CFP 2009: CS ~JAL~NP : New Black and African Writing ~Oral Traditions ~ Poetry and Music
Previous anthologizing and discussions on Black and African writing had been part of several movements for cultural renewal in Africa and among blacks of the Diaspora attendant with rising Pan African consciousness and awareness of common history. Agreeably Africa had altered significantly by the historical contact with Europe: the scattering of generations of her peoples across the Western hemisphere via slavery, the conquest and pacification of indigenous nationalities, a century of colonialism and entrenched Western Capitalism all of which had left their scars on the continent. Till date succeeding generations of the black world continue to adapt and forge new realities from this history and other global impacts on their economic, political and social conditions as evidenced by some literary historicization of the collective experience. Writing on the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) held in Nigeria, Theo Vincent notes of the literature event of that festival as “distillations of the black experience in the modern world and indeed throughout history.” Although his anthology dwelt primarily on the creative presentations in poetry, drama and story, its global coverage was a “catalytic” proof of “the assertion of black presence in the contemporary world” and “indeed a ritual of communion in which the expression of oneness is self evident.”[*] The 1977 Festival was therefore an affirmation of the spirit of Black Nationalism propounded by its celebrated activists; its intent on revalidation of heritage a noteworthy succession of the Black Renaissance that inspired later Civil Rights campaigns and struggles for political self determination for Africa and the entire Diaspora.
Contemporary Black Perspectives
Contemporary perspectives on writings from Africa and African Diaspora are therefore tributaries of the frontier spirit of Black Renaissance informing past, present and continuing perspectives on black and African traditions in literature. King and Ogungbesan not only affirm this tradition in A Celebration of black and African Writing which provides a fillip to the cultural fellowship and sense of oneness within black world literatures but also note how the “phenomenal flowering of black writing” in the fifties and sixties of African political self determination saw writers turning from “the older problems of colonialism towards the new issues resulting from political independence.”[†] This trend has continued in new writings of late twenty-first century and early millennium which tend to hybridized individualities and their concern with the internal contradictions of modern African nationalities and black world experience. Thus something had happened from the twilight of the century through the dawn of the millennium. There had emerged a new tenor in African and black writing led by an avant garde of younger energies envisioning and rewriting postcolonial power relations in their various national and cultural environments. In addition, conflicts of citizenship, gender relations and oppressive strictures of the minority within a racially structured majority have trailed the new discourse. This emerging body of writings is grounded on historical understanding of the cultural and social need for black emancipation but introrsely directed to the reconnaissance of past with present and fluid future prospects. Here, in a capsule, is the phenomenon of growing postmodernist traditions in which the challenges of globalization and international cooperation give new meanings and relations to universalism, ethnicity, terrorism and the question of power as it affects our planet. All these are corroborated by the relevant historical forces which lie at the heart of the emerging literary dialogues from Africa and the Black world which is the objective of this supplement. It is thereby apparent that this critical omnibus of new writings is not just intended to encapsulate the proud zest of Pan African idealism and racial concern for legacies that seem lost in postmodernist concerns with differences and revisions, but its anchorage on continental heritage in the inclusivist tradition of its forbears is at the core of its artistic relevance.
Participants are enjoined to submit their proposals for assessment. Abstracts of no more than 600 words should expound a writer’s significance in intended arguments on the discourse on Black and African Writing, the objective being to illuminate whole works of author be it poetry, drama or prose fictions rather than aspects or single works. It is important that a writer of proposed study has not less than three (3) published works preferably within, or otherwise across, the genres of poetry, drama and fiction.
Although we generally welcome any theoretical consideration as long as they are applied to textual analysis and elucidation of new writings, our critical approach is descriptive and explanative rather than prescriptive, scholarly rather than merely ideological, practical as against pre- or non-reading theoretic, the common thread being in the crystallization of new writings that originalize or hybridize the historical linkage that had influenced such possible confluences and divergences in present or future worldviews of recent Black and African writing.
Please send in an Abstract of your suggested writer of fiction, poetry and drama to IRCALC Editors: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Editors must be versed in any of newer African, Black West Indian/ Caribbean and South American Islands, African-American and African-British Literatures and will review submitted materials to determine possible merits for inclusion in the Supplement.
2009 Journal of African Literature: Oral Traditions
The publication by Amos Tutuola of his novel The Palm Wine Drinkard in 1952 brought to the fore the rich pool that oral traditions of Africa offered for writers who recognised its vast potential for the creative enterprise. The African Child by Laye Camara in 1953 had placed the griot in a central position in the creative profession that brings history, tradition, culture and literacy in their fullest intersections with African education. With the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in 1958 and Arrow of God in 1964 the rich traditional heritage of the African world found its most dynamic expression in serious modern literary engagements.
While much has been studied by literary scholars of the oral repertoire, and its significance for modern writing, attempts to maintain a uni-dimensional study of oral craft have not yielded the desired coherent and contemporaneous application of orality to literature. Ironically, the study of oral literature as a genre existing on its own terms and structures and formulae has only tended to place the traditions within some kind of pristine isolation from contemporary literary developments. Regrettably, even such studies have been waning on the syllabi of many African universities as the modern written form seems to eclipse the oral space.
Our commitment to the study in oral traditions is borne from the awareness that African verbal arts still survive in works of discerning writers, and in the conscious exploration of its tropes, perspectives, philosophy and consciousness, its complementary realism, and ontology, for the delineation of authentic African response to memory, history and all possible confrontations with modern existence such as witnessed in recent analysis of the African novel using multi-faceted theories of orality which discuss and deconstruct notions of history, truth-claim, identity-making, genealogy (cultural and biological), and gendered ideologies. The critical explorations of J. E. Chamberlin’s If This is Your Land Where Are Your Stories?-Finding Common Ground or Come Back to me My Language: Poetry of the West Indies, Abiola Irele’s Orality, Literacy, and African Literature, Draper’s Orality, Literacy, and Colonialism in Southern Africa, Kolawole’s ‘Women's Oral Genres’, Arndt’s African Women's Literature, Orature, and Intertextuality and Arnold Scheub’s many works on orality, etc., are footnotes to this study. Scholars are however encouraged to come up with further innovative and multilayered perspectives on orality and its manifestations on contemporary African literature.
Since our 2009 project is an important contribution toward integrating the oral traditions of African writing within some contemporary expressions of new African writings, it will therefore explore the literary permutations of oral traditions in the works of some African writers of substantial critical merit as can be seen, for example, in the emerging narrative chronologies of Sefi Attah’s Everything Good Will Come, the mystical ancestral universe and multidimensional characterisation in Chin Ce’s The Visitor, the exploration of dimensionality, history, epistemology and ontology in Mia Couto's stories and novels such as Under the Frangipani, Every Man is a Race and The Last Flight of the Flamingo, the recreation of folklore and tradition in Ben Okri’s Astonishing the Gods and The Famished Road, Laila Lalami’s (Morroco) Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Zee Edgell’s (Belize) Time and The River, the oral awakening of narrative consciousness in Helon Habila’s Measuring Time, the link between poetry, imagination, story-telling and the rewriting of history from a woman centred perspective in Mozambican (Lusophone) Paulina Chiziane’s Balada de amor ao vento, Niketche, uma história de poligamia, etc., the remembering and rewriting of the past through discussion of African/Angolan heroes, myths, and cultural mestiçagem in the works of Angolan writers such as Pepetela Ngunga's Adventures: A Story of Angola and The Return of the Water Spirit, Yaka, etc, and José Eduardo Agualusa’s The Book of Chameleons and Creole. The works of South African novelists such Zake Mda’s Ways of Dying and Zoe Wicombe’s David’s Story are equally welcome points of study when investigating African orality, Afro-centred epistemologies, mythology and cultures in the context of contemporary post-apartheid South Africa, not to exclude the works of Ousmane Sembene and Alain Mabanckou, two very different writers coming out of the Francophone context.
As an imperative
condition, papers for our 2009 theme on "Oral Traditions" in African
Writing should compare two or more works which must be inclusive of
diaspora writers and their homeland counterparts. We welcome our participating local publishers
--African Books Network--
for obliging complimentary
copies of their publications for review by readers
and researchers. We will continue to work with other publishers in Africa towards forwarding available
PDF of their publications for
This year’s focus on Music and Poetry is in recognition of the significance of both genres in contemporary African aesthetics. Popular African music remains as committed to the yearnings and aspirations of the people even as the African poet today assumes the indispensable spokesperson or voice of the entire continent’s downtrodden and alienated people, the alternative and counter-voicing against the debasement of art by government propaganda and its control and manipulation of the instruments of information dissemination.
We invite essays that take historical, sociological, literary, aesthetic perspectives on the evolution, practice and emergence of African poetry and music as mutually reliant and dependent creative media of the artiste in society. Essays on African poetry and music may compare recent published poems, oral performance poetry and music of African, African-American, African-Caribbean expressions. The intersections of Poetry and Music and the mutual interactions of both art practices within the different social, cultural and political structures will be of special concern to us in this edition. Contributors are expected to show a good knowledge of contemporary studies in popular rebellion, social conflicts, and human survival as pertained to the largely African physical /metaphysical landscape. Exceptional archives of interviews and Chats on the revolutionary lyrics of America's Barry White, Nigeria's Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Cameroun's Manu Dibango, South Africa's Miriam Makeba and Hugh Makasela, among others will be welcome.