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African literature
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African literature refers to literature of and from Africa. As George Joseph notes on the first page of his chapter on African literature in Understanding Contemporary Africa, while the European perception of literature generally refers to written letters, the African concept includes oral literature.[1]

As George Joseph continues, while European views of literature often stressed a separation of art and content, African awareness is inclusive:

“Literature” can also imply an artistic use of words for the sake of art alone. Without denying the important role of aesthetics in Africa, we should keep in mind that, traditionally, Africans do not radically separate art from teaching. Rather than write or sing for beauty in itself, African writers, taking their cue from oral literature, use beauty to help communicate important truths and information to society. Indeed, an object is considered beautiful because of the truths it reveals and the communities it helps to build. [2]
Contents [hide]
1 Oral literature
2 Precolonial literature
3 Colonial African literature
4 Postcolonial African literature
5 Noma Award
6 Major African novels
7 Major African poets
8 Secondary literature
9 See also
10 References
11 External links

[edit] Oral literature
Oral literature (or orature) may be in prose or verse. The prose is often mythological or historical and can include tales of the trickster character. Storytellers in Africa sometimes use call-and-response techniques to tell their stories. Poetry, often sung, includes: narrative epic, occupational verse, ritual verse, praise poems to rulers and other prominent people. Praise singers, bards sometimes known as “griots”, tell their stories with music. [3] Also recited, often sung, are: love songs, work songs, children’s songs, along with epigrams, proverbs and riddles.[4]

[edit] Precolonial literature
Examples of pre-colonial African literature are numerous. Oral literature of west Africa includes the Epic of Sundiata composed in medieval Mali, The older Epic of Dinga from the old Ghana Empire. In Ethiopia, originally written in Ge’ez script is the Kebra Negast or book of kings. One popular form of traditional African folktale is the “trickster” story, where a small animal uses its wits to survive encounters with larger creatures. Examples of animal tricksters include Anansi, a spider in the folklore of the Ashanti people of Ghana; Ijàpá, a tortoise in Yoruba folklore of Nigeria; and Sungura, a hare found in central and East African folklore. [5] Other works in written form are abundant, namely in north Africa, the Sahel regions of west Africa and on the Swahili coast. From Timbuktu alone, there are an estimated 300,000 or more manuscripts tucked away in various libraries and private collections[6], mostly written in Arabic, but some in the native languages (namely Peul and Songhai)[7]. Many were written at the famous University of Timbuktu. The material covers a wide array of topics, including Astronomy, Poetry, Law, History, Faith, Politics, and Philosophy among others.[8] Swahili literature similarly, draws inspiration from Islamic teachings but developed under indigenous circumstances. One of the most renowned and earliest pieces of Swahili literature being Utendi wa Tambuka or “The Story of Tambuka”.

In Islamic times, North Africans such as ibn Khaldun attained great distinction within Arabic literature. Medieval north Africa boasted Universities such as those of Fez and Cairo, with copious amounts of literature to supplement them.

[edit] Colonial African literature
The African works best known in the West from the period of colonization and the slave trade are primarily slave narratives, such as Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789).

In the colonial period, Africans exposed to Western languages began to write in those tongues. In 1911, Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford (also known as Ekra-Agiman) of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) published what is probably the first African novel written in English, Ethiopia Unbound: Studies in Race Emancipation [9] Although the work moves between fiction and political advocacy, its publication and positive reviews in the Western press mark a watershed moment in African literature.

During this period, African plays began to emerge. Herbert Isaac Ernest Dhlomo of South Africa published the first English-language African play , The Girl Who Killed to Save: Nongqawuse the Liberator in 1935. In 1962, Ngugi wa Thiong’o of Kenya wrote the first East African drama, The Black Hermit, a cautionary tale about “tribalism” (racism between African tribes).

African literature in the late colonial period (between the end of World War I and independence) increasingly showed themes of liberation, independence, and (among Africans in French-controlled territories) négritude. One of the leaders of the négritude movement, the poet and eventual President of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, published the first anthology of French-language poetry written by Africans in 1948, Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française (Anthology of the New Black and Malagasy Poetry in the French Language), featuring a preface by the French existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre. [10]

Nor was the African literary clerisy of this time relatively divorced from the issues that it tackled. Many, indeed, suffered deeply and directly: censured for casting aside his artistic responsibilities in order to participate actively in warfare, Christopher Okigbo was killed in battle for Biafra against the Nigerian movement of the 1960s’ civil war; Mongane Wally Serote was detained under South Africa’s Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 between 1969 and 1970, and subsequently released without ever having stood trial; in London in 1970, his countryman Arthur Norje committed suicide; Malawi’s Jack Mapanje was incarcerated with neither charge nor trial because of an off-hand remark at a university pub; and, in 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa died by the gallows of the Nigerian junta.

[edit] Postcolonial African literature
With liberation and increased literacy since most African nations gained their independence in the 1950s and 1960s, African literature has grown dramatically in quantity and in recognition, with numerous African works appearing in Western academic curricula and on “best of” lists compiled at the end of the 20th century. African writers in this period wrote both in Western languages (notably English, French, and Portuguese) and in traditional African languages.

Ali A. Mazrui and others mention seven conflicts as themes: the clash between Africa’s past and present, between tradition and modernity, between indigenous and foreign, between individualism and community, between socialism and capitalism, between development and self-reliance and between Africanity and humanity. [11] Other themes in this period include social problems such as corruption, the economic disparities in newly independent countries, and the rights and roles of women. Female writers are today far better represented in published African literature than they were prior to independence.

In 1986, Wole Soyinka became the first post-independence African writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Algerian-born Albert Camus had been awarded the 1957 prize. [[WHAT WE HAVE TO KNOW ]]The first novel in Rwanda.Mes trances a trente ans by Saverio Nayigiziki

[edit] Noma Award
The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, begun in 1980, is presented for the outstanding work of the year in African literatures.

[edit] Major African novels
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Nigeria)
Nuruddin Farah, From a Crooked Rib (Somalia)
Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country (South Africa)
Gracy Ukala, Dizzy Angel (Nigeria)
Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa, Ogboju odẹ ninu igbo irunmalẹ (The Forest of a Thousand Demons) (Nigeria)
Dalene Matthee, Kringe in ‘n bos ([[:Template:Circles in a forest]]) (South Africa)
Mariama Bâ, Une si longue lettre (So Long a Letter) (Senegal)
Ousmane Sembène, Xala (Senegal)
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, A Grain of Wheat (Kenya)
Benjamin Sehene, Le Feu sous la Soutane (Fire under the Cassock) (Rwanda)
Thomas Mofolo, Chaka (South Africa/Lesotho)
Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions (Zimbabwe)
Dambudzo Marechera, The House of Hunger (Zimbabwe/Rhodesia)
Yvonne Vera, Butterfly Burning (Zimbabwe)
Mia Couto, Terra Sonâmbula (A Sleepwalking Land) (Mozambique)
Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born (Ghana)
Ben Okri, The Famished Road (Nigeria)
J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace (South Africa)
Bessie Head, “When Rain Clouds Gather” (Botswana)
Sarah Ladipo Manyika, In Dependence (Nigeria)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigeria)
Charles Mangua, A Tail in the Mouth (Kenya)
Camara Laye, The Radiance of the King (Guinea)
Nnedi Okorafor, Zahrah the Windseeker (Nigeria)
Monenembo Tierno, King of Kahel (Guinea)
Sefi Atta Everything Good Will Come (Nigeria)
[edit] Major African poets
Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)
Christopher Okigbo (Nigeria)
Lenrie Peters (Gambia)
Kofi Anyidoho (Ghana)
Dennis Brutus (South Africa)
Kofi Awoonor (Ghana)
Léopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal)
Glynn Burridge Seychelles
[edit] Secondary literature
Encyclopedia of African Literature, ed Simon Gikandi, London: Routledge, 2003.
The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature, ed Abiola Irele and Simon Gikandi, 2 vls, Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Table of contents
Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writing by Women of African Descent”, ed Margaret Busby (Random House, 1992).
General History of Africa vol. VIII, ed. Ali A. Mazrui, UNESCO, 1993, ch. 19 “The development of modern literature since 1935,” Ali A. Mazrui et al.
Understanding Contemporary Africa, ed. April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon, Lynne Rienner, London, 1996, ch. 12 “African Literature”, George Joseph
[edit] See also
Literature portal
List of African writers
African cinema
Nigerian literature
[edit] References
1.^ George, Joseph, “African Literature” ch. 12 of Understanding Contemporary Africa p. 303
2.^ ibid p. 304
3.^ http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/ent/A0802673.html
4.^ George Joseph, op. cit. pp. 306-310
5.^ “African Literature – MSN Encarta”. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwDV5p8Q.
6.^ http://www.sum.uio.no/research/mali/timbuktu/project/timanus.pdf
7.^ http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,569560,00.html
8.^ http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/mali/
9.^ African Literature.
10.^ “Leopold Senghor – MSN Encarta”. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwDVhgpr.
11.^ Ali A. Mazrui et al. “The development of modern literature since 1935” as ch. 19 of UNESCO’s General History of Africa vol. VIII p. 564f Collaborating with Ali A. Mazrui on this chapter were Mario Pinto de Andrade, M’hamed Alaoui Abdalaoui, Daniel P. Kunene and Jan Vansina.
[edit] External links
New African Literature resource
The Africa_(Bookshelf) at Project Gutenberg
African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
African Literature Association
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