Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Renowned and celebrated among the key figures of African Literature, Dr Ngugi wa Thiong’o has established himself as a prolific author and activist. Born in 1938 to a peasant family in Central Kenya, his literary works draw inspiration from the Mau Mau Struggle for Independence (1952-1962) and his native Kikuyu culture to critique classism, colonial ideologies and corruption and neo-colonialism in post-independent African states. Many of his works, such as A Grain of Wheat, Weep Not Child and Petals of Blood have been critically acclaimed for showcasing the harsh and cruel reality of post-independent Kenya under Kenyatta and Moi regimes. In 1977 he was imprisoned at Kamiti Maximum Prison for his activism, wherein his writing took an ideological shift best reflected in his work, Devil on The Cross, published and translated in 1982 from the original work written in Gikuyu in 1981 titled, Caitaani Mutharabaini (1981).
Having served as a Professor at various Universities, he strongly championed for the change of English Literature, to simply Literature, to reflect world literature with African and third world literatures as the center.
Ngũgĩ has continued to write prolifically, publishing, in 2006, what some have described as his crowning achievement, Wizard of the Crow, an English translation of the Gikuyu language novel, Murogi wa Kagogo. Ngũgĩ’s books have been translated into more than thirty languages and they continue to be the subject of books, critical monographs, and dissertations.
Paralleling his academic and literary life has been his role in the production of literature, providing, as an editor, a platform for other people’s voices. He has edited the following literary journals: Penpoint (1963-64); Zuka (1965 -1970); Ghala (guest editor for one issue, 1964?); and Mutiiri (1992-).
He has also continued to speak around the world at numerous universities and as a distinguished speaker. These appearances include: the 1984 Robb Lectures at Auckland University in New Zealand; the1996 Clarendon Lectures in English at Oxford University; the 1999 Ashby Lecture at Cambridge; and the 2006 MacMillan Stewart Lectures at Harvard. He is recipient of many honors, including the 2001 Nonino International Prize for Literature and eleven honorary doctorates.
The Afrocentrism Conference is honored to welcome Ngugi wa Thiong’o and celebrate his wisdom and contributions to Black African scholarship in Literature.
From 'In the Name of the Mother: Reflections on Writers and Empire'
“Being is one thing; becoming aware of it is a point of arrival by an awakened consciousness and this involves a journey”
Dr Nnedi Okorafor
She is an international award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to two Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, The New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”.
Okorafor's novels and stories reflect both her West African heritage and her American life. Rather than identifying as Nigerian-American, Okorafor refers to herself as "Nigamerican" and explains the importance of her dual heritage during a 2016 NPR interview:
“That's very much a part of my identity, and it's also very much a reason why I think I ended up writing science fiction and fantasy because I live on these borders – and these borders that allow me to see from multiple perspectives and kind of take things in and then kind of process certain ideas and certain stories in a very unique way. And that has led me to write this strange fiction that I write, which really isn't that strange if you really look at it through a sort of skewed lens.”
Okorafor noticed how the fantasy and science fiction genre contain little diversity, and that was her motivation for writing books of these genres set in Africa. She wanted to include more people of color and create stories with Africa as the setting because so few stories were set there. She wrote her first story as a college sophomore and made the setting of her story Nigeria. Her stories place black girls in important roles that are usually given to white characters. Okorafor cites Nigeria as "her muse" as she is heavily influenced by Nigerian folklore and its rich mythology and mysticism.
Okorafor shares that while the themes of her stories are often multi-layered they are always grounded in "stories of the women and girls around me and also within myself."
Okorafor asserts that her work and parental responsibility relates to each other because "writing and being a mother are a part of me, so they are mixed together and balance each other out.”
Nnedi has received the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo Award, and thee Nebula Award, among others, for her novels. Her fans include Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson and Ursula K. Le Guin.
The Afrocentrism Conference is honoured to welcome Nnedi Okorafor to celebrate the power and capacity of stories to inspire and affirm us all.
We prefer to explore the universe by traveling inward, as opposed to outward
Author of Questions for Ada, is a well of wisdom and affirmation for Black Women all over the world. Ijeoma Umebinyuo was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her ancestral home sits between two states, a border town somewhere in Southeastern Nigeria. In 2016, Ijeoma was named one of the top contemporary poets emerging from Africa by Writivism. She is considered among Sub-Saharan Africa’s best modern poets .
Her short stories and poems have appeared in The Stockholm Review of Literature, The Wildness, The Rising Phoenix Review, Doll Hospital Journal, The Renaissance Noire, The Gordon Square Review and The MacGuffin. Her poem “Diaspora Blues” is a part of Dr. Rosalba Icaza’s contribution to Routledge Handbook of Postcolonial Politics.
In 2017, Ijeoma was invited to speak at The Cooper Union, her talk Dismantling the Culture of Silence seeks to challenge the culture where silence is seen as a virtue in marginalized communities and how such affect women. Dismantling the Culture of Silence has been used by some teachers to teach students in high school the importance of using their voices.