AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

BOOKS

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Thursday, October 16th, 2014

How do we talk about the memory of Apartheid

In 1966 the South African government declared District Six—a high-density, mostly coloured residential area intrinsic to the fabric of downtown Cape Town for at least a century and situated on prime land beneath Table Mountain —to be a white “Group Area.” The state promptly set about forcefully removing District Six’s “non-white” residents (eventually about 60,000

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Angola’s Forgotten Massacre

In her famous tract on literature and trauma, Cathy Caruth writes: “If Freud turns to literature to describe traumatic experience, it is because literature, like psychoanalysis, is interested in the complex relation between knowing and not knowing…”...

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Ba re e ne re: The rebirth of a literary dream in Lesotho

In Sesotho, the language of Lesotho, the words “Ba re e ne re…” mean “They say it was said…” Similar to once upon a time, this is how folktales begin in Sesotho. The words have another deeper...

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Interview with Ishtiyaq Shukri on his new novel, “I See You”

Shukri: “Imagine a world in which the first question you would be asked is not ‘Where are you from?’ but ‘What have you read?’ Why should the borders of the nation state into which I was born...

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

‘The Italian Joseph Conrad’

Described by the literary press as the “Italian Joseph Conrad” and “a 20th century Balzac”, Alessandro Spina–the pen name of Basili Shafik Khouzam–was a Syrian Maronite who was born in Benghazi in 1927 and died in Milan...

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The Contemporary Mark of Assata Shakur

This past July, icon of Black American activism Assata Shakur’s autobiography was re-pressed by Zed Books in London. At times thought to be dormant, black American activism has seen a resurgence in recent weeks across the United States after the killing of...

Monday, September 15th, 2014

What Binyavanga Wainaina thinks of the Caine Prize

This is Africa is prone to tabloid headlines (they’ve been running tons of sex related posts lately), but Nigerian journalist Chiagozie Nwonwu‘s interview with Binyavanga Wainaina (writer, commentator, rights defender “a public figure, not D’Banj, but with enough...

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

The Resurrection of Nat Nakasa

“This is Simply a Personal Statement from Me to You” On August 18th I attended the memorial service for Nat Nakasa at the Broadway Presbyterian Church in Harlem.  What began as a somber event quickly turned joyous...

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

James Matthews being James Matthews

The film, Diaries of a Dissident Poet, follows poet James Matthews around Cape Town, tracking him during a year, from his 83rd to 84th birthday. It opens with a small celebration of his 83rd at the District...

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Obituary: Nadine Gordimer

My first introduction to Comrade Nadine was through her writing during my student activist days in the mid-1970s and later when I was serving five years on Robben Island as a political prisoner from 1979 to 1984....

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Dreadlocked Rapunzel

Lately, there’s been some good rumbling about the dearth of stories that include characters of color (a New York Times critique, a “Top 10 Guide” in The Guardian, 30 Classics on The Griot) . As a father with a young...

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Africa is a Country Video–The Editor of New Book on Brenda Fassie on ‘Letting It Bleed’

Often the biographical genre puts the burden of accountability on the subject written about than it reveals about the writer. Bongani Madondo craftly debunks that in his sophomore project, I’m Not Your Weekend Special, a collection of...

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Brenda Fassie: a revolution without harmony

In 2002 when it debuted, I went to see ‘Amandla: a Revolution in Four-Part Harmony,’ American Lee Hirsch’s film about the role of music in the anti-apartheid struggle. Uplifting and solemn at the same time, I admit,...

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Lesego Rampolokeng’s Elegy To Robo The Technician

“Raise your hand up if you’re a hip-hop head” said Lesego Rampolokeng, rallying a house full of poets at a gathering in Melville on a wet Sunday afternoon in 2013. I put mine up, as did a few...

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

James Baldwin at 90, Part 3: Black Style in an Age of Sights for the Speechless

In Take This Hammer, Baldwin’s guide, Orville Luster, positions him in San Francisco’s Lower Fillmore District across the street from the Booker T. Washington Hotel. As they approach the hotel on Fillmore Street, Luster says, “now, off...

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

‘Thinking About Genocide’ — An Extract from Mahmood Mamdani’s Seminal Book on Rwanda

I visited Rwanda roughly a year after the genocide. On July 22, 1995, I went to Ntarama, about an hour and a half by car from Kigali, on a dirt road going south toward the Burundi border....

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

The Dangers of a Single Book Cover: The Acacia Tree Meme and “African literature”

“Like so many (wildly varying) writers on Africa, Chimamanda Adichie gets the acacia tree sunset treatment. Whether Wilbur Smith or Wole Soyinka, Rider Haggard or Bessie Head, apparently you get the same cover imagery.” We’re obliged to...

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

To discover Stuart Hall …

To discover Hall is to discover the immense possibility of being different. I first encountered Stuart Hall: on the radio. After a crisp introduction from the BBC presenter, Stuart Hall’s velvet voice and articulated conviction filled the...

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Latin America, the country–through Gabo’s eyes

'... Around the 1940’s, Giovanni Papini declared that Latin America had not provided anything to humanity, not even a saint, as if that was not good enough. He was wrong, because we did have Santa Rosa de...

Friday, March 28th, 2014

#WhiteHistoryMonth: When the FBI set-up a Chicago street gang to be tried as a terrorist organization

Living in Rio de Janeiro now, and witnessing the pacification of the favelas by Brazilian federal troops from a close(r) distance, I can't help but think back to my faded memories of the 'war on drugs' while...

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Chinua Achebe Revisiting Sweden

In October-November 1988, Chinua Achebe travelled through Scandinavia to launch the translations of his novel Anthills of the Savannah into Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, and to meet readers, writers and academics, most of them well-known with his...

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

How To Kill The Nigerian Publishing Industry

The general collapse of education in Nigeria is hardly news. However, any attempt to address the issue is of interest to those trying to improve the hapless lot of Nigerian students. There was therefore a purr...

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

#WhiteHistoryMonth: Sherlock Holmes, a racist?

I'm obsessed with the Sherlock Holmes books. Love them all. But sometimes when I´m reading one of the little stories I go: wait hang on …that was … kind of …: Like in The Sign of Four,...

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

#WhiteHistoryMonth: ‘To revolutionize a culture …’

Frank’s Archive is a project that explores the different functions of books, power and knowledge. My dad, J.E. Frank, has left me numerous books relating to race, class, apartheid and politics in South Africa and the United...

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

#WhiteHistoryMonth: When Salazar met one of Lumumba’s murderers

António Oliveira Salazar founded Portugal’s New State dictatorship in 1933. Some historians like to argue over whether it was fascist or not. And these days, some Portuguese remember him fondly. He presided over the late colonial administrations...

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

#WhiteHistoryMonth: Audre Lorde’s Harlem childhood

As a very little girl, I remember shrinking from a particular sound, a hoarsely sharp, guttural rasp, because it often meant a nasty glob of grey spittle upon my coat or shoe an instant later. My mother...

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Nigerians in Space

In Deji Olukotun’s new novel, a Nigerian scientist stuck as a mid-level employee in the Houston laboratories finds himself with an opportunity to rip into the space-time continuum, to reclaim personal and national honor by returning the...

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Are Nigerians the New Asians?

Recently, the Nigerian newspaper Punch opened an article as follows: “Nigerians … have been rated among certain races who are bound to succeed over others in America, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.” Anyone who...

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

What it is to be Winnie Mandela

I just finished reading a fascinating appetizer to John Carlin’s new book on Nelson Mandela, Knowing Mandela, and it set me wondering what might be the place of solitude in the narration of South African history. Some of...

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

In gratitude to Stuart Hall, a socialist intellectual who taught us to confront the political with a smile

Stuart Hall was the most important public intellectual of the past 50 years. In an age where having a TV show allegedly makes someone a public intellectual and where the status of the university you work at...

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