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Sing like Parrots

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Ngugi waThiong’o, 15 December 2016

Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening 
by Ngugi waThiong’o.
Harvill Secker, 256 pp., £14.99, November 2016, 978 1 84655 989 1
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... In 1962​ the young Ngugi waThiong’o had a piece of good fortune. He had left Kenya for Uganda, where he was enrolled as an undergraduate at Makerere, in Kampala. As he explains in Birth of a Dream Weaver, the third of his memoirs, the university was hosting a conference on ‘African writers of English expression’, and he was invited to join a panel on the strength of a handful of short stories published by a local press in Kenya ...

Diversiddy

Elizabeth Lowry: Binyavanga Wainaina, 23 February 2012

One Day I Will Write about This Place 
by Binyavanga Wainaina.
Granta, 256 pp., £15.99, November 2011, 978 1 84708 021 9
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... In 2005 the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, then living in Norwich, wrote a blisteringly satirical essay on ‘How to Write about Africa’. He was responding to Granta’s Africa issue, which he hated, as he later explained, for being ‘populated by every literary bogeyman that any African has ever known ...

Through Their Eyes

Theo Tait: Abdulrazak Gurnah remembers Zanzibar, 7 July 2005

Desertion 
by Abdulrazak Gurnah.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £16.99, May 2005, 0 7475 7756 0
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... violent revolution of 1964, when the constitutional sultanate installed by the departing British was overthrown. It was a time, in Gurnah’s words, of ‘state terror and calculated humiliations’: as many as 17,000 people were killed, the Omani-descended ruling elite was expelled, and ...

Our Credulous Grammarian

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Soyinka’s Dubious Friendships, 2 August 2007

You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir 
by Wole Soyinka.
Methuen, 626 pp., £18.99, May 2007, 978 0 413 77628 0
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... Towards the end of this, his third volume of memoirs, which covers the period from independence in 1960 to the death of General Sani Abacha in 1998, the 64-year-old Wole Soyinka is preparing to infiltrate himself back into his native Nigeria to confront the latest manifestation of military adventurism. By 1998 he had been in exile for three years and was impatient with the failure of the opposition to mount a decent challenge to Abacha’s regime ...

At the Polling Station in Kibera

Daniel Branch: The Elections in Kenya, 24 January 2008

... Second, that the polls would be fixed in order to ensure a second term of office for President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU). On both counts, the crowd was right. The polling station in Kibera – an opposition stronghold – was typical of many in this ...

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

... southern end of the continent, colleges were started from scratch – Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Witwatersrand. In the north, existing institutions such as al-Azhar in Cairo, a centre of Islamic scholarship, were ‘modernised’ and new disciplines introduced. The Humboldt model aimed to produce universal scholars, men and women who stood for ...

The Partisan

Jeremy Harding, 23 June 1994

The Search for Africa: A History in the Making 
by Basil Davidson.
Currey, 373 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 85255 719 1
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... Travelling in West Africa a little over forty years ago, Basil Davidson was shown around the chamber of the new territorial assembly in Bamako, built by the French as a concession to the growing demand for independence in Mali. The chairman of the assembly ‘pointed with a cautious smile to the plaster-white figure of the French state symbol on the chamber wall above his ceremonial chair ...

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