Beyond the Language Issue

ISBN 978-3-89645-819-3

Beyond the Language Issue

The Production, Mediation and Reception of Creative Writing in African Languages – Selected Papers from the 8th International Janheinz Jahn Symposium, Mainz 2004

Edited by: Anja Oed, Uta Reuster-Jahn. With an introduction by: Anja Oed. With contributions by: Abdalla Uba Adamu, Walter Bgoya, Memory Chirere, Lutz Diegner, Ernest N. Emenyonu, Thomas Geider †, Christine Glanz, Mikhail D. Gromov, Akinwumi Isola, Dinah Kereeditse Itumeleng, Euphrase Kezilahabi †, Kiba-Mwenyu, Daniel Kunene, Crispin Maalu-Bungi, Francis Moto, Jean Chrysostome Nkejabahizi, Anja Oed, Jeff Opland, Akin Oyetade, Alena Rettová, Uta Reuster-Jahn, Alain Ricard, Alina Rinkanya, Farouk Topan, Maurice Vambe, Flora Veit-Wild. Series edited by: Thomas Bierschenk, Anna-Maria Brandstetter, Raimund Kastenholz, Matthias Krings, Carola Lentz.

Series: MBA Mainzer Beiträge zur Afrikaforschung Volume 19

293 pp.
4 colour pages featuring the conference programme
Text language(s): English
€ 69.80

Buy 'Beyond the Language Issue' as a downloadable PDF document directly from our online shop »

One of the most central and also one of the most heated debates in critical discourses on African literatures in the second half of the twentieth century was concerned with the language issue, creating the impression that literature in African languages was a marginal phenomenon. This collection of essays is indicative of a new trend in the reception of African literatures, which strives to move creative writing in African languages – as an integral, exciting and mainstream part of African literatures more generally – into the centre of scholarly attention.

Exploring aspects of the production, mediation and reception of creative writing in African languages, the essays in this collection contribute to understanding the historical, social, cultural as well as personal conditions in which African-language literatures are written, published, read and negotiated. They discuss creative writing with different linguistic and literary backdrops and contexts – traditions of creative writing looking back on one or more centuries of literary production as well as traditions which are just beginning to assert, or reassert, themselves.

The wide range of languages covered – including Chewa, Hausa, Igbo, Luba, Mbundu, Rwanda, Kongo, Lingala, Ganda, Shona, Sotho, Tswana, Sheng, Swahili, Xhosa and Yoruba – facilitates a comparative approach. The contributors to this volume, which is mostly based on papers read at the 8th International Janheinz Jahn Symposium, have diverse professional experience in the field of African literatures, for instance in publishing, translation, the ministries of culture and education of different African countries as well as in secondary and tertiary education, and several have themselves published creative works in African languages.


Anja Oed: Introduction


Christine Glanz: The production, mediation and reception of creative writing in Luganda – a challenging endeavour

Crispin Maalu-Bungi: Written literature in Congolese languages – origin and principal genres

Jean Chrysostome Nkejabahizi: Creative writing in Kinyarwanda

Kiba-Mwenyu: Kimbundu literature – origins and continuity

Farouk Topan: The expanding world of the Swahili writer

Thomas Geider: A survey of world literature translated into Swahili


Walter Bgoya: The endeavour of publishing – its limits of success with Swahili readers

Uta Reuster-Jahn: The choice of the new generation – Swahili entertainment literature from Ndanda Mission Press 1990–2005

Jeff Opland: The newspaper as empowering medium of Xhosa literature – the case of Nontsizi Mgqwetho

Akin Oyetade: Publishing and the market for African-language books in the Diaspora – reflections on personal experience


Alain Ricard: Creative writing in African languages – writers, scholars, translators

Daniel Kunene: African-language writing comes of age – the dawning of an era

Francis Moto: Attitudes towards African languages and African-language literatures in education – the case of Malawi

Dinah Kereeditse Itumeleng: Teaching Setswana literature in post-colonial Botswana – past, present and future

Akinwumi Isola: A key to Africa’s own ‘bank of images’ – revitalising creative writing in African languages as cultural heritage

Anja Oed: Film adaptations of Yoruba literary texts – Akinwumi Isola’s Ó le kú and Tunde Kelani’s video based on the novel


Maurice Vambe: Shona literature and the creation of an alternative reading ‘public’ in Zimbabwe

Memory Chirere: Ignatius Mabasa’s Mapenzi and innovation in the Shona novel – the Zimbabwean response

Abdalla Uba Adamu: Breaking out, speaking out – youth, Islam and the production of indigenous Hausa literature in northern Nigeria

Euphrase Kezilahabi: The house of everydayness – Swahili poetry in Tanzanian newspapers

Alina Rinkanya: Sheng in Kenya – an alternative medium for indigenous creative writing


Ernest N. Emenyonu: The dynamics of creativity and reception – the Igbo-language novel from Pita Nwana to Toni Ubesie

Flora Veit-Wild: Rereading Feso – the first Shona novel as a nation builder

Alena Rettová: ‘The horns of my thoughts are fastened together in a knot’ – transformations of ‘humanity’ in Swahili and Shona literatures

Mikhail Gromov: The Swahili novel on the turn of the centuries – recent trends and perceptions

Lutz Diegner: Answers to ‘glocalisation’ in Swahili fiction – Chachage’s Makuadi wa Soko Huria and Wamitila’s Bina-Adamu!



About the editors:

Anja Oed is a lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Gutenberg University of Mainz/Germany, and the Head of the Jahn Library for African Literatures. Her research interests include African literatures, Yorùbá literature and video film adaptations, African literary cityscapes, and literary representations of African civil wars. She obtained her PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She holds an MA in English Literature and Linguistics, Musicology, and Anthropology from the University of Freiburg (Breisgau) as well as an African Studies Certificate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Uta Reuster-Jahn, Dr. phil., was Lecturer of Swahili at the Asien-Afrika-Institut, University of Hamburg. She has published extensively on Tanzanian orature, popular Swahili literature and bongo flava music.

Under these links you will find publications by the contributors and further studies of oral and written literatures in Africa:

Accompanying material:



The Symposium was able to acknowledge that the creative writing in African languages is by no means a marginal phenomenon. According to Anja Oed, the author of an introduction (pp. 9-32), it is time to recognise that the literature in African languages „[...] forms an integral, vital and exciting part of African literatures and, accordingly, deserves a much informed critical attention as literary texts written in English, French, or Portuguese“ (p. 11). In 1982, 40% of all literary titles in the Jahnhein [sic] Jahn Library were written in one of 31 African languages. In 2008, the Library was holding literary works in 69 African languages. [...]

At the end of the book there are short notes on contributors. It is visible from them that the authors from Africa are very well represented: articles of seventeen Africans have been published in the book. Works cited by them enlarge our knowledge of trends in the literary study in Africa.

Stanislaw Pilaszewicz in Studies of the Department of African Languages and Cultures, 43/2009, 122-127

« backPrint version[top]
© 2024 by Rüdiger Köppe Verlag