Conversations with African Poets and Writers” is a program series in partnership with the Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division and the Poetry and Literature Center. This program showcases emerging African writers whose work has contributed to increasing knowledge about the literature of the continent throughout the world. The series was launched in 2011 to expose the richness, diversity, and creativity of contemporary African writing to an international audience. Previous series have featured the late famous Nigerian writer and scholar Chinua Achebe, the legend Dr. Ali Mazrui, and South Africa’s writer and poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile. In showcasing these contemporary novelists and poets, we hope to create a new digital archive that may be used by students of African literature, researchers in African studies departments, the African Diaspora, and individuals who are interested in a cultural exchange experience.
Ms. Okwiri Oduor
This series showcased the Zambian writer Namwali Serpell on March 14, 2016. Born in Lusaka, she grew up in Baltimore and is now an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Serpell read a short story from her book and participated in an interview session followed by Q&A with the audience. Serpell also discussed her current research, challenges and opportunities in African literature. Serpell is the first Zambian writer to win the prestigious Caine Prize for her short story, “The Sack,” in 2015. Her other story “Muzungu” was short-listed for the 2010 Caine Prize. The webcast can be found at www.loc.gov
Ms. Okwiri Oduor
The Africa Society is proud to partner with the African and Middle Eastern Division and The Poetry and Literature Center of the Library of Congress for the fourth season of the Conversations with African Poets and Writers program. On April 17, 2015, Kenyan author and winner of the 2014 Caine prize for African Writing, Okwiri Oduor, read a selection from her novel and engaged the audience in a discussion about her inspiration for writing, the issues she tackles in her writing and the potential of the African literary space.
This program series is webcast and can be viewed together with previous programs at http://www.loc.gov/poetry/africanpoets/index.html
Ms. Zainab Hassan
The last of the Conversation with African Poets and Writers series for Spring was held on June 10, 2014 at the Library of Congress. The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa in collaboration with the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress hosted Ms. Zainab Hassan from Somalia. Continue reading…
Mr. Tope Folarin
Nigerian author Tope Folarin, winner of the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, read selections from his short story “Miracle” and was interviewed by Angel Batiste. The event was held on March 20, 2014, at The African and Middle Eastern Division with the Poetry and Literature Center in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
Ms. Maaza Mengiste
The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa in collaboration with the Africa and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress hosted Ms. Maaza Mengiste, an Ethiopian born author as part of the ongoing partnership of the Conversation with African Poets and Writers program. The event was held at the Library of Congress, Middle Eastern Division reading room. Ms. Mengiste read certain excerpts from her new book “Beneath the Lions Gaze”, which narrates a tale about a father and two sons, of betrayal and loyalty, of the trials and tribulation of a family in the wake of the Ethiopian revolution. The book is a true story of her family’s plight during the actual Ethiopian revolution in 1974. Ms. Mengiste also spoke about her new upcoming project, which is a new book on the accounts of the revolution from the views of Ethiopian women during the war.
Mr. Omekongo Dibinga
The Africa Society in collaboration with the Africa and Middle Eastern Division of the Library ofCongress hosted, Omekongo Dibinga, a Poet/Spoken word artist, as part of the Conversation with African Poets and Writers program. The event was held at the Library of Congress On Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Mr. Dibinga performed some spoken word pieces that he originally wrote, and afterwards talked about his career path and initiatives he had embarked on. He particularly touched on the conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and how they are directly linked to cell phone use in the United States. Omekongo Dibinga is an author of several published literature including his current one in 2011, entitled “Up stander’s Guide to an Outstanding Life”. In the book, Mr. Dibinga talks about 7 steps that every activist must follow in order to achieve greatness.
On Tuesday, April 3, 2012, The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa in collaboration with the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress hosted a South African poet and political activist Keorapetse Kgositsile. He discussed the state of contemporary African culture, including poetry and literature. Kgositsile is a South African poet who has authored nine books of poetry. In December of 2006, Kgositsile was named Poet Laureate of South Africa. Kgositsile studied in different universities in the United States while in exile from his native South Africa.
As a continuation of the Conversation with African Poets and Writers program series on April 4, The Africa Society, the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain, hosted writer and journalist Donato N’dongo, a native of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. N’dongo discussed and read his work through an interview format discussion conducted by Laverne Page, Area Specialist of the African and Middle Eastern Division while Georgette Dorn, Chief of the Hispanic Division served as N’dongo’s translator.
Helon Habila, award-winning Nigerian author, became the last presenter for the spring session of our Conversation with African Poets and Writers program series partnership at the Library of Congress. On Tuesday, May 1, Habila read scripts of his novel “Oil on Water” and also discussed his other book “The Granta Book of the African Short Story.”