Sunday 10 October 2021


Congratulations to the firebrand writer and scholar, Abdulrazak Gurnah on his winning the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. Africa and the rest of the Post colonial world have reason to be happy for this great achievement.

But what does this mean for literary studies on the African continent? Many Africans have never heard of the name, let-alone read any of his writings.

It is quite understandable, too, that many may not have read him in Nigerian universities. I do not blame anyone in Nigeria who never heard of Gurnah, particularly most graduates of our universities today.

The blame falls squarely on our departments of literature. What percentage of research is going on across the universities?

Recently, a colleague from  one of our universities boasted how vast he is in literature in spite of his field which is "Language", according to him. Before I could ask a question, he started reeling out portions of "Weep Not Child" which he read in the early 1980s.

Across our universities, many scholars of African literature still limit themselves to the teaching of Alex La Guma, Peter Abrahams, Athol Fugard and occasionally the earliest of Lewis Nkosi, Oswald Mtshali and a few others to demonstrate their awareness of South African letters.

There is hardly "Africa" in studies of African literatures across the institutions. Even at the postgraduate level in English departments, specialists in "African literatures" are anything but continentalist in their awareness of the immense literary projections from across the continent! The student is definitely not to be blamed completely. We just have to find a way of making a reading personality not just of our youths, but also, especially, amongst the province of intellectuals who have elected to study our literary traditions.

By Osita Ezeliora

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