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RE: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: How Achebe Ruined African Literature

Let us move one post of the goalposts fyrtger. I have read most Africans who wrote in English but Ayi Kwe Armah I hope I get the spelling of his name right as I read his The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born almost 40 years ago.  It was the pun on the spelling of beautiful substituting a "y" for an "I" that did it for me!

He wrote another biok but ub 40 years I have only finished the first chapter but I swear on my grandmother's grave I must read it all before I die!

Cheers.

IBK

On 1 Apr 2014 02:17, "Akurang-Parry, Kwabena" <KAParr@ship.edu> wrote:

Then again, who is an expert? Those who offer opinions? Well my favorite writers are Laye and Ngugi! My reason is very simple indeed. As a boy coming into my own, I enjoyed African Child and Weep Not Child. Now you realize that I shifted the goalposts from Achebe and Soyinka to Laye and Ngugi!

 

Kwabena 


From: usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com [usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com] on behalf of Funmi Tofowomo Okelola [cafeafricana1@aol.com]
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 10:50 AM
To: USAAfricaDialogue@googlegroups.com
Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: How Achebe Ruined African Literature

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I detest the so-called experts not versed in African Literature and are shunning out ideas on the issue.  African lit encompasses Oral literature, writers from all over the CONTINENT, etc. 

African Literature is not ONLY about Teju Cole, Taiye Selasi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Chimamanda Adichie, etc, African literature includes Helen Oyeyemi, Aminatta Forna, Dinah Mengestu, Alain Mabackou, Assia Djebar, Mariama Ba, Oyono, Ngugi Wa Thiong''o, and more from all over the CONTINENT. 

We should avoid living in a bowl. 



Funmi Tofowomo Okelola

-In the absence of greatness, mediocrity thrives. 

http://www.cafeafricana.com

http://www.indigokafe.com




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Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - "How Achebe ruined African literature"

Toyin,

My point is that scholarly industry can only grow if you have a concomitant economic growth.  Your economic growth is a function of your political economy. With the level of capital flight and brain drain from Africa and the rapacious rape of Africa's natural resources with the connivance of local despots and a mentally and morally bankrupt elite we can only build an industry of hopeless economic refugees who are ready to die to gain entry into Europe!

Cheers.

IBK

On 31 Mar 2014 22:56, "Oluwatoyin Adepoju" <toyinifa@gmail.com> wrote:
"If one African country can rise to the level of mental independence and refuse to seek validity from these western critics and armchair idiots, this silly half a dime a week hack will not dare exhibit this temerity that has aggravated us here."
 Ibukunolu A Babajide

To active this, you need your own scholarly industry.

African primary creativity exists.

We need at the very least, an equal level secondary creativity in African scholarship.

thanks

toyin 


On Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 12:49 PM, Ibukunolu A Babajide <ibk2005@gmail.com> wrote:
Ken and Ikhide,
 
I remember giving a talk at a German University in Oldenbug many years ago.  It was a motley of groups ranging from asylum seekers and their German wives, po-democracy activists (I was invited from London on that platform), and some doo-gooders and academics.  It was at the height of June 12.
 
A middle aged German woman was unintentionally condescending and asked how I could be so brilliant while most Nigerians she knew especially those married to German women were not so bright.  I quietly told her that I was not bright but less than average, and that there were very many brighter than I am back home in Nigeria.  She then replied, "But if you are so bright at home why is your country so bad?"
 
These condescending oft repeated nonsense about "African Literature" is an aspect of a wider post-slavery and post-colonial psyche and mindset in the minds of Caucasians and their west, who see the Black as conquered and stupid, and the brainwashed Blacks who are trapped in the political economy of the west and sell us short down the river!  If one African country can rise to the level of mental independence and refuse to seek validity from these western critics and armchair idiots, this silly half a dime a week hack will not dare exhibit this temerity that has aggravated us here.
 
Look at the capital flight to the west, look at the brain drain to the west and look at the disaster that African states are as we share these exchanges.  It is not their fault, as my elders would say, if the wall refuses to yawn permanently and crack, the lizard will not lay eggs within its cracks!
 
That is our problem, and we must start the hard work of changing minds and stop the craze for validation by those who are mentally inferior to us.
 
Cheers.
 
IBK  



_________________________
Ibukunolu Alao Babajide (IBK)


On 31 March 2014 14:22, Ikhide <xokigbo@yahoo.com> wrote:
Hi Ken,

Many thanks for yours, I have a few additional thoughts, some directly related to your responses, some culled from what I've said elsewhere that you and/or someone else might find interesting:

1. Sadly, the world of literature, certainly its politics hardly reflects your own reasoned world view. The prejudices are deep and ingrained. That is why we are having this conversation. The gatekeepers of literature have assigned us to the dung heap of "world literature" at best and turned the term "African literature" into a pejorative that should be avoided like the plague and used only when it is time to wheedle for grants and conferences. By the way, I did not read Teju Cole as asking to be assigned a place in "world literature." I thought he was avoiding all that.

2. I was responding to my close reading of Helen Rittelmeyer's piece. It was riddled with sweeping generalizations and untruths, dangerous because they were told with such confident finality. Here are a couple:

"The state of the Anglophone African novel is not entirely the fault of Chinua Achebe and his multiculturalist enablers. Some of the blame must lie with those conscientious Western critics and readers who should have paid more attention when African writers tried to move beyond the limits Achebe set."
 
"But there is no getting around the sad truth that Achebe was an artist with a narrow gift and a political agenda, that he imposed these limitations on African literature, and that the Western Left used their cultural influence to enforce these limits."

She blames Chinua Achebe for what she imagines is the sorry state of contemporary African literature; yet it is clear she has not read a whole lot of African literature, not to talk of contemporary writers.

3. Someone rifles through her drawers, finds an 80's manuscript of an essay, dusts it up a bit and proudly showcases it as the truth. I am getting tired of constantly reacting to these things but you know, life is about reacting to stuff most times, it is what it is. Chielozona Eze, if you want to know is a pioneer leader in work in the digital space. Amatoritsero Ede is another world renowned leader, go to his journal MTLS. Afam Afam Akeh has done ground breaking work also in this area, google him. It is frustrating that some third rate Western hack has said something that ordinarily will not light a candle to our work, because you know what, the world will believe her first before any of us. It is what it is.

4. Elsewhere, someone complained that African writers are always complaining and reacting to these kinds of aggravations, rather than being proactive. Well, here is the thing; In addition to books, awesome literature that is bring produced on the Internet daily, stuff that makes Ms. Rittelmeyer look very old. That's what I am talking about. And yes, many of us have spent a lifetime talking about these things, that is being proactive. We will not sit around and grin when someone insults our heritage, we  will react robustly. Each time.  Again, it is not correct that African academics have merely been reacting to narratives from the West rather than being proactive. It is a cliche I imagine; if the West doesn't write it, was it written? You would have to immerse yourself in the works of Abiola Irele, Harry Garuba, Chielozona Eze, Pius Adesanmi, etc., etc., to come to such a damning conclusion that we are reactionary. Many of us were writing reams proactively before this lady came along. Is she more of an authority because she is from the West? 

5. Our people say that if you don't speak up when it is your turn, a child will use the microwave oven before you, yes. Out of sheer necessity, writers of African descent have been innovators in the use of leading edge technology tools, the Internet and social media in propagating stories. Many of these writers are on this listserv. Teju Cole has made a name for himself with his many experiments using Twitter. You don't hear any of that, we keep hearing about ancient spats between ancient greats. What else do these people want African writers to do?

5. Finally, it bears repeating Ken, this is the 21st century, the vast majority of good African literature is not in analog books. People should wean themselves of the world of Achebe and Soyinka and read what is out there, in addition to books. Until then, folks are merely engaging in stale academic exercises.

6. Rant over. Good morning!
 
- Ikhide
 
Stalk my blog at www.xokigbo.com
Follow me on Twitter: @ikhide
Join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ikhide


On Sunday, March 30, 2014 12:17 PM, kenneth harrow <harrow@msu.edu> wrote:
hi ikhide
i share your enthusiasm for on-line publications.
as for adichie, she has made an enormous splash, esp w americanah.
she is very good indeed. i don't really get into the game of who is better than whom. it's a question of taste, in the end. i listed oyeyemi and forna, and then cole, because i loved their works. i liked everything adichie has written since Purple Hibiscus, which seems to me as a text that addresses late adolescents, or young people (like college students); the novel's dark vision under the abusive father is harder for me to connect with.

thanks for the interview w cole. i don't really care a lot what people call themselves (except on a personal level). what makes an african writer "african" is something i've been grappling with for a while. frieda ekotto and i had a conference on that topic 4 years ago, and a book will appear shortly with indiana u press.
my interest in the issue is not tied to "identity," not the identity of the authors, but rather the field of african literature and culture. i am interested in asking the question, how do we think about african literature/culture, how do we imagine its practitioners are shaping the field today, what are the cultural milieux in which they live, what traditions or contexts are shaping their work, and also--to your point--how is the mediation shaping the field. that includes how they are marketed, where their works can be sold and read. etc.  how are the works received, in other words.

all of that is part of the question, what is african literature today.
the answers get complicated. just look at moretti and the idea of distance in the readers' relation to the text, and we can see that notions of insider and outsider are no longer what they once were.
i can understand how cole would see himself as part of "World Literature." but that is a very vexed category, along with World CInema, and i hope to disrupt that categories in my  work for the next few years, disrupt them by trying to figure out how their exclusions work with (against) african literature and cinema.
best
ken

On 3/30/14 6:55 AM, Ikhide wrote:
Ken,

Teju Cole demurs when referred to as an "African writer", preferring the label, "internationalist" a la Salman Rushdie, whatever that means. I agree with him and respect his choice of identity. Not sure the West cares, they are bent on making him and writers of African descent, the other. Because even though they protest too much, many of these writers have spent a lifetime making money and fame from hawking themselves as "the other." Here is a NYT interview of Teju Cole on the re-release of his debut book Every Day is for the Thief  in which he clarifies his identity -  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/20/books/teju-coles-every-day-is-for-the-thief-comes-to-the-us.html

I will only add that "African literature" in the 21st century to the extent that it is only judged through analog books by "critics" schooled in the 20th century Achebean era will always distort our history and stories. The vast proportion of our stories is being written on the Internet by young folks who do not have the resources that the West availed Achebe et al in the 60's. Why are we judging African literature only through books? Why?

There may be some truth to the notion that many African writers who write fiction are yet to wean themselves of Achebe's influence. The critics who make these charges should look in the mirror - and then get off their lazy butts and go read new African writers. They are out there on the Internet, and in literary magazines doing us proud. And how you can do a literary critique of contemporary African writing without once mentioning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie beats me. 



- Ikhide

On Mar 29, 2014, at 10:21 PM, kenneth harrow <harrow@msu.edu> wrote:

i can't help adding that i just taught teju cole's Open City for the second time, meaning i've read it 4 times now, and i can state with complete assurance that it is one brilliant book. very very smart, beautifully, incredibly beautifully written, smart, different, ... but "african literature"? i don't know about that, when it is so much set in new york, in milieux that have very little to do with africa or africans.
ken

On 3/29/14 6:24 PM, kenneth harrow wrote:
nice answer!
i chose oyeyemi
and in close second, forna

On 3/29/14 1:44 PM, Emma Onyeozili wrote:
Between Achebe and Soyinka, I will choose Chimamanda; case closed, abi?

Emma Onyeozili

 Chidi Anthony Opara <chidi.opara@gmail.com> wrote:

Truth is that the Achebe and Soyinka schools would continue to sponsor this type of discussion, hoping that the unnecessary question of who is better between Achebe and Soyinka would be resolved some day, positioning the winning school as the gate keeper of African Literature.

Truth again is that the question can never be resolved either way.

CAO.

On Saturday, 29 March 2014 03:08:54 UTC+1, Kenneth Harrow wrote:
i might hazard two comments, without joining in the fruitless debate,
who's better. one, better by whose standards?
more importantly, better known= better writer? historically that's
nonsense; anyone who studied british 19th c lit could tell you that. i
once knew the name of the most famous irish writer of the 19th c, but
lost since forgot it...as has everyone else.
but worse, better= more $. ??
wow, that's really interesting. almost every famous writer you can think
of, nowadays, would fail by that standard. not to mention painters,
musicians, etc. bach was largely forgotten in the 19th c till mendelsohn
resurrected him; ditto for shakespeare in 19th c, till folks like goethe
came along. melville wasn't even noticed when he died, el greco, etc.
for a long time djibril diop was in eclipse; even senghor had faded in
his last years, or should i say last decades.
so what's really at stake in this achebe vs soyinka argument? at the
time of chinweizu i knew the answer. nowadays it must be something
different from those old tired arguments, esp when it is an outsider
posing it.
ken


On 3/28/14 9:05 PM, Ikhide wrote:
> "Such pointed dissents from multiculturalist orthodoxy may explain the strange fact that although Soyinka is, by most accounts, a better and more interesting writer than Achebe, he is not nearly so well known. His marvelous plays are rarely assigned in Western classrooms. In commercial terms, Soyinka has never been a huge success, whereas sales of Achebe's books accounted for as much as a third of the revenue coming in from the African Writers Series even in the 1980s, decades after they had first been published. When Soyinka won the Nobel Prize in 1986, he was cornered at a reception by one particularly effusive admirer who proceeded to praise his work in the most gushing terms. When Soyinka asked, "What have you read by me?" the admirer answered, "Things Fall

>   Apart." -
>
> - Helen Rittelmeyer
>
> "... Soyinka is, by most accounts, a better and more interesting writer than Achebe" ???!! Okay, I hear! What do I think? Awful essay blighted by Rittelmeyer's ideological bias. Simplistic, patronizing and dated. She needs to read more contemporary writing by Africans.
>
> http://www.claremontinstitute. org/index.php?act=crbArticle& id=114#sthash.sr9bATJ5. 5p7MYiZP.dpuf
>
> - Ikhide
>

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USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: How Achebe Ruined African Literature

Mr. Kwabena:

Personally, an expert on African Lit must have the knowledge to discuss Coetzee, N'diaye, Marechera, Waberi, Aidoo, Farrah, Mahfouz, Owuor, Gordimer, Armah, Nkosi, Sembene, Aboulela, Forna, Oyeyemi, Mengiste, etcetera, etcetera.

It is very disheartening to listen to Bolekaja critics (come down and fight) that are babbling about African Lit all over the Internet. 


Funmi Tofowomo Okelola

-In the absence of greatness, mediocrity thrives. 

http://www.cafeafricana.com

http://www.indigokafe.com




RE: A Thought for Today

Yes!

·         Of all the dangerous things:

·         … little learning is the most,

·         … little ignorance be-sought!

·         I have learned from a master by just listening to his voice …

·         Ask me my masters name!

 

From: ex-bellionaires@googlegroups.com [mailto:ex-bellionaires@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Krishnan P N
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 8:30 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: A Thought for Today

 

v      A little learning is a dangerous thing but a lot of ignorance is just as bad

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Aerial photos

Happy Ugadi and Best Wishes.  Enjoy these fine photos

 

Regards

 

Kupp Sridhar

 

Absolutely magnificent.

This is a collection of aerial photography produced by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

These large scale photos cover several continents and are a result of a five year odyssey around the world by the photographer.  


http://justpaste.it/3ky

 

Spiritual Bud Blossoms!

April 1

 

  UNFOLDMENT

 

Nature at all levels is unfolding her possibilities. Because of this unfoldment her grandeur is made evident to one and all.

 

A seed seems lifeless. When cultivated it unfolds unthought of possibilities. Man also does the same. Babes are all mere babes. But with the passage of time they unfold all types ranging from stones, blocks and criminals up to god-men. The human unfoldment is the most comprehensive.

 

The unfoldment of Divinity is the greatest act open to mankind.

 

- Vedanta

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A Thought for Today

v      A little learning is a dangerous thing but a lot of ignorance is just as bad

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Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: How Achebe Ruined African Literature

hi kwabena
first, although we call read literature and have our favorites, we are not all experts in literature, or any other area, unless we can claim to have established some credentials to the claim. i know a good deal about african history or politics, but i really know enough to know i am not an expert.
i am an expert in african literature, but that doesn't mean that my preference for one author implies anything about the superiority of that or any other author. it is one thing to know a text very very well, to write about it and publish about it; but that doesn't mean your favorites are "better" than those of another, and to tell the truth, it would astound me to have anyone who is an expert in african literature make such a claim.
on the other hand, i would strenuously argue that we can make such claims about the criticism itself. aside from preferences for this or that critical approach, we have to come to some agreement that this critical essay or book is stronger than that; that there are critical voices who have shaped the field, are major figures, have determined how much of the critical or theoretical approaches have been recognized in the field as important.
those critical voices don't usually maintain that position, though some might last a long time. invariably new critical voices come up.
so when you cite  your favorite authors, laye and ngugi, my first thought was, well yes, in the 1970s and part of the 80s, we ALL had to teach them. they were required in all our courses. then we began to see changes, began to have radically different voices. one was sony labou tansi, a genius stolen from us by AIDS. we had the incredible early works of soyinka morphing radically, ultimately taking the form of something like Ake that was radically different from the kind of drama he had previously raised to such heights.
it makes good sense to me to look at the body of african literature in generations. there was a time when we all taught the same dozen books, and to our shock, 15 years later, they were going out of print... including camara laye's Dark Child, and Kourouma's SUns of Independence. what a shock it was.
the same for the critical voices: they too are generational. so, after the mid-80s you couldn't speak with authority about african literature unless you included mudimbe. in the 2000s, the same was true for mbembe.
and now? for myself, it is gikandi who, along with mbembe, i setting the stage for what matters most.
not everyone would agree with that, but in a few more years there will be no question. when the preponderance of dissertations or new critical books come out, let's see whose work they comment upon. there is no secret here.
lastly, the pleasure of this list is that we are all free to speak out, expert or not, on any matter. sometimes we might regret what we had said when we learn more: i certainly got my comeupance with respect to abani!!
but in the end, i was grateful to have learned about how the community of scholars and thinkers regarded him, and why, and it was really impressive.
ken

On 3/31/14 6:37 PM, Akurang-Parry, Kwabena wrote:

Then again, who is an expert? Those who offer opinions? Well my favorite writers are Laye and Ngugi! My reason is very simple indeed. As a boy coming into my own, I enjoyed African Child and Weep Not Child. Now you realize that I shifted the goalposts from Achebe and Soyinka to Laye and Ngugi!

 

Kwabena 


From: usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com [usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com] on behalf of Funmi Tofowomo Okelola [cafeafricana1@aol.com]
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 10:50 AM
To: USAAfricaDialogue@googlegroups.com
Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: How Achebe Ruined African Literature

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I detest the so-called experts not versed in African Literature and are shunning out ideas on the issue.  African lit encompasses Oral literature, writers from all over the CONTINENT, etc. 

African Literature is not ONLY about Teju Cole, Taiye Selasi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Chimamanda Adichie, etc, African literature includes Helen Oyeyemi, Aminatta Forna, Dinah Mengestu, Alain Mabackou, Assia Djebar, Mariama Ba, Oyono, Ngugi Wa Thiong''o, and more from all over the CONTINENT. 

We should avoid living in a bowl. 



Funmi Tofowomo Okelola

-In the absence of greatness, mediocrity thrives. 

http://www.cafeafricana.com

http://www.indigokafe.com




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--   kenneth w. harrow   faculty excellence advocate  professor of english  michigan state university  department of english  619 red cedar road  room C-614 wells hall  east lansing, mi 48824  ph. 517 803 8839  harrow@msu.edu
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