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Press Release


Emily M. Darrow
Panel inaugurates the Chinua Achebe Fellowship in Global African Studies at Bard College and celebrates Literature of the Middle Passage at Barnard College; writers will discuss "Writing Africa: Politics and Dialogues around Africa and the African Diaspora" ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Five internationally acclaimed writers—Chinua Achebe, Kofi Anyidoho, Emmanuel Dongala, Helon Habila, and Caryl Phillips—are featured in a panel discussion at Bard College on Tuesday, September 27. Free and open to the public, “Writing Africa: Politics and Dialogues around Africa and the African Diaspora” will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the multipurpose room of the Bertelsmann Campus Center. This event is cosponsored and inspired by Barnard College’s Literature of the Middle Passage course, which is funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. The Bard program is in honor of the establishment of the Chinua Achebe Fellowship in Global African Studies at Bard College, also funded by a grant from Ford Foundation, and is cosponsored by the Anthropology and Africana Studies Programs. Helon Habila will be in residence at Bard during 2005–06 as the first Chinua Achebe Fellow. The discussion will be moderated by Jesse Weaver Shipley, director of Africana Studies at Bard College. The five writers will discuss the politics, influences, and history of African and African diaspora writing, exchanging ideas on the relationship of traditions and artistic expression, as well as exploring the dramatic movements of African political independence and their legacies. A crucial theme will be how ideas of Negritude and Pan-Africanism emerged in the context of African and African diaspora thinkers and writers. The Chinua Achebe Fellowship in Global African Studies at Bard College—funded by the Ford Foundation—is named in honor of Achebe, internationally acclaimed author and Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard. The fellowship seeks to invoke and revitalize the artistic spirit of the generation of African artists and intellectuals who came of age in the 1950s and ’60s. This ethos of critical and expressive political engagement is based upon the dynamics of race, politics, and culture in Africa and around the globe. The Achebe Fellowship is aimed at expanding the possibilities of the arts for creating new transnational political and ethical dialogues. For further information about the panel, call 845-758-6822 or e-mail About the Panelists Chinua Achebe has taught at Bard College since 1990. Poet, novelist, cultural critic, and essayist, he is perhaps best known for his 1958 work, Things Fall Apart, now considered a standard of 20th-century literature. During the mid-20th century, Achebe’s work was vital to the fervor of political independence of much of the African continent. In those years, global shifts initiated by the end of European colonialism formulated new possibilities for thinking globally about African artistic expression. Achebe’s contributions have remained an important centering point to global dialogues on postcolonial Africa in the past 50 years. He has received numerous awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Lotus Award for Afro-Asian Writers, the Campion Medal, and the German Booksellers Peace Prize. He is also an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Ghanaian poet and critic Kofi Anyidoho is a professor of literature at the University of Ghana, Legon, his alma mater. He earned a master’s degree from Indiana University and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. His most recent book of poetry, PraiseSong (2002), draws on Ewe verbal art as a critical source of the cultural and philosophical expression of an African community. Emmanuel Dongala holds the Richard B. Fisher Chair in Natural Sciences and is professor of chemistry at Simon’s Rock College. He also teaches Francophone African literature at Bard College. A novelist originally from the Congo Republic, Dongala has won several prizes, including the Fonlon-Nichol Award for “excellence in creative writing and for human rights and freedom of expression” in 2003. His work has been translated into a dozen languages from the French. His latest novel Johnny Mad Dog, about child soldiers, was published last May by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Dongala received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1999. Helon Habila visits Bard College this year as the first Chinua Achebe Fellow. Originally from Nigeria, he studied literature at the University of Jos and lectured at the Federal Polytechnic in Bauchi. Habila is currently completing a doctorate at the University of East Anglia, U.K. In 2003 he published his first novel, Waiting for an Angel, which was awarded a Commonwealth Writers Prize. He has worked as journalist and editor in Lagos and is currently a contributing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Caryl Phillips has written about race, identity, and belonging in both fiction and nonfiction. His new novel, Dancing in the Dark, will be published in the fall of 2005. He is the author of three books of nonfiction and seven other novels, including A Distant Shore, which received the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize. Phillips has taught at universities in Ghana, India, Singapore, Barbados, Sweden, and the United States. He is presently professor of English at Yale, and this fall is a visiting professor of English at Barnard. # The Chinua Achebe Fellowship in Global African Studies is a competitive fellowship for a senior African scholar or artist to be in residence at Bard College and other institutions in New York. This high-profile fellowship is organized and administered through Bard’s Africana Studies Program. The Fellowship honors and continues the ethical, intellectual, and artistic mandate put forth in the work of eminent Nigerian writer, critic, and senior Bard professor Chinua Achebe. Drawing on the artistic strengths of Bard College we are particularly interested in fostering work by African visual, performing, and literary artists and creative scholars in the humanities and social sciences, helping them to engage with broad global networks of scholars and artists. We emphasize the multiple historical connections between Africa and the rest of the world and explore their importance for African peoples as well as for the formation of modern, global society. By emphasizing the links between academics and the arts, this Fellowship aims to encourage Achebe’s vision of a comparative perspective on artist expression, political change, religious life, and lived cultural landscapes. The presence of the Fellow on campus will help make the study of Africa more central to the life of Bard College and create a context within which Achebe’s intellectual legacy can help resituate the current state of Africana Studies as it is globally conceived. # # # (9/9/05)

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This event was last updated on 09-29-2005