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Chimamanda Adichie, author of "Half of a Yellow Sun"
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WIU and Macomb Host International African Literature Conference April 22-27

April 15, 2008

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MACOMB, IL - - Many of the world's finest scholars, poets, authors and reviewers of African literature, as well as film makers and traditional performers, will convene at Western Illinois University in Macomb April 22-27 for the 34th Annual African Literature Association (ALA) Conference , "African and African Diaspora Women Writers, Global Challenges and Cultural Identity." More than 400 participants are expected to attend.

"The conference will celebrate the creativity, versatility and vibrancy of the women of Africa and African Diaspora," said Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah, WIU's African American studies chair and conference convener. "I am so pleased to have many exceptional scholars, writers, artists and performers coming to this conference to share their talents with one another as well as with faculty and students from area universities and high schools and the public."

The ALA conference will include a variety of concurrent workshops, panel discussions, fiction and poetry readings, African cinema and art, African children's literature, performances, book signings and more. The daily list of events is available on the conference website,

Western Illinois University President Al Goldfarb, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jack Thomas, college deans and Macomb Mayor Mick Wisslead will participate in the opening session and welcome from 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 23 in Western's historic Sherman Hall third floor auditorium.

A conference sub-themes includes the 50th anniversary celebration of Chinua Achebe's first novel, "Things Fall Apart," which has been translated into 50 languages and has sold nearly 11 million copies. Achebe, the Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College (NY), received the 2007 Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement in fiction.

"In the United States, in an era of multiculturalism, it ['Things Fall Apart'] has become a fixture on college and high-school reading lists – for Americans, the quintessential novel about Africa," wrote Peter Monaghan in the Feb. 8, 2008 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

More than 25 distinguished international guest writers and artists have been specifically invited to participate in the conference, including the following:

Chimamanda Adichie, the 30-year old Nigerian-born author of "Purple Hibiscus" (2003), which won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and "Half of a Yellow Sun" (August, 2006), set before and during the Biafran War in Nigeria, which was awarded Great Britain's Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (2007). She is the noon-2 p.m. Thursday, April 24 WOCALA luncheon keynote speaker.

Sefi Atta, who was born in Nigeria in 1964 and trained as a chartered accountant at Birmingham University (England). Atta began to write while working as a CPA in New York. Her short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Review and Mississippi Review, and her radio plays have been broadcast by the BBC. "Twilight Trek" won the International PEN David T.K.Wong Prize for Short Fiction (2005); and her first novel, "Everything Good Will Come," earned the inaugural Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa (2006). She is the Friday, April 25 ALA banquet keynote speaker.

Paul Bandia, is an associate professor of French studies the University of Concordia, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His research and expertise is also in literal and cultural translation and African Diaspora. Bandia will give the Tuesday, April 23 TRACALA Caucus luncheon keynote speech.

Alek Baylee Toumi, is an associate professor of French at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Included in his specializations is Francophone (French speaking) studies, and he has published a monograph, "Maghreb Divers," on the problem of French language in post colonial North Africa. He is also a poet and playwright, having authored seven plays. Toumi will be the Saturday, April 26 Francophone Caucus luncheon speaker.

Jamaica Kincaid, born in Antigua, moved to New York to work as an au pair when she was a teenager. She started working as a fact checker at Forbes magazine. She became a regular contributor to the New Yorker magazine for nearly 20 years (1976-1995). Kincaid's stories and novels depict family relationships and colonialism in her homeland.

Abiola Irele, a visiting professor of African and African American studies and of romance languages and literatures at Harvard University, is a former president of ALA (1992-1993). A prolific writer, Irele has authored more than 90 articles, essays and book chapters; has compiled and edited volumes in more than 20 books; and has written extensively on francophone African philosophy. Irele will be the Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" 50th Anniversary luncheon speaker on Friday, April 25.

Papa Susso, a master kora (African harp-lute) player and oral historian from The Gamba, West Africa, a goodwill ambassador who has performed at Carnegie Hall and with major U.S. symphonies, will give performances and take part in roundtable discussions.

Tunde Kelani, is a well-known film director, editor, cinematographer, producer and actor in Nigeria, which is the third largest producer of feature films behind only the U.S. and India. He will present a world premiere of "Life in Slow Motion," his first film produced for television on environment in England during a 7:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24 session, which also will include the showing of "Ezra," a 2007 Grand Prize Etalon de Yennega, INALCO Award and UNFPA Award; and Best Film award of the Durban Festival by Newton I. Aduaka.

Newton I. Aduaka, who was born in Eastern Nigeria in 1966, studied video arts, post-production, film history, art and technique while earning a degree at the London International Film School in 1990. His debut feature film, "Rage" (2000), received critical acclaim and had great success in international film festivals with awards including Best Director at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. "Rage" was also distinguished as the first independent film by a black filmmaker to gain a national release in Britain.

Conference convener Na'Allah will participate in the 4-5:45 p.m. Friday, April 25 African Language Performance Panel: TFA in Translation -Yoruba, Igbo, kiSwahili, Gikuyu, Tigrinya, Wolof, Zulu, Krio. Na'Allah has authored "Ahmadu Fulani: An African Poetry" (Africa World Press), a collection of poems in English, Yoruba and Hausa which explore the oral performance of Ilorin and Sokoto cultures in his native Nigeria, as well as themes of universal importance: human justice and environmental degradation. He is also the editor of "The People's Poet: Emerging Perspectives on Niyi Osundare" (Africa World Press); and co-editor with Bayo Ogunjimi of "Introduction to African Oral Literature and Performance," which includes teaching and curriculum development suggestions to encourage student performance.

Attending professors Phanuel Egejuru, Loyola University, New Orleans and Pamela Smith, University of Nebraska, Omaha, will present African Literature Resources for K-12 Teachers from 3-4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24 at Macomb Junior-Senior High School.

Also on Thursday, a writers' panel is scheduled from 4-5:45 p.m. at Sullivan Taylor Coffee House on the Macomb Square, featuring Sefi Atta, Chimamanda Adieche and Chukwumeka Ike.

Several conference participants will be at New Copperfield's Book Service on the Macomb Square from 4-5:45 p.m. Friday, April 25 to sign their books. Authors scheduled to sign include Veronique Tadjo, Sefi Atta, Tanure Ojaide and Niyi Osundare.

Co-sponsors for the conference include Western Illinois University's Office the President; Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Center for International Studies; College of Arts and Sciences; African American studies, English and journalism and foreign languages and literature departments; Monmouth College; Spoon River College; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Center for African Studies and Northwestern University's Program of African Studies.

The Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau ( has coordinated the conference registration.

For more information about the 34th Annual African Literature Association Conference, visit, e-mail or contact call 309/298-1181.

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