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Alkali, Zaynab Amina  

Novian Whitsitt

Nigerian creative writer and educator, was born in the Tura-Wazila community of Borno State, Nigeria. She completed her graduate education at Bayero University, Kano, receiving a doctorate in African literature. Professionally, she has served as principal of Shekara Girls’ Boarding School, Kano, an assistant lecturer at Bayero University, and senior lecturer in English and coordinator of English and general studies at Modibbo Adama College, University of Maiduguri. Following twenty-two years of university work, Alkali took a three-year break and worked for the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in Abuja. In 2009 she was named dean of the Faculty of Arts at Nasarawa State University, where she teaches creative writing and African literature in English. During her childhood, Alkali’s father converted to Christianity, but she became a Muslim in the 1960s. She asserts that both Christianity and Islam have influenced her own spirituality. In 1971 she married Dr Mohammed ...


Appiah, Kwame Anthony  

Abby Wolf

Ghanaian philosopher, educator, novelist, and poet, was born in London on 8 May 1954. His full name is Kwame Anthony Akroma-Ampim Kusi Appiah. Appiah’s father was the prominent Ghanaian lawyer and politician, Joseph Emmanuel Appiah, who in Ghana served as a member of Parliament, an ambassador, and president of the Ghana Bar Association. His mother was the English novelist and children’s writer, Peggy Cripps Appiah. Appiah was born in London while his father was a law student there, but the family returned to Ghana when he was a baby. Appiah’s paternal and maternal forebears were politically distinguished in Ghana and England, respectively. His uncle, Otumfuo Nana Poku Ware II, succeeded his great-uncle, Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, as king of Ashanti in 1970 His mother s father was Sir Stafford Cripps Britain s chancellor of the Exchequer who was involved in negotiating the terms of Indian independence ...


Bâ, Mariama  

Ada Uzoamaka Azodo

Senegalese educator, novelist, and activist, was born into a well-to-do and ardently religious Lébou family, which had its own mosque in the family compound, bringing the neighborhood together for prayers several times a day. The Lébous, tall, regal, staunchly Muslim, and predominantly fishermen, are a subtribe of the Wolof ethnic group related to the Lébous of Saint-Louis (Ndar in Wolof) in the northern Sahel region of Senegal. They were the first inhabitants of the city of Dakar (Ndakarou in Wolof) in the Cape-Vert peninsula, composed of the villages of Ngor, Ouakam, and Yoff. Mariama’s father was Niélé Bâ, born in 1892. Her mother died when Mariama was two years old. Hence, she never got to know her nor did she ever see a photograph of her. Niélé Bâ fought as a tirailleur African infantry soldier on the French side in World War I becoming on his return to ...


Dongala, Emmanuel Boundzéki  

Kahiudi C. Mabana

Congolese writer and chemist, was born on 14 July 1941 to a Congolese father and a central African mother. He was nineteen when Congo-Brazzaville achieved independence, which allowed him to refine his views on history and the surrounding world.

After secondary school in the Congo, Dongala embarked for the United States, where he obtained a BA in chemistry at Oberlin College and an MA at Rutgers University. He completed a doctorate in organic chemistry in France. Returning to his country, he worked as a chemistry professor at the Université Marien Ngouabi in Brazzaville, where he passed a large part of his life. But he spent most of his time on literature and theater. For years he ran the Théâtre de l’Éclair in Brazzaville, until the political troubles that arose in the Congo forced him into exile in 1998 First he went to France where to the surprise of all involved ...


Gurnah, Abdulrazak  

Tina Steiner

writer and academic, was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, to parents of Yemeni and Kenyan origins. After he had finished high school, he left Zanzibar in 1968 with his brother to escape the turmoil of the takeover by Sheikh Abeid Karume in the aftermath of the 1964 Zanzibari uprising. In an article Gurnah recalls the consequences of the revolt in Zanzibar: “Thousands were slaughtered, whole communities were expelled and many hundreds imprisoned. In the shambles and persecutions that followed, a vindictive terror ruled our lives” (The Guardian2001, 2). The two brothers entered Britain on tourist visas but hoped to be able to support themselves in order to study in Britain.

The mood in Britain at that time was one of open hostility toward immigrants epitomized by Enoch Powell s infamous rivers of blood speech However Gurnah was able to enroll at London University where he proceeded to obtain ...


Ike, Chukwuemeka Vincent  

Terri Ochiagha

Nigerian novelist, education administrator, and traditional ruler, was born on 28 April 1931 to Charles Chinwuba Ike, a scion of the royal house of Ike, in Ndikelionwu, in the present-day Orumba Local Government Area of Anambra State, and his wife Dinah. He was christened Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike and is still known by this baptismal name. His primary education took place at the Aro Settlement Primary School, Ndikelionwu, the CMS Central School Ife-Ezinhitte, and the CMS Central School Nnewi. From 1945 to 1950 he attended the prestigious Government College, Umuahia, the site of his literary awakening; he published his first short story, “In Dreamland,” in the 1948 issue of the school magazine Before proceeding to university he spent a year as a primary school teacher at Amichi Nnewi in eastern Nigeria He then entered University College Ibadan and joined its fervid literary activity publishing several short stories in campus publications ...


Ka, Rokhaya Aminata Maı¨ga  

Elisabeth Bekers

Senegalese politician, educator, and fiction writer, was born in Saint-Louis, Senegal, on 11 January 1940, to a Muslim family whose roots lay beyond Senegal’s borders. Her father was a doctor of Songhai descent and her mother a Fulani princess from the Guidimaka region (now southern Mauritania). Ka enjoyed a happy childhood and was a good student. She attended primary and secondary school in Kounghel and Thiès and went on to study at the Lycée des Eaux-Claires in Grenoble, France. As winner of a philosophy contest, she participated in a holiday camp at Anglet, near Biarritz, France, in 1963. She went on to earn a master’s degree in English and a certificate in English and American Literature and Civilization, both from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop (University of Dakar).

In 1967 she became an English teacher at the Lycée Malick Sy de Thiès and in 1971 she transferred ...


Kezilahabi, Euphrase  

Katriina Ranne

Tanzanian novelist, poet, and scholar, is one of the most widely known and acknowledged contemporary Swahili authors. He has had a great impact on the development of the genre of the novel in Swahili, and he was one of the first African writers to publish a collection of free verse poetry in Swahili.

Kezilahabi was born 13 April 1944, in Namagondo, a village on Ukerewe Island. He received his primary and secondary education in Ukerewe and his BA and MA at the University of Dar es Salaam. While studying for his master’s degree, he wrote on the novels of Shaaban Robert, the best-known pioneer of modern Swahili literature; he completed his MA in 1976.

Later Kezilahabi continued his studies at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, finishing his second MA in 1982 and his PhD in 1985 Kezilahabi s doctoral dissertation African Philosophy and the Problem of ...


Mudimbe, V. Y.  

Kasereka Kavwahirehi

Congolese poet, novelist, and philosopher, was born Valentin-Yves Mudimbe on 8 December 1941 in the Belgian Congo, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was the eldest child of a skilled worker employed by the Union Minière, who dreamed his son would ascend to the managerial ranks of the same company. However, the dream quickly faded, for, early on, the son was rubbing shoulders with Benedictine monks and chose to follow in their footsteps. Hence, following his studies at a Catholic minor seminary (1952–1958), he entered the Benedictine monastery of Gihindamuyaga in Rwanda. But just like his father’s ambitions for him, Mudimbe’s childhood dream of joining the Benedictine order evaporated. In fact, gripped by the climate of social tensions and decomposition he was witnessing—the rebellion in Congo, the civil war, and the hypocritical attitude of the Church in Rwanda—he renounced monastic life and decided in 1961 in ...


Mulaisho, Dominic  

Grant Lilford

Zambian novelist, civil servant, and economist, was born in 1933, in Feira, Mkando, in Zambia, and grew up in the Roman Catholic Church. He attended Katondwe Mission School and Canisius College, Chalimbana, before qualifying as a teacher at Chalimbana Teacher’s College. He then studied economics, history, and English at the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

From 1965 Mulaisho served as permanent secretary in the office of the president of Zambia, and then occupied other government posts, including permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education. He moved into the parastatal sector, serving as chairman of the mining industry and general manager of the National Agricultural Marketing Board. From 1971 he was chairman of the Mining Development Corporation (Mindeco), the recently nationalized portion of Zambia’s copper mining industry. He later served as economics advisor to Zambia’s President Kenneth Kaunda. Mulaisho served as governor of the Bank of Zambia from 1992 ...


Ngugi wa Thiong’o  

Simon Gikandi

Although he is known primarily as a novelist and playwright, Ngugi wa Thiong’o has spent most of his career as a university professor, teaching in universities in Africa, Europe, and the United States. In this context, he has been a key participant in debates on questions of African identity, the role of culture in politics, the crisis of postcolonial society, language, and the nature and meaning of historical memory. Ngugi’s thinking about these issues has been generated and energized by his role as a public intellectual called upon to comment on the pressing issues of his time both in his native Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. Ngugi’s essays published in influential collections such as Homecoming, Writers in Politics, Decolonising the Mind, and Moving the Center have been instrumental in shaping the debate on culture language and politics in Africa structuring the terms of often heated debates on ideology ...


Nwapa, Flora  

J. O. J. Nwachukwu-Agbada

Nigerian writer, publisher, and educator, was born Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa on 13 January 1931 in Oguta, eastern Nigeria, during British colonial rule. Her parents, Christopher Ijeoma and Martha Nwapa, were teachers who sent their daughter to elementary school at the Church Mission Society (C. M. S.) Central School in Oguta between 1936 and 1943. She then attended Archdeacon Crowther Memorial Girls’ School near Port Harcourt and the C. M. S. Girls’ School. After studying at Queen’s College, Lagos, for two years, she briefly taught at Priscilla Memorial Grammar School, Oguta. She earned her BA in 1957 from University College, Ibadan, and continued her studies in Scotland, earning a postgraduate diploma in education in 1958 from the University of Edinburgh.

After returning to Nigeria in 1959 Nwapa worked as a women s education officer in Calabar She taught geography and English at Queen s School in Enugu and ...


Ouologuem, Amadou Yambo  

Christopher Wise

Malian novelist and public educator, was born on 22 August 1940 in Bandiagara. His father, Boukary Yambo Ouologuem, was a teacher at the École Normale des Instituteurs of Katibougou, before being appointed director of the normal school in Sévaré, the Lycée Hammadoun Dicko. His mother was named Aïssata Oumar (née Karambé). Both sides of Ouologuem’s family consisted of Dogon animists, who later converted to Islam. Ouologuem’s paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was a renowned Islamic scholar and muezzin, who hailed from one of the wealthiest families of the Dogon people of northern Mali. The town of Ouologuem’s birth was also the capital of the Toucouleur Empire of al-Hajj Umar Tall and the administrative center of the pays Dogon Tall brought Tidjaniya Islam to northern Mali from northern Senegal after he was appointed caliph of the Tidjaniya order by Shaykh Mohammed al Ghâli in Mecca Ouologuem s immediate ...


Pliya, Jean  

Jeremy Rich

Beninese writer and educator, was born on 21 July 1931 in Djougou, Benin. His family belonged to the Fon ethnic group. After completing primary school in Benin, he attended schools in the Ivory Coast as well as his home country before passing his baccalaureate examinations. Pliya then attended the University of Dakar and the University of Toulouse, and he graduated with an undergraduate degree in geography in 1955. He received a post-graduate teaching certification in the same field from the University of Toulouse in 1957. For the next two years, Pliya taught history and geography in secondary schools located in France at Cahors. In 1959, Pliya returned to Benin, where he worked as a history teacher at the Lycée Béhanzin in the southern Beninese city of Porto-Novo, and the Lycée Technique in the Beninese capital of Cotonou.

Like his fellow writer Olympe Bhêly Quenum Pliya was invited ...


Samkange, Stanlake  

Lorna Lueker Zukas

the first chiShona-speaking university graduate in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and noted historian, novelist, politician, professor, and publisher, was born Stanlake John Thompson Samkange on 11 March 1922 at Mariga in the Zvimba Reserve, Southern Rhodesia. His father, Thompson Douglas (Mushore) Samkange, was a well-known progressive Wesleyan Methodist minister, educator, founder of the African press in Southern Rhodesia, and president of the Southern Rhodesia Bantu Congress (1943–1948). His paternal grandfather was Mawodzewa, of the Gushungo royal clan, a legendary Zvimba hunter who lamented a lost way of life when his son and grandsons did not learn to hunt. His mother, Grace Chisitumwe Mano Samkange, was a progressive woman who spearheaded the female Rudwanzano prayer ministry until 1941 when she was needed to build and manage the family homestead at Tambaram farm in the Msengezi African Purchase area His maternal grandfather was Mono Sigobhohhla an Ndebele warrior who lived among the ...


Senedu Gebru  

Richard Pankhurst

pioneer Ethiopian educationist, parliamentarian, and author, was much influenced by an unusual family background. She was the daughter of Kentiba Gebre Egziabher Desta (aka Gebru Desta), a much traveled Protestant convert. Having studied with missionaries at Saint Chrischona in Switzerland, he served in the Ethiopian government and was briefly president of Emperor Haile Selassie’s senate, established in 1930. Her mother, Weyzero Kasaye Yelamtu, an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, nevertheless brought up her children in that faith. Senedu was, however, enrolled as a child in the Swedish Protestant mission school in Addis Ababa but persuaded the emperor to send her and her sister Yubdar to St. Chrischona, where their father had studied.

Returning to Ethiopia immediately prior to the Italian invasion she began her educational career by teaching at Saint George s School a small primary school situated near the Addis Ababa church of that name At about this time she ...


Sow Fall, Aminata  

Ada Uzoamaka Azodo

Senegalese novelist, dramatist, and literary and cultural activist, was born on 27 April 1941, on the island of Saint-Louis, the first capital of Senegal before Dakar, to Abdoulaye Fall and Adja Khoudia Diaw. In Paris, on 30 May 1963, she married fellow Senegalese Samba Sow, a recent university graduate in economics at the time and a popular basketball player, adopting his last name as her middle name. Today, Aminata Sow Fall is so well known worldwide that she can be listed in bibliographical entries without the need to place her last name first.

In her conservative and hospitable family her father who had attended L École des Fils de Chefs later worked outside the home as treasurer while her mother stayed at home as housewife and mother to provide nurturing to all with the help of live in servants Many young people and villagers frequented their home bringing ...


Tekle Hawaryat Tekle Maryam  

Maxim Zabolotskikh

Ethiopian intellectual, politician, civil servant, diplomat, and writer, was born in June 1884 in Seyya Debr (Shewa, Ethiopia) to a family of Christianized Oromos.

Tekle grew up in his mother’s care until he was five. At the age of six he began to study in a church school. When his elder brother Gebre Sadiq moved to Harar to become a secretary of Ras Mekonnen, Tekle (nine at this time) went with him and continued his education there. He stayed in the household of Ras Mekonnen, where he was raised with other children, among whom was also Teferi (future Emperor Haile Selassie).

When the Italians invaded Ethiopia in 1895, both Tekle and Gebre Sadiq accompanied Ras Mekonnen to the front. Gebre Sadiq was killed, and Ras Mekonnen decided to do something special for his younger brother entrusting him to a member of the Russian Red Cross mission Count ...


Tolkien, J. R. R.  

Eric J. Morgan

English philologist and writer, was born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien on 3 January 1892 in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State, then an independent Boer republic in present-day South Africa. Tolkien’s mother and father, Mabel and Arthur, left their home in England after Arthur received a promotion to manage the office of his employer, Lloyd’s Bank, in Bloemfontein. After his birth in 1892, Tolkien lived in the frontier town of Bloemfontein with his family for three years. At one point during his brief childhood stay in South Africa, Tolkien was bitten by a spider in the family’s garden, an event that some critics, despite Tolkien’s claims that he had no memories of the incident, point to as a possible early inspiration for portions of his fictional work, particularly the giant spiders Ungoliant, Shelob, and their descendents in the forests of Mirkwood.

Tolkien left South Africa when he ...


Vassanji, Moyez Gulamhussein  

Tina Steiner

Kenyan writer and physicist, was born in Nairobi, Kenya, to Indian parents, but grew up in Tanzania. When he was nineteen, he left the University of Nairobi on a scholarship to study physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. He graduated with a PhD in theoretical nuclear physics from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1978 he settled in Toronto, Canada, where he still lives with his Tanzanian-born wife, Nurjehan, and his two sons, Anil and Kabir. From 1978 to 1980 he held a postdoctoral fellowship at Atomic Energy of Canada, and from 1980 to 1989 he worked as a researcher at the University of Toronto.

While at the University of Toronto Vassanji started to write short stories and began working on his first novel He also developed a keen interest in medieval Indian history and literature and together with his wife cofounded the multicultural literary ...