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Ariel Bookman

Nigerian novelist, poet, dramatist, educator, and political activist, was born Christopher Uchechukwu Andrew Abani, on 27 December 1966, in Afikpo, Nigeria. Abani’s life has been dramatically shaped but not defined by the political violence associated with the Nigerian state. Born in the Igbo heartland of southeast Nigeria to an Igbo father and British mother, Abani was six months old when the Biafran War began. His mother fled to Britain with him and his siblings, an experience that he would later narrate in poetic form in Daphne’s Lot (2003). Returning to Nigeria after the war, Abani demonstrated precocious literary talent, publishing his first short story at age ten and finishing his first novel, Masters of the Board (1984), at sixteen. The novel, a political thriller, imagines a Nazi plot to return to power by using unwitting Third World governments as its pawns.

Abani was arrested in ...

Article

Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian Muslim theologian, modernist, and reformer, was born in the Gharbiya Province of Lower Egypt, the son of ʿAbduh ibn Hasan Khayr Allah, a peasant farmer, and his wife, who was descended from the Bani ʿAdl clan. He grew up in the village of Mahallat Nasr and received a traditional education, learning the Qurʾan by heart. In 1862 he was sent to the madrasa (Islamic college) in Tanta. There, he perfected his Qurʾan recitation and started to learn Arabic grammar, by the then normal method of memorizing texts and commentaries without explanation from his teachers.

Reacting against this, according to his own account, he ran away from the college and returned to his village, intending to become a peasant rather than a scholar. In this condition he married in 1865 at the age of sixteen But after various vicissitudes he resorted to his great uncle Shaykh Darwish Khadr who ...

Article

Congolese activist and prominent member of the Kwilu rebellion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was born in Malungu on the banks of the Kwilu River in the Belgian Congo on 15 August 1945. In 1963 she joined the armed uprising led by Pierre Mulele, the leader of the rebellion and the former minister of education in Patrice Lumumba’s cabinet.

Her mother, Labon, died in childbirth, so Abo, whose name means “mourning” in Kimbundu, was raised by her adoptive parents, Awaka and Mabiungu. Despite the violent protestations of her grandmother Aney, Abo started attending primary school in the village of Lukamba in 1952. She transferred to a boarding school at the Totshi mission at the age of nine. There she was baptized and renamed Léonie Hortense. In 1957 Abo and thirteen other young girls made up the first class of assistant midwives and pediatric nurses at ...

Article

Jessica Falconi

Angolan anthropologist, writer, and political activist, was born Mário de Carvalho Moutinho in Lisbon on 29 September 1932. Portuguese by birth and Angolan by nationality, Henrique Abranches also used the pseudonyms “Mwene Kalungo” and “Mwene Kalungo-Lungo.” In 1947 he and his family left Portugal to settle in Luanda, where he attended the Liceu Salvador Correia, a pioneering institution of secondary education in Angola whose students included several names that were later important in Angolan literature. After five years in Luanda, Abranches moved to the city of Sá de Bandeira (now Lubango) in the Huíla Plateau in southern Angola, where he became interested in the customs and traditions of the people of the region. He returned briefly to Portugal, where he finished secondary school and attended the Society of Fine Arts. He returned to Lubango on his own and began working for the Bank of Angola. In 1952 he ...

Article

Mandisa Mbali

antiapartheid, gay rights, AIDS, and human rights activist, was born in Johannesburg in South Africa. Adurrazack (“Zackie”) Achmat was of Cape Malay heritage. His father, Suleiman Achmat, was a member of the South African Communist Party and his mother, Mymoena, was a trade union shop steward. Achmat’s entry into politics began at the age of 14 with his participation in the 1976 student uprising. He was detained in 1977 for burning down his high school in Salt River to demonstrate his support for the uprising. Achmat obtained a bachelor of arts honors degree in English literature from the University of the Western Cape in 1992.

He spent much of the period between 1976 and 1980 in detention for his opposition to the apartheid system. It was also in this period that Achmat read the then-banned works of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky and the progressive academic journal Work in ...

Article

Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

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

Jeremy Rich

human rights activist and politician, was born in the southern Togolese town of Kouvé on 31 December 1943. His father, Soklou Agboyibo, and his mother, Doafio, were both Catholics from the Mina ethnic community. After completing his primary and secondary studies in Togo, Agboyibo traveled abroad for his graduate education. He received degrees from institutions of higher learning in France, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal. He was a lawyer by training and chose to remain in Togo under the brutal dictatorship of Étienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma in the 1980s. Eyadéma’s regime nevertheless allowed Agboyibo to run for a seat in the Togolese parliament in 1985 as an independent, even though Togo was a one-party state at the time. Two years later, Agboyibo formed the Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme (CNDH), a human rights organization that condemned many of the human rights violations of the Eyadéma regime.

Agboyibo received international ...

Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

Sudanese educator and human rights activist for women’s rights and an advocate for freedom and democracy, was born on 30 May 1935 in Omdurman one of three cities that constitute the capital of Sudan Khartoum Khartoum North and Omdurman Her parents were originally from the Nubian region in northern Sudan Ahmed was the only female among her three siblings She grew up in an environment that helped shape her future life as a liberal and progressive individual Her father Ibrahim Ahmed was an engineer who worked as a teacher in Gordon Memorial College Sudan He played an active role in Sudan s independence movement and served as the first Sudanese Deputy to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Khartoum the first chairman of the University of Khartoum Senate a member of the Executive Council the first Sudanese Parliament and founder and president of Mutamar a l Khiregeen Graduates ...

Article

pioneering Nigerian feminist, civil servant, and democratic activist, was born on 17 December 1923 in Okeigbo, a small town in present-day Ondo State, Nigeria. Her full name was Felicia Folayegbe Mosunmola Idowu Akintunde-Ighodalo. Her parents were Benjamin Olojomo Akintunde, a farmer, and Sarah (Ogunkemi) Akintunde, a direct descendant of the war leader and uncrowned Ooni-elect Derin Ologbenla of the Giesi Ruling House of Ile-Ife. Fola, as she was known, was their fourth, but first surviving, child. Although her parents were early converts to the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) mission in Ondo, she grew up in a family compound whose members also included followers of traditional Yoruba religious practices and Islam. Her father encouraged her to be self-reliant and assertive even if her actions sometimes disregarded gender expectations.

Young Fola Akintunde attended the local mission school whose headmaster recognized her potential and persuaded her father to allow her to complete primary ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Nigerian educator, civil servant, and women’s rights activist, was born in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, on 17 May 1925. Her family was extremely affluent, as she was the daughter of Sir Adesiji Aderemi (1889–1890), the traditional king of the city of Ile-Ife, one of the most important sacred sites in the spiritual traditions of the Yoruba people. One of her sisters, Awujoola Adesomi Olagbaju, went on to become a schoolteacher and headmaster in her own right.

Alakija received her early education in Nigeria. She attended the Aiyetoro Primary and the Aiyetoro Central Schools in Ile-Ife from 1933 to 1937. She also studied at the Kudeti Primary boarding school in Ibadan for a time. Eventually Alakija moved to England in 1946, where she enrolled in Westfield College at the University of London. She acquired her undergraduate degree in 1950 in history and then proceeded to continue her ...

Article

Rosemary Elizabeth Galli

nationalist, journalist and indigenous rights advocate, was born in Magul, Mozambique, on 2 November 1876. His father, Francisco Albasini, married the granddaughter of the head of Maxacuene clan in the Portuguese colony’s capital; her name is not recorded. João dos Santos was also known by his Ronga nickname, Wadzinguele. His grandfather João Albasini, a Portuguese trader, later established himself and a second family in the republic of the Transvaal where he became the vice-consul of Portugal. João dos Santos Albasini received a limited education at the Catholic Mission of Saint José Lhenguene; secondary education was not available in Mozambique. However, he was a keen reader especially of political tracts and gained great facility in writing both Portuguese and Ronga. Sometime around 1897 Albasini married Bertha Carolina Heitor Mwatilo but the marriage was unhappy and they divorced in 1917. They had two children.

As Albasini reached adulthood Portugal defeated ...

Article

Crain Soudien

South African intellectual and political activist, was born in Cradock, Eastern Cape, South Africa, on 22 October 1936. His father was David James Alexander, a carpenter, and his mother, Dimbiti Bisho Alexander, a schoolteacher. His maternal grandmother was one of sixty-four Oromo children who were enslaved in Ethiopia in 1888 and subsequently brought to Lovedale in the Eastern Cape. His maternal grandfather was a Presbyterian Church pastor.

Alexander grew up in Cradock where he was also educated at the Holy Rosary Convent. After completing his schooling at the age of sixteen he enrolled at the University of Cape Town where he excelled in German and History, graduating with a BA in 1955, a BA (Hons) in 1956, and an MA in 1957. Both of the latter degrees were in German. In 1958 he was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellowship to study for a ...

Article

Amador  

Gerhard Seibert

was the leader of a major slave revolt in 1595, which almost succeeded in defeating the Portuguese colonial authorities in São Tomé. The hitherto uninhabited island of São Tomé was discovered by Portuguese navigators around 1471, but the successful colonization of the island began only in 1493, when Portuguese colonists established sugarcane plantations to be worked by African slaves brought from the neighboring continent. In the sixteenth century the local sugar industry prospered; however, the island was marked by continuous political instability provoked by frequent power struggles among the governor, the Catholic bishop, and the town council, which was dominated by the sugar planters. Amador was a Creole slave, that is, a slave born on the island.

From the beginning slavery provoked resistance and smaller slave uprisings occurred before and after Amador s revolt In addition gangs of runaway slaves locally known as macambos established maroon communities ...

Article

Maxamed Dahir Afrax

Somali poet, dramatist, actor, and political activist, was born in Gabiley in northwestern Somalia in 1935. His father, Muxumed Amiin, was a soldier. His mother, Muumina Kaahin, Muxumed Amiin’s first wife, died when Cabdi, her only child, was still an infant. Cabdi’s grandmother Murriya took care of him until he was a teenager. He lived in the towns of Berbera and Arabsiyo where he attended a qurʾanic school. As a teenager he had to support himself through different kinds of hard physical labor.

In 1953 he moved to Hargeisa then the capital of the British Protectorate of Somaliland where he started composing his first poems Soon after in the same year he moved to Mogadishu the Somali capital There he was recognized as a talented poet and artist and was employed by Radio Mogadishu At the same time he joined the movement for national independence He worked for ...

Article

Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptian social activist and writer, was born in Alexandria on 1 December 1863 to an Ottoman-Kurdish father, who served as an administrator in Kurdistan before working in the Egyptian army, and an Upper Egyptian mother, the daughter of Ahmed Bek Khattab, who belonged to a prestigious family in Egypt. Amin attended Raʾas Al Tin primary school in Alexandria and high school in Cairo, after which he studied at the School of Law and Administration in Cairo and was there granted his BA degree in 1881. Four years later, he received another degree in Law from the University of Montpellier in France. He worked as a lawyer shortly after his graduation and then traveled on a scholarship to France, where he enrolled in the University of Montpellier. In 1885 he completed his four year study in law with distinction upon returning to Egypt he worked in the judiciary He ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

human rights activist, was born in Libreville, Gabon in 1897 to a Mpongwe family. The small Mpongwe ethnic community residing in the Gabonese capital of Libreville had benefited from early access to missionary education. French colonial officials had annexed Mpongwe territory in the 1840s, which also marked the establishment of rival French Catholic and American Presbyterian schools in Libreville. Antchouey, like most Mpongwe, thus could attend the best schools in Gabon. Few details are available about his family. According to a French police report from the early 1920s, Antchouey's mother was still alive at that time. No information about his father is available. Like most Mpongwe in the 1890s, Antchouey attended Catholic primary school before eventually transferring to the city's École Monfort secondary school. There he attended classes with his cousin Louis Bigmann and the future French military hero Charles N Tchoréré During World War I Antchouey enlisted ...

Article

David E. Gardinier

politician and anticolonial activist in French West Africa and French Central Africa, is important for his role in the emancipation of the territories of French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa from colonial rule between 1944 and 1960. He was born on 14 January 1908 in Djenné in the French Sudan now Mali His father Henri d Arboussier was a French colonial administrator serving at the time as the territory s governor His mother Djavando was a descendant of Al Hajj Umar a Muslim conqueror who had resisted the extension of French rule in West Africa Gabriel spent his early years in Ouagadougou in Upper Volta now Burkina Faso There at a public primary school he began the mastery of the French language that contributed to his later reputation as one of the finest political orators of his time Thereafter he went to France to complete his studies ...

Article

Thiven Reddy

South African academic, human rights campaigner, and respected veteran of the African National Congress (ANC) in exile, was born in Stanger, a small rural town in what is now KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Asmal was a founder of the British and Irish antiapartheid movements. He was also an academic, who taught law for almost three decades at Trinity College Dublin, during his exile from South Africa.

In the broad array of constituencies and opinions that has historically constituted the ANC, Asmal has consistently stood for liberal constitutionalism and human rights. This position was most strongly associated with the ANC during the latter days of apartheid, when the international solidarity movement, based largely in Western countries, was at its height.

A key member of the ANC s Constitutional Committee during the post apartheid negotiations period Asmal directly influenced the content of the democratic constitution which was hailed internationally as a truly progressive ...