Skip Navigation Links  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
African Section: African and Middle Eastern Reading Room (African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress)
  Home >> Africana Section >> Conversations

Conversations with African Poets and Writers

Descriptions and Webcasts of Past Presentations

This page presents an online archive of past programs in the “Conversations with African Poets and Writers” series and links to the webcasts of readings and moderated conversations with African authors and Area Specialists from the African Section. The series offers interviews with African writers, from the continent and the diaspora, committed to the literature of continental and diasporic Africa. Readings recorded in this series feature these authors’ written works, the genres of which range from fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, to literary criticism. Authors include both established and highly talented new and emerging writers. This archive is the result of a multi-partner literary program series between the Library's African and Middle Eastern Division, the Poetry and Literature Center (past), the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa and the Center for African Studies at Howard University.

The series hosted the 2013 and 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing winners. Following those programs, the Library of Congress became an integral part of annual Caine Prize for African Literature winners’ residency at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University.

The series aims at contributing to greater cross-cultural understanding and dialogue. This archive should prove invaluable to students of African literature and stimulate a broader appreciation of the African literary tradition and heritage.

Visit the Upcoming Events page for announcements of new programs

Lesley Nneka Arimah

February 22, 2020
Lesley Nneka Arimah
Nigeria

Lesley Nneka Arimah is the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing winner. Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. Her stories have been honored with a National Magazine Award, a Commonwealth Short Story Prize and an O. Henry Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, GRANTA and has received support from The Elizabeth George Foundation and MacDowell. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection, What It Means When A Man Fall From The Sky, won the 2017 Kirkus Prize, the 2017 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and was selected for the New York Times/PBS book club among other honors. Arimah is a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Writing.

View a Webcast of this Program (In Process)


Kadija Sesay

August 13, 2019
Kadija Sesay
Sierra Leone/United Kingdom

Kadija (George) Sesay FRSA is a literary activist of Sierra Leonean descent. She founded SABLE LitMag which was published for 15 years and featured internationally renowned writers on the covers including, Nawal el Saadawi, Sonia Sanchez, Chinua Achebe and Walter Mosley. George edited several important anthologies by writers of African and Asian descent including Burning Words, Flaming Images (1996); IC3: the Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (2000), co-edited with Courttia Newland; and Write Black, Write British (2005). She is also the Manager of Inscribe publications for Inscribe, a writer development program housed by Peepal Tree Press, and will be editing a collection of short stories set in Africa for Comma Press. In 2013 she published her debut poetry collection, Irki under her writing name, Kadija Sesay. She received a research and development award from Arts Council England for her second forthcoming poetry collection, The Modern PanAfricanist’s Journey, which includes an educational app. on Poetry and Pan-Africanism. In 2019, she was awarded a Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress.

View a Webcast of this Program


Ngugi wa Thiong’o

May 9, 2019
Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Kenya

Noted as a perennial favorite to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Ngugi wa Thiong’o is an award-winning, world-renowned Kenyan novelist, scholar and playwright, who has been publishing written works for over 50 years. His works have been translated into 94 languages. Ngugi is the founder and editor of the first Gikuyu-language journal and is currently a distinguished professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. He is considered a vanguard in the primary use of African languages in literature. Ngugi wa Thiong'o presented his recently released publication titled, Minutes of Glory And Other Stories, at the Library of Congress in a special evening program, “Jioni na Ngugi wa Thiong'o” (“An Evening with Ngugi wa Thiong'o”). The program featured local high school students who read excerpts from his works in Gikuyu and English.

View a Webcast of this Program


Makena Onjerika

March 14, 2019
Makena Onjerika
Kenya

Makena Onjerika is the winner of the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing for short story, “Fanta Blackcurrant.” A resident of Nairobi, Kenya, the story tells the story of the street children of the capital of the East African country. Onjerika began writing at age 15, and went on to study fiction at Amherst College. She graduated from the MFA Creative Writing program at New York University. Onjerika explores the world of fantasy in her African-based stories.

View a Webcast of this Program


Bushra Al-Fadil

February 27, 2018
Bushra al-Fadil
Sudan

Poet and writer, Al-Fadil is the winner of the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing. Al-Fadil, won the coveted prize for his short story titled “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away.” Characterized by experimentation and daring artistic adventures, al-Fadil also won the 2012 Al Tayeb Salih Prize.

View a Webcast of this Program


Antjie Krog

September 28, 2017
Antjie Krog
South African

Poet and writer, Krog has won major awards in poetry, journalism, fiction, and translation. Her work has been translated into English, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Serbian. Krog translated Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, works by Henk van Woerden and Tom Lanoye, as well as a selection of South African verse written in the indigenous African languages into Afrikaans. This was followed by a reworking of narratives in the extinct language /Xam into Afrikaans poems in "Die Sterre Se 'tsau'" and English poems in "The Stars Say."

View a Webcast of this Program


Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

May 4, 2017
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Nigeria

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim was the recipient of the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature 2016 award for his novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms. Formerly a journalist, Ibrahim’s debut short story collection, The Whispering Trees,was long-listed for the Elisalat Prize for Literature in 2014, with the title story short-listed for the Caine Prize for African Writing. He also won the BBC African Performance Prize and was the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow in 2013. He was named in the Hay Festival Africa39 list of “the most promising writers under the age of 40 who will define future trends in African writing.”

View a Webcast of this Program


Lidudumalingani
Mqombothi


April 12, 2017
Lidudumalingani Mqombothi
South African

Lidudumalingani Mqombothi is the recipient of the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing.
Mqombothi read from his prize-winning short story "Memories We Lost." Born in the village of in Zikhovane in the Eastern Cape region, he is a writer, filmmaker and photographer.

View a Webcast of this Program


Kwame Dawes

November 18, 2016

Kwame Dawes
Ghana/Jamaica

Kwame Dawes was born in Ghana and moved to Jamaica in 1971. He spent most of his childhood and early adult life in Jamaica. He is a writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and plays. Progeny of Air was the winner of the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection in the UK.

View a Webcast of this Program


Shenaz Patel

November 4, 2016
Shenaz Patel
Mauritius

Shenaz Patel is a journalist from the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, where she segued into an author of fiction. Patel writes in both French and Mauritian Creole. She is the author of several novels, plays, short stories, and children’s books. She was an IWP (International Writing Program) Honorary Fellow in the U.S. in 2016, and was a fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University in 2018. Patel was one of a group of Mauritian writers who founded the literary journal Tracés.

View a Webcast of this Program


Namwali Serpell

March 14, 2016
Namwali Serpell
Zambia

Namwali Serpell is the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing. Serpell ‘s first novel, The Old Drift won the 2020 Anisfield-Wolf Book prize for fiction. She teaches in the United States but primarily lives in Lusaka. She was educated in the United States after moving with her family when she was nine. Her short story "The Sack " garnered her the coveted literary prize.

View a Webcast of this Program


Lemn Sissay

July 6, 2015
Lemn Sissay
United Kingdom/Ethiopia

Lemn Sissay, MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), is a London-born author and broadcaster of Ethiopian heritage. Sissay was the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics. He has been chancellor of the University of Manchester since 2015, and joined the Foundling Museum's board of trustees two years later, having previously been appointed one of the museum's fellows. He was awarded the 2019 PEN Pinter Prize. He has written a number of books and plays.

View a Webcast of this Program


Okey Ndibe

May 21, 2015
Okey Ndibe
Nigeria

Okechukwu Ndibe, better known as Okey Ndibe, is a novelist, political columnist and essayist of Igbo ethnicity. He was born in Yola, Nigeria. He is the author of Arrows of Rain and Foreign Gods, Inc., both critically acclaimed novels. He is also the author of a memoir, Never Look an American in the Eye: Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American, and co-editor of Writers Writing on Conflicts and Wars in Africa, The New York TimesPhiladelphia Inquirer, and Cleveland Plain Dealer. Mosaic magazine named Foreign Gods, Inc. one of the 10 best books of 2014.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Professor Okey Ndibe

Okwiri Oduor

April 17, 2015
Okwiri Oduor
Kenya

Okwiri Oduor is the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing winner for her short story, "My Fathers Head." Her novella The Dream Chasers was highly commended in the Commonwealth Book Prize 2012. She teaches creative writing to young girls at her alma mater in Nairobi, and is currently working on her first full-length novel.

View a Webcast of this Program


Chinelo Okparanta

February 3, 2015
Chinelo Okparanta
Nigeria/United States

Chinelo Okparanta is novelist and short-story writer. She was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where she was raised until the age of 10, when she immigrated to the United States with her family. Her debut short story collection, Happiness, Like Water, was cited as an editors’ choice in the New York Times Book Review and was named on the list of The Guardian’s Best African Fiction of 2013. The book was nominated for the Nigerian Writers Award (Young Motivational Writer of the Year), longlisted for the 2013 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. It was also a finalist for the 2014 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award as well as the Etisalat Prize for Literature. Okparanta was also a finalist for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing. Under the Udala Trees is her first novel.

View a Webcast of this Program


Veronique Tadjo

October 17, 2014
Veronique Tadjo
Cote d'Ivoire

Véronique Tadjo is a journalist, painter and award-winning author of numerous volumes of fiction, poetry and children's literature. Tadjo's work includes A Vol d'Oiseau/As the Crow Flies, Reine Pokou/Queen Pokou which was awarded the Le Grand Prix Littéraire d'Afrique Noire in 2005, Le Royaumme Aveugle/The Blind Kingdom, L'Ombre D'Imana/In the Shadow of Imana, and Loin de Mon Pere/Far from My Father. Her books for children include Mamy Wata and the Monster. She studied at the University of Abidjan, the Sorbonne in Paris, as well as Howard University. Tadjo is professor and head of the French department at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa. In Fall 2014, she was a visiting professor in the French department at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Veronique Tadjo

Zainab Hassan

June 10, 2014
Zainab Hassan
Somalia

Zainab Hassan was the project director of the National Library Initiative of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu, Somalia. She is a published writer and poet.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Zainab Hassan

Tope Folarin

March 20, 2014
Tope Folarin
Nigeria/United States

Tope Folarin is the winner of the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing. His short story "Miracle” garnered him the award in 2013 and his story "Genesis" was shortlisted for the 2016 Caine Prize. Folarin’s first novel, A Particular Kind of Black Man, was released in 2019. He was also recently named to the Africa39 list of the most promising African writers under 40. He was educated at Morehouse College and the University of Oxford, where he earned two Masters degrees as a Rhodes Scholar.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Tope Folarin

Mukoma wa Ngugi

December 3, 2013
Mukoma wa Ngugi
Kenya

Mukoma wa Ngugi was born in 1971 in Evanston, Ill., but raised in Kenya, before returning to the United States for his university education. An assistant professor of English at Cornell University he is the author of Conversing with Africa: Politics of Change and Hurling Words at Consciousness. He is also a columnist for BBC Focus on Africa magazine and former co-editor of Pambazuka. His crime fiction novels Nairobi Heat and Black Star Nairobi are set in the capital city of the East African nation. He is the son of world-renowned African writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.

View a Webcast of this Program


Abdourahman Waberi

November 14, 2013
Abdourahman Waberi
Djibouti

Abdourahman Waberi is a novelist, essayist, poet, and short-story writer. His first volume of stories, The Land without Shadows, won Belgium's Royal Academy of French Language and Black Africa's Grand Literary Prize for French speakers. Waberi champions using indigenous art forms, such as the Somali poetic tradition, especially highlighting writing in African languages.

View a Webcast of this Program


Amadou Koné

September 25, 2013
Amadou Koné
Côte d'Ivoire

Amadou Koné is a professor in the Department of French at Georgetown University. Koné's field of research and teaching extends from the oral literature of Africa to its modern written literature, and he has won international recognition as an author, essayist and playwright. Before coming to Georgetown, he was a professor of French at Tulane University in Louisiana. From 1977 to 1990, he taught literature in his country at the University Nationale de Côte d'Ivoire, Abidjan in the Department of Modern Languages. He studied the style of some novelists such as Ahmadou Kourouma, Saïdou Bokoum, and Cheikh Hamidou Kane. His further research is devoted to genres of African oral literature, heroic tales, epic and initiation, and their influence on the modern novel. His work on the influence of oral tradition on the novel continue to influence African researchers’ literary studies.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Amadou Koné

A.Igoni Barrett

May 8, 2013
A. Igoni Barrett
Nigeria

A. Igoni Barrett is a writer of short stories and novelist. Barrett was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and lives in Lagos. He is a winner of the 2005 BBC World Service short story competition, the recipient of a Chinua Achebe Center Fellowship, a Norman Mailer Center Fellowship, and a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency. His first book, a collection of short stories entitled From Caves of Rotten Teeth, was published in 2005 and reissued in 2008. A story from the collection, "The Phoenix," won the 2005 BBC World Service short story competition. His second collection of stories, Love Is Power, or Something Like That, was published in 2013.

View a Webcast of this Program

Image: A.Igoni Barrett;

Omekongo Dibinga

April 2, 2013
Omekongo Dibinga
Democratic Republic of the Congo/United States

Omekongo Dibinga is a motivational speaker, trilingual poet, TV talk show host, rapper, and professor of cross-cultural communication at American University. His Urban Music Award winning work has best been described by Nikki Giovanni as “outstanding, exciting, and new while being very old.” His book, From the Limbs of My Poetree, was described by Essence Magazine as “a remarkable and insightful collection of exquisite poetry that touches sacred places within your spirit.” He was one of 5 international recipients out of 750,000 to win the first ever “CNN iReport Spirit Award.” He has received over 1,000,000 views on CNN.com.

View a Webcast of this Program


Maaza Mengitse

March 21, 2013
Maaza Mengiste
Ethiopia

Maaza Mengiste is a novelist and essayist whose work examines the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile, and considers the intersections of photography and violence. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, her critically acclaimed debut novel, was selected by The Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books and was named one of the best books of 2010 by The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, and other publications. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is set in Ethiopia in the 1970s and revisits the last days of the Ethiopian monarchy and the brutal beginnings of the Derg, the socialist military junta that replaced it.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Maaza Mengitse

Tijan Momodou Sallah

November 9, 2012
Tijan Momodou Sallah
The Gambia

Tijan Momodou Sallah is a poet and economist. In 1980, Sallah published his first poetry collection, When African Was a Young Woman, under the Writers Workshop publication series. It was reviewed on the BBC by Florence Akst and received also several other favorable reviews. Since then, Sallah's works have gained world-wide recognition. He was interviewed by the American National Public Radio in 1997 by Scott Simon and in August 2000 by Kojo Nnamdi. Sallah's writings have received accolades from critics. Described as one of Africa's most important poets of the post-Soyinka, and Achebe generation, Sallah writes poems that are evocatively simple and rich. In his poem "Banjul Afternoon", from his collection Kora Land, Sallah captures poignantly the social mood of Gambia's capital, Banjul.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Tijan Momodou Sallah

Anna Mwalagho

November 7, 2012
Anna Mwalagho
Kenya

Anna Mwalagho is an internationally recognized comedian, poet, spoken word artist, singer, songwriter, actress, and storyteller. She has won numerous national awards in her native Kenya and here in the United States. In Kenya she performed on stage as well as on television and radio with the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Anna Mwalagho

Mandlakayise C. Matyumza

September 25, 2012
Mandlakayise C. Matyumza
South Africa

Mandlakayise C. Matyumza is the executive director of the Centre for the Book, a unit of the National Library of South Africa in Capetown.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Mandlakayise C. Matyumza

Helon Habila

May 1, 2012
Helon Habila
Nigeria

Helon Habila is a poet and prose fiction writer. He studied Literature at the University of Jos and lectured for three years at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi, before going to Lagos to write for Hints Magazine. Extracts from his collection of short stories, Prison Stories, were published in Nigeria in 2000. The full text was published as a novel in the UK under the title Waiting for an Angel in 2002 and received a Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region, Best First Book) in 2003. Also in 2002, he moved to England to become a Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia. Helon Habila won the MUSON Poetry Prize in 2000 and was the arts editor of the Vanguard Newspaper. In 2005 Habila was invited by Chinua Achebe to become the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College, New York. He spent a year writing and teaching at Bard, and after his fellowship, Habila stayed on in America as a professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Helon Habila read excerpts from his novel Oil On Water and discussed his anthology The Granta Book of the African Short Story.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Helon Habila

Donato Ndongo

April 4, 2012
Donato Ndongo
Equatorial Guinea

Donato Ndongo is a prominent writer and journalist from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. As a journalist, historian, and novelist, he has published for more than 40 years in various media outlets such as ABCInformacionesDiario 16 El País (Madrid) and La Vanguardia (Barcelona). His 1977 Historia y tragedia de Guinea Ecuatorial and 1984 Antología de la literature guineana earned critical acclaim for calling attention to the history and literary production of Equatorial Guinea, in addition to its unique position as the only Spanish-speaking African country. He appears in a program co-sponsored by the Library, the Africa Society for the National Summit on Africa and Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Donato Ndongo

Keorapetse Kgositsile

April 3, 2012
Keorapetse Kgositsile
South Africa

Keorapetse Kgositsile also known as "Bra Willie," was a South African political activist and poet. He served in the African National Congress in the 1960s and 1970s and was inaugurated as South Africa's National Poet Laureate in 2006. Kgositsile lived in exile in the United States from 1962 until 1975, the peak of his literary career. He studied African-American literature and culture extensively, becoming particularly interested in jazz. During the 1970s he was a central figure among African-American poets, encouraging interest in Africa as well as the practice of poetry as a performance art. He was active in the music scene, known for his readings in New York City jazz clubs. Kgositsile was one of the first to bridge the gap between African poetry and African-American poetry. He passed away in January 2018.

View a Webcast of this Program


Dr. Susan Nalugwa Kiguli

November 16, 2011
Susan Nalugwa Kiguli
Uganda

Dr. Susan Nalugwa Kiguli was an African Studies Association Presidential Scholar for 2011. She is a Ugandan poet and literary scholar and an associate professor of literature at Makerere University. As a poet, Kiguli is best known for her 1998 collection The African Saga, as a scholar, and for her work on oral poetry and performance. Kiguli has been an advocate for creative writing in Africa, including service as a founding member of FEMWRITE, a collective of Ugandan women writers, a judge for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (African Region, 1999), and an advisory board member for the African Writers’ Trust.

View a Webcast of this Program


Professor Ali Mazrui

October 7, 2011
Ali A. Mazrui
Kenya

Ali Mazrui was an academic and political writer on African and Islamic studies and North-South relations. Until his death in 2014, he was the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and the Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York. Mazrui compiled Africa’s Best 100 Books of the Twentieth Century project. Mazrui came up with the idea of a list of Africa's 100 best books in order to direct the world's attention on the achievements of African writers who have had their work published during the 20th century. He discussed the state of contemporary African culture and post-independence literary production.

View a Webcast of this Program

image: Professor Ali Mazrui

Chinua Achebe

November 3, 2008
Chinua Achebe
Nigeria

An historic celebration of the iconic African novel, Things Fall Apart and author Chinua Achebe was held at The Library of Congress, co-presented by the Library of Congress’ African Section and the Center for the Book, and The Africa Society of The National Summit On Africa, and The Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, Howard University’s Department of African Studies and TransAfrica Forum. Things Fall Apart is the most widely read book in modern African literature. The symposium and evening program to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the publication of the novel served as the foundation for the “Conversations with African Poets and Writers” series.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, published in 1958, was followed by sequels No Longer at Ease in 1960and Arrow of God in 1964. Achebe passed away in 2013.

Morning Session Webcast
Afternoon Session Webcast
Evening Program Webcast

image: Chinua Achebe
  Home >> Africana Section >>Conversations
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  July 24, 2020
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:  
Ask a Librarian