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Article

Baye Yimam

Ethiopian intellectual, novelist, playwright, and poet, was born on 1 July 1933 in Gojjam Province, Ethiopia. He was one of the prominent literary figures in modern Ethiopian literature, the author of some twenty-three books between 1956 and 1977; two are in English and the rest in Amharic, his native language. The works comprise eight novels, five plays, three poetry collections, and another five on various subjects, including translation of biographies and works on land tenure.

His mother Yirgedu Belay died young leaving him to be raised by his father Gubegna Ambaye It was her expressed wish that Abbe should go to school which Ambaye fulfilled by sending him to a church school as was usual He attended different schools in Gojjam and Begemeder for twelve years and attained a high level of excellence in the traditional curriculum which included Geez poetry hymnody and liturgical dance all rooted in the ...

Article

Elena Bertoncini Zúbková

Swahili novelist, was born in Makunduchi village in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) in 1918. Even though he was a Muslim, he was educated in a missionary school. After completing his secondary education in 1938, he worked for the Civil Health Department and edited the Swahili Bulletin in the Department of Agriculture on his island. His complete biography remains obscure. He lost all his family in January 1964 during the bloody revolution that overthrew the sultan of Zanzibar and his mainly Arab government but took a heavy toll of victims among the population as well.

Abdulla’s first novelette, Mzimu wa watu wa kale (Graveyard of the Ancestors, 1960), aroused lively interest among the critics for its innovations: the abandonment of the folktale tradition, omnipresent in Swahili fiction of those days, and the concern for literary style. It won first prize in the East African Literary Competition of 1957 ...

Article

Mpalive Msiska

Nigerian novelist, was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on 15 November 1930 at Saint Simon’s Church, Nneobi, near Ogidi, in British colonial Nigeria. His father, Isaiah Okafo Achebe, was a teacher and evangelist and his mother, Janet Anaenechi Iloeghunam, was from the Awka area of eastern Nigeria. Until the age of five, Achebe was brought up at a church school, where his father taught. When his father went into semiretirement in 1935 in Ogidi, Achebe became a child of two worlds, the modern world and the world of indigenous tradition. He began primary school at Saint Philip’s Central School at Akpakaogwe, Ogidi, moving on to Nekede Central School near Owerri in 1942. Achebe developed into a studious young man, passing entrance examinations for two prestigious secondary schools.

It was at Government College Umuahia which had a good library and extremely able and dedicated teachers that Achebe cultivated his love of ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Chinua Achebe once described his writing as an attempt to set the historical record straight by showing “that African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans; that their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and value and beauty, that they had poetry and, above all, they had dignity.” Achebe's works portray Nigeria's communities as they pass through the trauma of colonization into a troubled nationhood. In bringing together the political and the literary, he neither romanticizes the culture of the indigenous nor apologizes for the colonial.

Achebe's own upbringing spanned the indigenous and colonial worlds. Born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe to an Igbo family active in the Christian church, he grew up in the rural village of Ogidi, in eastern Nigeria At a young age he received a coveted scholarship to Government College in Umuahia where he studied alongside ...

Article

Lidwien Kapteijns

Somali novelist, short story writer, critic, journalist, and founder of cultural and literary journals and institutions, was born in Jarriiban, Mudug region, Somalia, in 1952. His name is also given as Mohamed Dahir Afrah and Maxamed Daahir Afrax. He graduated from high school in Mogadishu in 1973. When the Siad Barre government introduced the first official orthography for the Somali language in 1972, Afrax founded the first bilingual Somali-Arabic monthly magazine using the new script, Codka Jubba (“The Voice of Jubba,” 1972–1975). In 1976, Afrax’s story “Guur-ku-sheeg” (“Pseudo-marriage”) was serialized in the Somali national newspaper Xiddigta Oktoobar (“The October Star”), laying the basis for a lasting literary tradition of serialized fiction.

In this same serialized form he also first published his popular novel Maanafaay, the story of the girl Maanafaay, who, in the Mogadishu of the 1970s, strives to be modern and modest ...

Article

Richard Watts

Alexis was born into one of Haiti's literary families. His father, Stéphen Alexis, was the author of Le Nègre masqué (1933) and wrote a work on the history of Haiti. After finishing his studies at the Saint-Louis de Gonzague Institute, Jacques Alexis studied medicine in both Port-au-Prince and Paris, France. Returning to Haiti after receiving his degree, he participated in the revolt of 1946. Alexis soon fled Haiti for fear of political persecution. From that point forward, he spent most of his time traveling, visiting the countries of the Middle East, Russia, and China, before settling in Cuba. But the lure of his native Haiti was strong, and he returned clandestinely to the northwest part of the island in 1961, in spite of reservations regarding the corrupt regime of François Duvalier Alexis was arrested and is believed to have died in captivity ...

Article

Terza Silva Lima-Neves

lawyer and author, was born on 31 July 1945 on Boa Vista Island in the Republic of Cape Verde Germano de Almeida was one of ten children of Anacleto Dias Almeida and Eugenia da Cruz Almeida His father was a carpenter and his mother was a stay at home mother who took care of the children It was very difficult for his parents to support ten children Cape Verde was a small and poor country under Portuguese rule There were not many jobs available When Germano was sixteen years old his father passed away after being sick for many years Germano started working as a carpenter to help his family He was very smart really enjoyed school and because of this Germano was chosen to be his teacher s assistant He wanted to continue with school and be successful even if he did not receive support from his parents ...

Article

Terri Ochiagha

, Nigerian author, educator, army officer, and administrator, was born in Mbodo-Aluu, today in the Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, on 12 May 1934 to Daniel Wonuchuku Wogbara Amadi, a farmer and haberdasher, and Enwene Wogazior. One of Amadi’s relatives, Gabriel Ohabiko, was a “famous Aluu story teller and historian from whose lips he must have garnered a vast store of oral tradition” (Alagoa in Feuser and Eko, 1994). His primary education was at Saint Peter’s School, Isiokpo. He went on to Government College, Umuahia, where he developed a keen interest in literature and began writing short stories and poems. After graduating from Umuahia, he spent a year at Survey School Oyo and earned a Land Survey certificate, before going on to study for a degree in physics and mathematics at the University College, Ibadan in 1955 At university Amadi replaced his Europeanized name Emmanuel Elechi Daniel ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

A member of the Igbo ethnic group, Elechi Amadi was born in a small southeastern Nigerian village near Port Harcourt. In 1959 he graduated with a degree in physics and mathematics from the University College of Ibadan, a prestigious college attended by other well-known Nigerian writers, such as Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, Christopher Okigbo, and Wole Soyinka. After working as a land surveyor, Amadi taught science for three years at missionary schools in Ahoada and Oba. In 1963 he joined the Nigerian Army; he taught the Ikwerri dialect of Igbo at a military school in Zaria.

His first book, The Concubine, blended acute psychological detail and precise observation to tell the story of a young village woman's battle with spiritual forces. The book's publication in 1966 coincided with the proclamation of an independent state—Biafra—in Igbo-dominated southeastern Nigeria Amadi s allegiance to the Federal ...

Article

Jorge Amado, who wrote more than thirty novels during his career, played a significant role in representing African culture in Brazilian literature. Among his subjects are the blacks of Salvador, in Amado's home state of Bahia, and the African religious rituals that sustain them. Although Amado's approach to Afro-Brazilian traditions is sympathetic and exceptionally detailed, his Bahian novels have met with much controversy. A younger generation of Brazilian and non-Brazilian critics have accused Amado of creating overly exotic portraits of black culture and creating simplistic, class-bound character types.

Amado the son of a plantation owner in Bahia attended a Jesuit college at age 12 However after just one year he rebelled against the strict lifestyle at the school and left to live with his grandfather During the 1930s Amado joined the Brazilian Communist Party and his writings from this period reflect his ideological commitment to communism These works such ...

Article

Freda R. Beaty

and winner of first James *Baldwin Prize. Raymond Andrews was born near Madison, Georgia, in Morgan County, the fourth of ten children born to sharecropping parents George and Viola Andrews. He helped with the farm work and absorbed the ambience of rural living that was to color his later writings. Andrews left home at fifteen and worked at a variety of jobs while beginning to write. He eventually took a position in New York City with an airline, a job that enabled him to travel extensively in the United States and Europe.

Raymond Andrews's first published piece was an article on baseball, which appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1975. In 1976, Ataraxia, a small journal edited by Phillip Lee Williams and Linda Williams, excerpted a section from the novel Appalachee Red, which was published in its entirety by Dial Press (1978). Appalachee ...

Article

Evan Mwangi

Ghanaian novelist, translator, poet, and essayist, was born to an interethnic Fante-speaking couple in the twin harbor city of Sekondi-Takoradi on the coast of western Ghana in 1939. His mother, Esi Bosoma Inse, was Akan, while his father was from the Ewe ethnic group. His name is also given as George Aryee Quaye Armah. His parents, both teachers, divorced after his father, under pressure from his family and clan, decided to take a second wife. Too small to join his father as required by traditions, the young Armah lived with his mother for about two years, accompanying her to the school where she taught and quietly sitting beside her in class. At age five, he was separated from his mother and sent to live with his father in Asankrangwa, a tiny rural town. When his father died in 1947 in a traffic accident Armah s defiant mother took ...

Article

Ayi Kwei Armah has pursued his career as writer and teacher on three continents. In a 1985 article Armah described himself as not simply a member of the Ewe people, a Ghanian, and a West African, but “most significantly as an African.” His writings explore the meaning of Africa's past in the lives of its present-day people.

Born in the western region of Ghana, Armah attended local schools and Achimota College near Accra. In 1959 he went to the United States, where he attended Harvard University, from which he received a degree in sociology. Shortly afterward, he moved to Algiers, where he worked as a translator for the weekly paper Révolution Africaine (African Revolution). After a period in his home country, teaching English and writing for Ghana Television, Armah enrolled in 1967 in the Graduate Writing Program at New York City s Columbia University Later he joined ...

Article

Orquídea Ribeiro

Angolan journalist, novelist, solicitor/lawyer, was born in Golungo Alto, Angola on 13 March 1877. His main work was as a solicitor advising the native population, mostly on issues regarding land expropriation by the settlers. As a journalist and writer, he took an active role in promoting social, economic, and political reforms during the second decade of the twentieth century, protesting against the practice of forced work and denouncing the abuses committed by colonial administrators as well as the preferential treatment given to the settler community. He worked as a judicial solicitor in Golungo Alto at the time that news broke regarding frightful atrocities being committed against white settlers, causing fear and uneasiness. He was arrested in 1917 under the accusation of leading a nativist movement whose purpose was to promote uprisings and spread rebellion in the colony. He narrowly escaped being deported.

A nationalist Assis Júnior was cofounder of ...

Article

Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

Article

George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

Article

Richard Watts

Jean Louis Baghio’o is the pen name of Jean-Louis Victor, a native of the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, once colonized by France. His novels and poems deal with the complex racial and cultural legacy of French colonialism in the Caribbean.

Unlike the more revolutionary works of his friends and fellow writers Léon-Gontran Damas, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Jacques Rabemananjara, Baghio’o’s writings explore the lives of the mulatto, or mixed-race, middle class. His most important work, Le Flamboyant à fleurs bleues (The Blue-Flame Tree, 1973 describes four centuries of such a family s life on Guadeloupe focusing on the nineteenth century when the family acquires land and enters into direct rivalry with the white plantation owners who were formerly its masters Baghio o uses this family with its mixture of Africans East Indians Carib Indians and Europeans as a metaphor for the Creoles of Guadeloupe who must fight to ...

Article

Trudier Harris

Easily recognized as one of the leading African American authors, James Baldwin has contributed to a variety of genres in American literary creativity He has especially used novels and essays to focus on his favorite themes the failure of the promise of American democracy questions of racial and sexual identity the failures of the Christian church difficult family relationships and the political and social worlds that shaped the American Negro and then despised him for that shaping Frequently employing a third person plural voice in his essays Baldwin exhorts the exploiters and the exploited to save the country from its own destructive tendencies An activist who put his body on the line with his politics Baldwin was intimidatingly articulate in telling it like it is in interviews as well as on paper A small man whose voice was one of the largest America had ever heard Baldwin was intent ...

Article

Greg Miller

As a teenager James Baldwin abandoned the pulpit after a year and a half but it would be fair to say that he always remained a preacher For Baldwin the life of an artist was a higher vocation and he plunged into that life with inexhaustible at times desperate fervor While he insisted that the writer s primary responsibility is to his or her craft he was equally adamant that the writer has an obligation to serve as witness for society in doing so the writer plays an essential role in the construction of a better future Baldwin certainly demanded of himself this double purpose and when the two are in accord often in his essays occasionally in his fiction it is easy to see his work as among the most important in twentieth century American literature For many though Baldwin s early promise as a novelist was never fully ...

Article

Trudier Harris

Baldwin was born in New York City's Harlem to Emma Berdis Jones, who later married David Baldwin, a migrant from New Orleans. The elder Baldwin, a preacher who resented his stepson's illegitimacy, tried to crush the young Jimmy's imaginative spirit. The problematic nature of their relationship would recur in Baldwin's works. The precocious Baldwin haunted Harlem's libraries; such authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe profoundly influenced him. As a teenager, he preached in his father's Pentecostal church.

Racist rebuffs when he sought employment in New Jersey, along with fellowship support, contributed to Baldwin's decision to emigrate to Paris in 1948. His first and best-received novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), drew on his own experience. Returning frequently to the United States during the era of the civil rights movement, he marched; wrote Blues for Mister Charles (1964 a play about the ...