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A book buyer in Rabat, Morocco. Image from The Arab Weekly.

Algerian poet Azraj Omar has, in a piece titled “Arab World’s Unjustified Neglect of African Literature,” decried what he describes as the lack of “openness on African culture in the Maghreb.” Writing in The Arab Weekly, he calls out the lack of knowledge, writing that “Not even Arab scholars and so-called critics know much about the foundations and components of African literature, with the exception, perhaps, of individual efforts of the late Egyptian scholar Ali Shalash and those of a few other academics, specifically in Egypt.”

Here’s an excerpt from his piece.

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Whether in poetry, fiction, literary criticism, intellectual or philosophical research, theatre or the plastic arts, African culture is flourishing south of the Sahara but this intellectual and spiritual momentum is not reaching Maghreb or Eastern Arab countries, even though Africa represents a historical depth for us.

Unfortunately, Arab writers’ unions are ignoring African writers and thinkers. There are no serious efforts to exchange visits by relevant delegations from both sides and in promoting African cultural developments in Arab countries. Various ministries of culture have turned their backs on African cultural affairs and the cultural attaches of Arab country embassies in African countries have done nothing worth mentioning to establish Arab-African cultural relations.

This reality in the Arab world contrasts sharply with the African reality in European countries. They, especially Britain and France, have dedicated radio stations that focus mainly on African cultural life and offer listeners in Europe samples of creative and intellectual achievements in the African continent. European publishing interests do not shy away from publishing African creations and promoting them and African literature is often included in educational curricula in European schools and universities.

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Read the full piece in The Arab Weekly.

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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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