Sunday, December 5, 2010

The literature of Africa

Yesterday’s post featured the creative non-fiction and social and political commentary of Nigerian writer Pius Adesanmi.

Pius Adesanmi
I wanted to write a second post about Pius Adesanmi because he’s also doing some interesting work as an academic.

Adesanmi is an Associate Professor at Carleton University’s Department of English Language and Literature in Ottawa, Canada. He teaches and researches the literatures and cultures of Africa and the Black Diaspora (i.e. people of African origin living outside Africa). Adesanmi’s work encompasses both anglophone and francophone African literary traditions. He did his PhD in French Studies with a focus on African women’s fiction at the University of British Columbia, Canada, after obtaining a B.A. at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria and an M.A. in French at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Adesanmi specialises in contemporary African and Black Diaspora knowledge production in an era of globalisation. His earlier focus on literature has expanded to include the production of culture (such as language, food and aesthetics) in the Black Diaspora. For example, he's examining how dance forms such as soukous from Kinshasa evolve as they come in contact with hip-hop, Acadian and other forms in North America.

Pius Adesanmi, who is cross-appointed with Carleton University's Institute of African Studies, is also the Director and founder of the Project on New African Literatures (PONAL).  PONAL is an online resource featuring literature produced by African writers in the last 20 years, which according to Adesanmi "probably have been the best years for African literary production."

PONAL aims to make this literature more widely known. Adesanmi explains that in North America, people tend to be aware of African authors who win international prizes, and students of African literature study "classical" texts such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. But North Americans aren’t aware or don’t have access to most of the literature that’s being created on the continent, particularly what's been written since the 1980s. "The continent is almost one of the most advanced hubs now of global – especially anglophone -- production in world literature. And 90 percent of these works are not known here."

PONAL will feature "third generation" writers from Africa as well as offer an online audio library, a photo gallery and a quarterly literary news magazine, Gboungboun. Through PONAL, people will be able to find new writers, reflect on critical directions in literature, or get recommendations for syllabi. Adesanmi also intends to build a collection of books of creative writing and poetry published by smaller presses in Africa that otherwise wouldn’t be available in this part of the world.

PONAL is one more of Pius Adesanmi's ways of making seldom-heard stories about Africa, as told by Africans, more visible and more recognised.

Earth from Apollo 17 / Photo courtesy NASA

No comments:

Post a Comment