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Podcast: African Literature

How much do you know about African literature? In this podcast, Associate Professor Brita Strand Rangnes and host Nicholas Carlie introduce you to the rich tradition of African literature and to several contemporary African authors. Perhaps you will find inspiration for your next reading project?

Photo of an open book where two pages are folded so that it makes the shape of a heart.

Pre-listening tasks:

Before listening to the podcast, discuss the following questions in groups or in class:

  1. What do you know about African literature?

  2. What have you read by African authors?

  3. Make a list of the authors you know from the African continent.

  4. Have you read any novels set in Africa?


Photo of an open book where two pages are folded so that it makes the shape of a heart.

Podcast: African Literature

How much do you know about African literature? In this podcast, Associate Professor Brita Strand Rangnes and host Nicholas Carlie introduce you to the rich tradition of African literature and to several contemporary African authors.

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Discuss:

After listening to the podcast, discuss the following questions:

  1. According to Brita Strand Rangnes, is it possible to point out some things that characterise African literature compared to Western literature?

  2. Are there any specific topics that re-occur in African literature?

  3. What is orature? Is this a uniquely African form of literature? Do we have orature in Norway?

  4. What is the message of Decolonising the Mind by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o?

  5. From a political and cultural point of view: Why is it important, particularly for African writers, to write in their own vernacular and not in English?

  6. In the podcast, they discuss the prominent Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her experiences with Western culture. How can her perspective be valuable for us?

African reading project:

There are many good novels coming out of Africa. We have selected a few that are all worth reading. The list presented below will give you an idea of the variety that exists.

Why not carry out a class reading project? Choose different novels from the list (or others that you know of). Read and compare.

Before reading:

Find information about the author and the publication of the book. What expectations does this information give you?

After reading:

Share your experiences of the book with the rest of the class. You can use these questions as a starting point for a talk about your novel.

  1. What do you know about the author? (Country, time period ...)

  2. What is the plot of the novel?

  3. Are there cultural elements in the novel that you don't understand or that are very different from what you are used to?

  4. Is the message of the book one that you can recognise from your own life, or is the message related to the African setting of the novel?

  5. Does the novel display any features of oral storytelling tradition (orature)?

  6. Is the novel very different from what you are used to reading or what you associate with Western literature?

  7. Did you like the novel? Why/why not?

Recommended novels:

Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart (1958)

This novel is a classic. It depicts pre-colonial life in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the invasion by Europeans in the late 19th century. We follow three generations and see how their way of life gradually changes and disappears.

Nadine Gordimer: Burger’s Daughter (1979)

A political and historical novel where we follow a group of white anti-apartheid activists in South Africa seeking to overthrow the South African government.

Tsitsi Dangarembga: Nervous Conditions (1988)

The novel is set in Zimbabwe in the 1960s and 70s. It centres on the experience of several female characters as they either challenge, or come to terms with the traditional patriarchal structure of their society.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Purple Hibiscus (2003)

This novel takes place in post-colonial Nigeria. We follow two teenagers, Kambili and Jaja, who grow up in a home with a tyrannical and fanatically religious father. As the country begins to fall apart due to a military coup, they are sent to their aunt who shows them what life can be like away from their father's authority.

Uzodinma Iweala: Beasts of No Nation (2005)

Civil war is raging in an unnamed West-African nation. The school-boy Agu is recruited into a unit of guerrilla fighters. Haunted by his father’s death at the hands of militants, Agu is vulnerable to the dangerous but paternal nature of his new commander.

NoViolet Bulawayo: We Need New Names (2013)

In this novel, which is set Zimbabwe, we meet the feisty young protagonist, Darling, who lives in a shantytown named Paradise. She is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America's famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few.

Chigozie Obioma: The Fishermen (2015)

In a small town in Nigeria, four brothers take advantage of their strict father's absence from home to go fishing in a forbidden local river. They encounter a local madman who predicts that the oldest boy will be killed by one of his brothers. This prophecy unleashes a tragic chain of events.

Ayobami Adebayo: Stay With Me (2017)

Yejide and Akin have been married for four years. Yejide is trying everything to become pregnant, to no avail. One day, her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Yejide is furious and livid with jealousy, and she knows that the only way to save her marriage is to have a child. When she finally does become pregnant, it comes at a very high cost.

Oyinkan Braithwaite: My Sister, the Serial Killer (2018)

For the third time, Korede has to clean up the mess after her sister, Ayoola, has killed her boyfriend 'in self-defence'. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister. But one day, Ayoola starts dating a man that Korede is in love with ...

Imbolo Mbue: How Beautiful We Were (2021)

Set in a fictional African village, the novel tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought on by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmland infertile and children are dying from toxic water. Then they decide to fight back ...

TEDTalks:

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie giving a speech.

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is today one of the most famous African writers. However, she is not only an excellent writer; she is also a frequent debater of social issues. We see this in her two TEDTalks: 'The Danger of a Single Story' and 'We Should All be Feminists'.

Link to We Should All be Feminists

Link to The Danger of a Single Story

Talk:

Choose one of the TEDTalks. Then discuss the following questions:

  1. What is the message of the TEDTalk?

  2. Sum up her main arguments. Do you agree with her?

  3. Is the situation she's describing relevant for people in other parts of the world? Is it relevant in Norway?

  4. How does she communicate with the audience?

Write:

In 1986, the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o published a series of essays called Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. In this collection of essays, he argues that the languages of the colonisers have been used as a tool of oppression in Africa. He states that it is important that African writers return to African languages because language is an important carrier of culture. If you don't use your mother tongue, you will fall out of harmony with the society to which you actually belong.

Below, you can read three quotations from the book. Read them carefully, then choose one of the writing tasks below.

  1. Write an argumentative text where you discuss the quotations above. Is Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o right when he claims that the languages of the colonisers have been used as a tool of oppression?

  2. Write an expository text where you explain the historical reason why English has become such an important language on the African continent and describe some of the consequences this has had.

  3. Draw inspiration from one or both of the Adichie TEDTalks in the task above. Write an argumentative text where you explore the same topic/topics, but from your own perspective.

Sist oppdatert 10.01.2022
Skrevet av BådeOg og Karin Søvik

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