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Artist impression of group photo of participants at the First Conference of African Writer of English Expression, Makerere University, 1962 (Illustration: Dada Khanyisa). Image from Chimurenga Chronic.

Fifty-five years after the founding fathers of modern African literature gathered in Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda to try and define what “African Literature” should be, the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) will be hosting a conference to mark that seminal moment. The 1962 Makerere Conference, titled “Conference of African Writers of English Expression,” had in attendance the continent’s leading literary figures in English: Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, J.P. Clarke, Gabriel Okara, Rajat Neogy, Bloke Modisane, Okot P’bitek, Bernard Fonlon, Segun Olusola, Grace Ogot, Jonathan Kariara, Rebecca Njau, Saunders Redding, Christopher Okigbo, Francis Ademola, Ezekiel Mphahlele, and Arthur Maimane.

In the same vein, SOAS’s memorial conference, titled “SOAS African Literatures Conference – 55 years after the first Makerere African Writers Conference,” will bring together a few of the continent’s leading literary thinkers. Speakers at the event include Wole Soyinka, Sefi Atta, Cameron Duodu, Ivor Agyeman-Duah, Xasan Daahir Weedhsame, Mpalive Msiska, Wangui wa Goro, Chege Githiora, Alena Rettová, Kwadwo Osei-Nyame Jnr, Martin Orwin, Louisa Egbunike, and Richard Oduor who was recently shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Award for Essays/Think Pieces.

Here is part of the announcement.

The event will mark the celebration of the historical ‘Makerere University African Writers Conference’ where leading figures such as Wole Soyinka, JP Clarke, Ngugi wa Thiong’o were present, and for the first time since the end of colonialism, African writing was properly recognised and celebrated. SOAS academics specialising in literary criticism, translation and African literatures more broadly, will host the conference on 28th October 2017 at the SOAS Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, with the support of the SOAS Centre of African studies.

The event will also host the launch of the Anthology: The Gods Who Send Us Gifts- An Anthology of African Short Stories, edited by Dr Ivor Agyeman-Duah, with foreword by SOAS Director Valerie Amos CH.

Note that SOAS Staff and Students’ admission is free.

Here are key details.

Date: 28 October 2017

Time: 9:30 AM-7:30 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery

Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre

Contact email: cas@soas.ac.uk

Book your tickets HERE.

Programme of Events

9.15am-9.45am – Registration

9.45am – Welcome – Professor Mashood Baderin and Mr Ivor Agyeman-Duah

10am-10.30am – Keynote by Professor Wole Soyinka

10.30am – 12.15pm – Panel 1: Title ‘Reflecting on the legacy of the 1962 Makerere conference: African Literatures in the 21st century’
Panellists:
Dr Sefi Atta – ‘Taking Stock’
Professor Mpalive Msiska – ‘The Kampala Conference the genesis of enduring Antinomies’
Dr James Gibbs – Title TBA
Dr Louisa Egbunike – ‘Chinua Achebe and the Igbo-Nigerian Novel’
Discussant: Professor Sikhumbuzo Mngadi
Chair: Dr Wangui wa Goro

12.15 -1.30pm – Lunch – Brunei Suite

1.30pm- 3.30pm – Panel 2: Title ‘African Languages and Translations: past and present’
Panellists:
Dr Wangui wa Goro –Translating African Futures: Lessons from the past and present
Mr Richard Oduor – Possibilities for Literary Translations in the Digital Age
Dr Martin Orwin and Mr Hassan Dahir Ismail ‘Weedhsame’– Form and Feeling in Translating Somali Poetry
Ms Sophie Alal – Reclaiming Tongues
Discussant: Dr Chege Githiora
Chair: Dr Alena Rettova

3.30pm-4pm – Tea and coffee Break

4pm- 4.50pm – Book Launch: The Gods Who Send Us Gifts – An
Anthology of African Short Stories
Panel: Mrs Nana Ayebia Clarke (Publisher), Mr Ivor Agyeman-Duah
(Editor), Ms Mary Ashun (Contributor to the Anthology)

4.50pm – 5.30pm – Tributes
Tribute to Buchi Emecheta by Mr Sylvester Onwordi
Tribute to Abiola Irele by Dr Kwadwo Osei-Nyame Jnr.
Tribute to Alain Ricard by Dr Wangui wa Goro

5.30 – 6.25pm – Poetry readings
1. Mr Hassan Dahir Ismail ‘Weedhsame’ will read ‘Galilyo/Catastrophe’ in Somali language
2. Dr Ida Hadjivayanis will read a poem by Alamin Mazrui, ‘Niguse’ in Swahili language
3. Prof Atukwei Okai will read the poem, ‘The Bond-Oath of Ubuntu’ in English language
Chair: Dr Ranka Primorac

6.25-6.30pm – Closing remarks by Dr Chege Githiora

6.30pm-7.30pm – Reception (Brunei Suite)

Find out more HERE.

Download the programme of events HERE.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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