is one of Africa’s major contemporary writers. From Murambi, the Book of Bones, to Kaveena, his work is a meditation on the human condition across the tragedies and the hopes of the black continent.
Publication Date: 30th March 2014
ISBN: & 978-0-9569307-6-7
About the Book
The news of Chinua Achebe’s death in the US on 22 March 2013, in the middle of the 39th Annual African Literature Association Conference in Charleston, South Carolina sent shock waves through the African and world literary communities. Renowned as Africa’s most famous novelist and the founding father of modern African writing in English, the publication of his first novel Things Fall Apart under the Heinemann imprint of the African Writers Series, not only contested European narratives about Africa but also challenged traditional assumptions about the form and function of the novel. His writing career spanned over fifty years, from the publication of Things Fall Apart (1958) to There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra (2012), his memoir of the Nigeria Biafra war in the 1960s.
Nobel Laureates Wole Soyinka, Toni Morrison and Nadine Gordimer lead an international chorus of tributes to Chinua Achebe’s writing and legacy. The volume features 49 contributors and includes a host of other distinguished writers, critics, scholars and publishers in paying tribute to his literary life, anchoring it within his activism and mediatory role as a great spokesman and defender of Africa.
It was Nadine Gordimer who expressed so well her pleasure that her obituary, published in Johannesburg and London, would appear ‘in the more permanent form of a book… along with the contributions of my comrade writers in the world in honouring of Chinua Achebe.’
The book will be published by Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited at the end of March 2014 and launched at the 40th African Literature Association (ALA) Conference, in April 9-13, 2014, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in South Africa.
Chinua Achebe: Tributes and Reflections
Edited by Nana Ayebia Clarke MBE and James Currey
1. A Tribute: Once More for Chinua Achebe!
Nana Ayebia Clarke
Nana Ayebia Clarke and James Currey
3. Chinua Achebe (1930-2013): Obituary, Founding father of African fiction whose novels chronicled Nigeria’s troubled history (first published 22.03.2013: The Guardian)
4. Profile: Chinua Achebe – Storyteller of the Savannah (first published 18.11.2000, The Guardian)
5. Elegy for a Nation (For Chinua Achebe, at Seventy)
6. Chinua Achebe: African American Institute Award: (9.22.00)
7. Chinua Achebe
8. Chinua Achebe as Publisher
9. Remembering Chinua Achebe
10. Chinua Achebe: The Spirit Lives
Ngugi wa Thiong’o
11. Far From Ogidi: Diary of a Belated Encounter
12. ‘A’ is for Achebe
13. Chinua Achebe (1930–2013) A Summing-Up
F. Abiola Irele
14. Remembering Chinua
Ama Ata Aidoo
15. The Assault on Culture: Achebe on the Crisis of Identity in Colonial Africa
16. “I Haven’t Seen You in 400 Years!”: Chinua Achebe and African American Writing
Anne V. Adams
17. Chinua Achebe at 82: We Remember Differently
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
18. Chinua Achebe: A Writer and a Half and More
19. Reflections on Chinua Achebe: A Priceless Encounter with A Gentle Voice
20. “Odupon Kesee Atutu.”(A Great Tree Has Fallen. Asante-Twi)
Kwame Anthony Appiah
21. Chinua Achebe: A Dissenting Opinion
22. From Achebe to Adichie
Carole Boyce Davies
23. A Poet Daughter’s Farewell: Still Morning Yet
Abena P. A. Busia
24. Chinua Achebe and the Matrix of Womanhood
25. The Casualties
J. P. Clark-Bekederemo
26. Chinua Achebe: Some Reflections
27. In Memoriam: Morning, March 22, 2013, Charleston, South Carolina
Maureen Ngozi Eke
28. Chinua Achebe: The Passing of a Comet
Ernest N. Emenyonu
29. Ugo Chara Acha Adighi Echu Echu: The Path to Achebe’s Undying Legacy
30. A Wake for the Storyteller (For Chinua Achebe)
Harry Oludare Garuba
31. An Interview with Chinua Achebe
32. Chinua Achebe: His Wondrous Passages
33. Memories of Chinua Achebe
G. Douglas Killam
Achebe in Texas
35. Things Fall Apart Revisited: The Poetry and the Prose
Ali A. Mazrui
36. Celebrating Achebe’s Utu and Creative Genius in Oracy, Orature and Literature
Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo
Njabulo S. Ndebele
38. Chinua Achebe: A Legend and Master Storyteller
39. The Achebe Thread
40. For Chinua Achebe
42. The Discombobulation of a Rookie Patriot: A Stage Adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People
43. Chinua Achebe: Death, Where Are Thy Claws?
A Tribute to Chinua Achebe: The Father of Modern African Literature
45. Chinua Achebe and the Literary Compass
46. An Entire Star Has Left Us: China Achebe, In Memoriam
Tijan M. Sallah
47. Chinua Achebe’s Legacy
48. In Memory of Chinua Achebe
49. How To Write About Africa
50. Notes on Contributors
Nana Ayebia Clarke MBE – founder of Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited is a Ghanaian-born publisher. She was Submissions Editor of the Heinemann African Writers Series (AWS) for 12 years until 2002 when Heinemann discontinued publishing new titles in the Series. She started her own publishing imprint Ayebia with her husband David in 2003 as a way of looking to new directions. She was awarded an Honorary MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services to the British publishing industry in 2011.
James Currey worked from 1967 with Chinua Achebe on the first 100 titles in the Heinemann African Writers Series (AWS). The last title he added to the Series was No 270 African Short Stories edited by Chinua Achebe and Lyn Innes in 1985, the year in which he and Clare Currey founded James Currey Publishers.
Between them they worked on the Heinemann African Writers Series for a total of 30 years.
Publication Date: 1st July 2012
About the Book
Mr. Happy and The Hammer of God & Other Stories is a significant addition to the genre of short story writing in contemporary Ghanaian and African literature. Martin Egblewogbe is an emerging talent and if his title seems surreal, his stories are no less. The collection is divided into two parts; the first consists of seven stories and the second consists of three.
These stories are not burdened by the “African” condition and those looking for a familiar Ghanaian/African setting will have to look elsewhere and yet the reader may recognize ‘my street, my city, my people’ – because the stories are truly universal. Collectively, this book is a portrayal of inner struggles, torments and the psyche. The author asks questions by employing some familiar tropes common to all humanity - who are you, what are you, how did you get here and where do you go from here? The writer frequently turns to the metaphysical and how it relates to our minds, state of being and pursuit of happiness. He employs wit and humour to answer fundamental questions and engages us even when the outcome might be an outpouring of misery and despair.
It is altogether fitting that he chooses the short story genre to express himself because the stories sometimes end suddenly leaving the reader wanting to know more. His style is refreshing, new and entertaining. Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God & Other Stories raises the bar for emerging new talent from Africa.
Key Selling Points:
- The author is an emerging new Ghanaian talent who is making a significant contribution to the genre of the short story.
- His style is refreshing and experimental yet grounded in universal values.
- The collection will appeal to a wide demography of international readers.
About the Author:
Martin Egblewogbe was born in Ghana in 1975. He has a BS.c and M.Phil in Physics and is currently working on his Ph.D at the University of Ghana, Legon where he is a lecturer in the Department of Physics. He enjoys writing short stories and poetry in his spare time and has contributed to several anthologies. He also currently hosts the radio show “Writers Project” on CitiFM in Accra, Ghana where he lives with his wife and daughter.
I thought I should share with you my impressions of a young Ghanaian writer, Martin Egblewogbe, whose short story collection -- Mr Happy and the Hammer of God -- I have just finished reading. Epithets like "fresh", "imaginative" and "exciting" are often marshalled to introduce new writers, but in the case of Mr Egblewogbe I think a set of strong superlatives are in order; extraordinary, excellent, and experimentally innovative barely capture my sense of what I have read. The short stories each conceal an enigma, sometimes of a profound existential kind, and at others merely due to some form of bafflement on the part of the protagonist of the story. Thus after every story you are required to pause in reflection. This also means the stories are best savoured slowly and one by one. The influence of master spinners of narrative enigmas such as Kafka and Beckett are well in evidence in the collection. What is perhaps most interesting about Mr Happy and the Hammer of God is that Mr Egblewogbe has devised a clever way of telling the stories so to betray only minimal geographical or and other locational markers. There is just one story that can readily be shown to be set in Accra. This form of placelessness thus gives the stories a universal appeal.
My favorite? Hard to choose, but the one that made me laugh the most (yes, he also happens to have a wry sense of humour) was titled "Down Wind" and is basically about a man having to shelter from the pouring rain inside of a phone booth. To while away the time he uses a phone card to begin phoning people he knows, apparently at random. There are three problems that become readily evident as the story unfold: first is that the previous occupant of the phone booth happened to have filled the booth with "noisome effluvia from his nether end" (what us ordinary mortals simply call a fart!) and so he is trapped with the terrible smell inside. The second problem is that he has an excruciating and inexplicable pain in his legs for which he seeks sympathy from the Doctor, who is the first person he calls. Third, and perhaps most worryingly, is that one of the people he speaks to tells him he has been accused of a heinous crime and that this is to be found on the noticeboard with the glass case. Try as he might he cannot fathom what crime it is he has committed and so spends some more time phoning other people and try to get them to tell him what is on the accusatory noticeboard. This ends in failure. The story ends up being a parable about extreme loneliness, and we find eventually that it is not just he that is lonely, but all the other people he has just spoken to. Another one, "Small Changes Within the Dynamic" is about a man, who having caught his wife blatantly sleeping with another man on his own bed, begins a tortured disquisition with himself about how he is going to kill her. I will not spoil it for you by telling you how the story ends. Brilliant.
Please note that I write this without any personal knowledge of Mr Martin Egblewogbe and also from the professional perspective of someone who has taught literature for many many years and is always on the lookout for great books to read and to teach. I strongly urge you all on this list to get hold of a copy of the book. We may well be bearing witness to a major voice not just in Ghanaian literature, but in African and world literature as well. Watch that space.
ps: The book is published in the UK by Ayebia publishers, but copies can be found in all the major bookshops in Accra.
pps: Mr Egblewogbe is a lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of Ghana.
Ato Quayson, FGA
Professor of English and Director
Center for Diaspora and Transnational Studies
Editor, The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature (2 volumes)
Publication Date: 1st July 2011
About the Book
Claudia Jones was a smart, politically-wise, brilliant, transnational feminist, Pan Africanist theorist and cultural activist who brought together in her speeches and writings the politics that is now seen as a necessary way of intersecting a variety of political fields and positions. Known as the founder of the first London carnival and the editor of the first black newspaper The West Indian Gazette in England, Claudia Jones’s activism bridged the US and the UK with the black world politics of decolonization that ushered in contemporary community empowerment. For the first time, in one place, Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment… brings together her essays, poetry, autobiographical and longer writings, expanding our knowledge of several fields. Providing us with the clarity of the ideas of a black woman activist-intellectual of her period, for a fuller understanding of Caribbean, African American and the larger African Diaspora discourses. Claudia Jones Beyond Containment is essential reading.
Key Selling Points
• Claudia Jones’s political clarity and vision illustrated in this book demonstrates her multifaceted
approach to the struggle for equal rights in the 20th century that earned her the name ‘Mother of
the Notting Hill Carnival’.
• This book will make a valuable contribution to understanding Claudia Jones’s intellectual vision
as an inspiration for this and future generations.
• This book will appeal to Caribbean Diaspora Studies, Women’s Studies, Black Activism Studies,
African Diaspora Studies as well as the general reader.
About the Author
Carole Boyce Davies is African Diaspora Studies scholar and Professor of Africana Studies and English at Cornell University. She is author of several publications including Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Duke University Press, 2008). An earlier work, Black Women, Writing and Identity: Migrations of the Subject (Routledge, 1994) is considered a theoretical base for many studies in the field of black feminist literary theory and the writing of migration. She is the general editor of The Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora (Oxford: ABC-CLIO 2008) a 3-volume encyclopedia. Dr. Boyce Davies is currently writing a series of personal reflections titled Caribbean American Spaces: Between the Twilight Zone and the Underground Railroad, dealing with the issue of transnational Caribbean/American black identity.
a memoir by
Publication Date: 1st July 2011
About the Book
This book is a powerful contribution to the genre of the prison memoir in Africa. Jack Mapanje presents the moving account of a poet’s imprisonment by the state, his struggle to probe the hidden motives for this arrest and his attempt to provide an unforgettable record of the architecture of imprisonment and the perpetual struggle between the forces of truth and those of naked power. In 1981, Jack Mapanje was a budding poet and scholar in Malawi. His first collection of poetry, Of Chameleons and Gods had just been published in the prestigious Heinemann African Writers Series and his scholarly work in linguistics was also transforming language and literary studies in Central Africa—his work was drawing international attention. But two years later the state ordered the withdrawal of Mapanje’s poetry from all schools, institutions of higher learning and bookstores. In 1987, Mapanje was arrested by the Malawian secret police and imprisoned without charge until 1991. This book is a recollection of those years in prison. Written in the tradition of the African prison memoir and often echoing the works of other famous prison graduates such as Wole Soyinka (The Man Died) and Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Detained), the memoir represents Mapanje’s retrospective attempt to explain the cause and terms of his imprisonment, to recall in tranquillity the terror of arrest, the process of incarceration and the daily struggle to hold on to some measure of sanity and spiritual freedom.
This book is a fitting tribute to the solidarity, dedication and tenacity of the British and international campaign that secured Mapanje’s release and saved his life!
Key Selling Points
- The book will appeal to critics and scholars of African history, politics and literature. It has the potential to become a major text in the emerging field of human rights studies dealing with the literature of political incarceration.
- Given the singularity of Mapanje’s experiences in prison and the uniqueness of his voice, this book will not be competing with others.
- It will be favourably compared to the canonical memoirs in its field (works by Ngugi and Soyinka) and will invoke memories of South African poets in prison in the 1960s (Arthur Nortje and Dennis Brutus).
About the Author
Jack Mapanje, a Malawian poet, linguist, editor and human rights activist was formerly head of English department, university of Malawi, where he was imprisoned on 25 September 1987 by the dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi for 3 years, 7 months and 16 days for his dissenting views and radical poetry. On his release on 10 May 1991 he went into exile with his family in the UK. He has published five books of poetry, edited one anthology of African prison writing and co-edited two anthologies of African oral and written poetry and an African Writers’ Handbook. He is a recipient of the 1988 Rotterdam Poetry International Award, Honorary doctor of the University of Stirling, the 2002 African Literature Association (ALA, USA) Fonlon-Nichols Award and Fellow of University College London. He was a visiting scholar at the University of York, taught creative writing in the School of English, University of Leeds and the School of English, Newcastle University. He is currently a visiting professor in the Faculty of Arts, York St John University.
It is sobering that the prison memoir is one of the most consistent products of contemporary African writers. In 1987 the Malawian poet and scholar Jack Mapanje, then teaching at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi, was arrested and imprisoned without charge – an incarceration that was to last for three-and-a-half years. This experience has been chronicled in Mapanje’s poetry (see, for instance, The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison, in Heinemann’s African Writing Series) and in the same series Mapanje edited Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing gathering together material from everyone from Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, to Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Now Mapanje’s own long-awaited memoir is published – ‘A chronicle of a poet’s imprisonment under life president Banda of Malawi’. When Mapanje was released from prison, he and his family left Malawi and he has never substantially resettled in his home country. The gestation of this memoir is remarkable. The years of imprisonment are recorded in intimate detail, conversations, activities, personalities, in a manner that would suggest that the writer was keeping a daily written chronicle – which, of course, he had no means or possibility of doing. In fact Mapanje reconstructed those traumatic days, from a certain necessary distance in time and via recreating the experience in question and answer sessions with students and colleagues in the UK, the Netherlands and Ireland, rebuilding the awful memory. An impressive quality of the memoir is Mapanje’s resolute optimism, making the smallest incidents vehicles of hope rather than despair. Beyond the suffering of Banda’s political prisoners recorded here, Mapanje shows the awful paranoia created by his dictatorship, with police, academics and civil servants terrified of being thought to be disloyal to ‘his excellency, the life president, the Ngwazi Dr H Kamuzu Banda’. Mapanje, in a bizarre episode, notes that even his presence at a gathering of linguistics scholars in Harare, was regarded as being potentially subversive.
To welcome prison memoirs seems perverse. But Mapanje’s should be read by all who believe in the power of the human spirit to overcome evil.
University of Leeds
Review appeared in the Leeds African Studies Bulletin February 2012
Some important blurb endorsements for Jack Mapanje’s book
And Crocodiles Are Hungry at Night: A chronicle of a poet’s imprisonment under life president Banda of Malawi
Jack Mapanje’s memoir not only chronicles his imprisonment, it also sets out how the life of a young poet and academic is viciously destroyed by the absence of academic freedom. Brilliantly crafted, with a touch of humour even in grim circumstances, this is a moving contribution to the growing world literature of incarceration. As such it has universal appeal.
Lady Antonia Fraser DBE Vice-President (former President) English PEN
Jack Mapanje’s imprisonment without trial or charge was the subject of protests by linguists, writers, academics, human rights organizations and lovers of freedom throughout the world. Apart from being an ordinary prison memoir, the writer offers us a rare glimpse on how inner circles operate in repressive regimes, in order to protect themselves and the despots they serve. This work is crafted with passion, cheek and wry humour. But it is a necessary warning to future African and other world leaders to care about the people who vote them into power. It is also a testimony to the efforts of those who fight for prisoners of conscience throughout the world. A long awaited and much welcome contribution to the growing world literature of political incarceration.
Noam Chomsky Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.
This book is a powerful contribution to the genre of the prison memoir in Africa. Jack Mapanje presents the moving account of a poet’s imprisonment by the state, his struggle to probe the hidden motives for this arrest and his attempt to provide an unforgettable record of the architecture of imprisonment and the perpetual struggle between the forces of truth and those of naked power. In 1981, Jack Mapanje was a budding poet and scholar in Malawi. His first collection of poetry, Of Chameleons and Gods had just been published in the prestigious African Writers Series and his scholarly work in linguistics was also transforming language and literary studies in Central Africa—his work was drawing international attention. But two years later the state ordered the withdrawal of Mapanje’s poetry from all schools, institutions of higher learning and bookstores. In 1987, Mapanje was arrested by the Malawian secret police and imprisoned without charge until 1991. This book is a recollection of those years in prison. Written in the tradition of the African prison memoir and often echoing the works of other famous prison graduates such as Wole Soyinka The Man Died and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Detained, the memoir represents Mapanje’s retrospective attempt to explain the cause and terms of his imprisonment, to recall in tranquility the terror of arrest, the process of incarceration and the daily struggle to hold on to some measure of sanity and spiritual freedom.
Dr Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English, Princeton University, USA.
Mapanje’s memoir powerfully recounts the human will to survival as well as the capacity to confound even the most repressive and highly organized regime of surveillance and offers an important historical resource of Post-colonial Malawi. It has the intensity of Soyinka’s The Man Died, the moral and political purpose of Ngugi’s Detained and the anguished, but immensely hopeful tone of Vera Chirwa’s Fearless Fighter.
Dr Mpalive-Hangson Msiska, Reader in English and Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London.
The memoir And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night is a powerful and compelling account of poet and academic Jack Mapanje’s experiences of Malawian prison and the effect this incarceration had on him and his family. In 1987, Mapanje was imprisoned for over three years by the authoritarian regime of Malawian President Hastings Banda, never once being informed of the details of his ‘crimes’ against the state. The memoir is Mapanje’s attempt to come to terms with his ordeal and to uncover the truth about his arrest. This, however, is not simply a prison memoir. Throughout the narrative, Mapanje skilfully conjures a vivid insight into life under Malawi’s dictatorship in the late 1980s. Through myriad observations and experiences, including those of his fellow prisoners, the memoir is a devastating critique of Banda and his ruling circle.
A central theme is that Mapanje was never told why he had been incarcerated and thus the memoir is a personal journey in search of answers to that question. Mapanje conveys his difficultly in coming to terms with his sudden arrest, and simply not knowing the reason why; he describes this as a form of torture as he minutely dissects his past for clues. There are frequent ‘flashbacks’ where Mapanje sets about reflecting upon events, such as attendance at conferences or securing resources for his university department, which may have contributed to his arrest. This is a powerful tool, as it illustrates neatly the pervasive fear, suspicion and repression prevalent in Malawian society. Mpanje also employs some of his poems during his account to convey specific events or experiences. This works well because the reader discovers the context or meaning behind them and it adds another dimension to his experiences, his defiance, and ultimately his hope of release.
The memoir details prison life meticulously, offering an insight into the daily realities of ‘political’ prisoners, such as the humiliating strip searches, the squalid conditions and the struggle simply to survive. Despite these trying circumstances, many positive aspects shine through. The memoir demonstrates humanity, kindness, creativity and defiance. Mapanje reveals that initially he had lost hope, but through the help of his fellow inmates, his attitude changed to one of defiance and, later, even optimism. Mapanje argues that “everyone believes that survival is the most effective way of fighting dictators… if you survive, you will live to tell your story”. The book is testament to that spirit.
Mapanje also recounts the kindness and efforts of a multitude of people who helped to ensure his freedom. Immediately after his arrest, an international campaign was started by friends, academic colleagues, and human rights campaigners across the world to pressurise the Banda regime into releasing him. Mapanje only has an inkling of the events outside the prison walls (of which he only learns fully on his release), and he depicts the unfolding campaign through his own eyes: snippets of information, illicit notes from outside, and conversations with guards. Furthermore, it is heartening to discover that some of the prison guards risked their lives to assist the inmates, especially in the international campaign, illustrating human kindness and compassion.
And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night is an engaging read and you cannot help be moved by Mapanje’s experiences. The writing style is incisive and crisp, and although the memoir is predominantly set within the confines of prison, it unfolds at a quick pace. Mapanje’s powerful description offers the reader a glimpse of Malawian society, the leadership of Banda, and Mapanje's own life experiences. The memoir also poignantly reflects on the effects his imprisonment had upon his life, family, and academic career. Yet, despite depicting such hardships, the underlying message of hope and defiance in the face of repression is uplifting.
Publication Date: 1st July 2011
About the Book
Anyidoho says the title of this collection – The Place We Call Home - first came to him more than a decade ago as a collage of fragmented voices and memories he was to carry with him as he travelled the world, always knowing that there was one place on this earth he could claim to be his own, a place of psychic anchor in a haunted turbulent world. This collection features poems written to document important world events including “Countdown to GroundZero” born out of 9/11 and its tragic aftermath, it records the writer’s touching anecdote of how he arrived in the US as a writer-in-residence at the end of August 2001 and even visited the World Trade Centre and surrounding area with his daughter three days before the Twin Towers came down in that fateful and tragic firestorm. This collection of poems is a lamentation and celebration documenting important and epic events in world history including the 200th Anniversary celebration of the Abolition of Slavery in 2007. Anyidoho says, ‘it is the burden and curse of the poet to sing the loss of all our crops after the raging fire has burned the bush and all the harvest into ash.’
Key Selling Points
- Anyidoho is a respected poet, academic and children’s story-writer whose poetry is now accompanied by music because he feels the printed word ‘can no longer carry the full burden of my voice.’
- Anyidoho’s work as a teacher and storyteller combine to make him one of the most sought-after scholars in academic circles in African literary and social science internationally. He currently sits on several academic boards including first occupant of the Kwame Nkrumah Chair of African Studies at the University of Ghana and an executive committee member of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).
About the AuthorKofi Anyidoho is a well-regarded Ghanaian poet, academic and critic who comes from a family tradition of Ewe poets and oral griots. He was educated in Ghana and the US, gaining his Ph.D. at the University of Texas. He is currently Professor of Literature at the University of Ghana, Legon. He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including the Valco Fund Literary Award, the Langston Hughes Prize, the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award, the Fania Kruger Fellowship for Poetry of Social Vision, Poet of the Year (Ghana) and the Ghana Book Award. His published poetry includes Elegy for the Revolution (1978), A Harvest of Our Dreams (1985), Earthchild (1985), Ancestral Logic and Caribbean Blues (1992), PraiseSong for TheLand (2002).
Anyidoho’s mellow verse grips us once again with the unresolved dilemmas of the African experience however it rings with the celebration of lives well lived.
Esi Sutherland-Addy Senior Research Fellow, Head of Language, Literature and Drama, Institute of African Studies and Associate Director of African Humanities Institute Programme, University of Ghana.
What is home if not that “little corner of earth” where the poet listens to the “heartbeat of a troubled century”? . . . In this remarkable body of poems, place crosses path with time; the present is a delicate diaphragm between the past and the future. From Africa to Asia, from the thrasonical West to the embattled East, the poet conjures up images and events which the past needs to reshape the future. At the heart of these poems is a consistent Humanist project: the primacy of memory and remembrance; the urgent need for equity in the dealings between peoples and nations, the recurring stupidity of war, the ultimate possibility of love and laughter… Anyidoho’s inimitable voice throbs through these poems, resonant, lyrical, hauntingly engaging. The Place We Call Home is the voiceprint of a poet who has played no small role in shaping the theme, tone, and tenor of contemporary African poetry.
Niyi Osundare Distinguished Professor of English, University of New Orleans, USA.
The Place We Call Home combines ancestral voices of lament, prophecy and jubilation with the crafst-manship of the best contemporary African poetry. While this is no surprise to most of us, because Kofi Anyidoho is one of the best poets of our time, The Place We Call Home should also be celebrated for the rhythm of the poetic language and the use of words that conjure up home and continue to haunt us for days.
Manthia Diawara Professor of Comparative Literature, Africana Studies and Director of Institute of Afro-American Affairs and Africana Studies Programme, New York University, USA.
With uncanny insight, an acute ear for tone and rhythm and a feeling for myth as well as meaning, singer-poet Kofi Anyidoho once again holds up an ancestral mirror to our day-to-day lives. This three-movement symphony, The Place We Call Home, ranges over the African past and the shifting configurations of our global present, and takes a peek into our futures. About slavery and terrorism, local and global politics, women, kinship, friendship, and our very identities, Anyidoho has something fresh and unexpected to say. He challenges, titillates and moves his readers by means of subtle portraits of the ironies and joys of our (African) lives. The Place We Call Home will be savored by all for whom the reflective life is (still) the only kind worth living.
Kofi Agawu, FGA, FBA Professor of Music, Princeton University, USA.
Publication Date: February 2012
About the Book
These essays pay tribute to Ama Ata Aidoo through a broad spectrum of articles and personal memoirs from scholars of different generations and from other literary artists. The book is intended to convey the full parameters of Aidoo’s place as a literary innovator and as an exponent of radical social and cultural thought in Africa and internationally, especially on issues of African self-consciousness and gender equality. Consisting of over 30 contributions, the collection includes studies of some popular-culture phenomena, which, though not present in any of Aidoo’s writings, nevertheless reflects social and cultural concerns relevant to her oeuvre. Examples are a study, by playwright Femi Osofisan of the Nigerian video film industry as it impacts on the survival of live theatre and a study of the largely negative female images in contemporary Ghanaian popular music. Among the contributions focusing on Aidoo’s own works, the book includes an article on her essays on African feminism and on African women writers, as well as a study of how the presence of Fante-language features in her drama, po