Sixty years after the landmark Conference of African Writers of English Expression’ held at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, the second Pan-African writers’ meeting will happen this month.
The organizers are the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) and Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). It will hold at the Conference Centre, the University of Ibadan, from June 23 to 26.
It is themed ‘Literature Since Makerere 1962: The African Writers’ Pan-African Agenda for Peace, Security and Cultural Development’ and will feature writers, academics and diplomats from 40 African countries.
A statement from PAWA Secretary-General, Dr Wale Okediran, on behalf of the organizers, explained that the event would, among others, examine the progress of African Literature since Makerere and forge a meaningful path for its future.
“The Conference will also consider the role of African Writers in a Pan African Agenda for Cultural Development, Peace and Security against the backdrop of a continent in the grips of insurgencies, wars and coups. In a global age beset by wars, insecurity, human displacement, coups and insurgency, the conference could not have come at a better time.
“The Conference, which is in line with Article 9 of PAWA’s aims and objectives – to promote peace and understanding in Africa and the world through literature – will be conducted in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Swahili which are the five working Languages of PAWA. The event will lead to the publication of the conference proceedings and the release of a communique and blueprint of actions that are expected to address the problems to be discussed. These documents will thereafter be shared through advocacy visits by PAWA members in their respective countries to political, community, religious and civil society leaders,” the statement read.
A renowned expert on African Literature, Professor Bernth Lindfors and award-winning Egyptian journalist and poet Ashraf Aboul-Yazid will deliver keynote addresses with lead paper presentations from other eminent academics and writers.
These are Nigeria’s Prof Femi Osofisan, Zimbabwean, Virginia Phiri and Camerounian Professor Sarah Agbor. Panel discussions will follow their presentations, followed by other conference activities include a welcome cocktail, book exhibition, excursion around, a Festival of Life where writers will read from their works and an Awards/Dinner Night.
PAWA’s General Assembly, the first in 30 years, will also hold during the conference.
The June 1962 milestone event the current one is commemorating was sponsored by the Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Mbari Club in association with the Department of Extra-Mural Studies of Makerere.
It featured prominent African writers, including Wole Soyinka, John Pepper Clark, Obi Wali, Gabriel Okara, Christopher Okigbo, Bernard Fonlon, Frances Ademola, Cameron Duodu, Kofi Awoonor, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Bloke Modisane, Lewis Nkosi, Dennis Brutus and Arthur Maimane.
Others were Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (then known as James Ngugi), Robert Serumaga, Rajat Neogy (founder of Transition Magazine), Okot p’Bitek, Pio Zirimu (credited with coining the term “orature”), Grace Ogot, Rebecca Njau, David Rubadiri, Jonathan Kariara and Langston Hughes.
It dealt with the issue of how the legacy of colonialism had left the African writer with a dilemma regarding language choice in writing.
It was a significant milestone in African literature and defined many African authors’ writing styles. At the conference, several nationalist writers refused to acknowledge any literature written in non-African languages as African literature.