Celebrating African Women Writers
April 4-11, 2010
Long time BTN member and specialist in African women in theatre, Kathy A. Perkins is coordinating the inaugural Writers from Africa & the Diaspora Festival with the theme Celebrating African Women Writers. The event will pay tribute to writings - plays, novels, poetry, short stories and films - by African women.
The Department of Theatre in cooperation with the Center for African Studies (CAS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will host. All Events are free and open to the Public. The goal is to expose the University of Illinois community to works by African women, and to broaden this experience with partners in Chicago. The plans are for the festival to become a biannual event growing in scale and function with each future occurrence.
Seven prominent African artists will be in residence over seven days. The visiting artists will provide four days of performances and will participate in two roundtable discussions involving additional prominent scholars. One roundtable will focus on African women and performance, and the other will center on publishing and the inclusion of works by African women into university curriculum. The final day will culminate with a community-wide celebration featuring music, dance, and poetry, complemented by African dishes and other continental treats. (for more information visit the U of IL web site)
Artists in Residence
Hope Azeda is a leading figure in contemporary Rwandan theatre. She is the founder, artistic director and choreographer of Mashirika Creative and Performing Arts, one of the major theatre companies in Rwanda. Under her direction, the group collaboratively created Africa’s Hope, which was performed in Kigali at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the genocide, and also at the G8 World Summit in Edinburgh in 2005. The play toured in the UK in 2006 and 2008 and was also featured in the biennial festival in Sweden in 2008. Ms. Azeda’s work as a writer, performer and teacher has taken her to many theaters and universities around the world, including the Biennial Festival in Stockholm and the Caravan Festival in Copenhagen, the International Festival of the Arts in Sophia and tours of the USA, Canada, Austria, Italy, Germany and South Africa. She has also been an artist-in-residence at the Institute for the Arts and Civic Dialogue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition to her theatre work, she served as a casting director for the films Sometimes in April, Shake Hands with the Devil, Shooting Dog and white light. She is currently the President of ARTEJ/ASSITEJ Rwanda (International Association of Theaters for Children and Young People) and serves on the Executive Committee of the ASITEJ International.
Mshai Mwangola (Kenya) is a performance scholar who is also an oraturist, actor, director and storyteller. She holds a doctorate in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, Evanston, Il. (USA); a Masters of Creative Arts from the University of Melbourne, Melbourne (Australia); and a Bachelor of Education from Kenyatta University, Nairobi (Kenya). Her pedagogy, research and creative work is grounded in understanding performance as both the process and product of meaning-making. She has performed, conducted performance workshops, taught and worked with diverse performance ensembles on four continents, with a career stretching over 25 years. Her academic interests include performance and cultural studies, education and the arts broadly defined.
In 2009, besides publishing articles on, among other things, Kenyan cultural institutions, identity and theatre, she was the convenor of the "Worlds of the Indian Ocean" festival and conference (Nairobi, Kenya) for the Aga Khan University’s East African Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the curator of the "Jukwaani! Performance Literature" festival, hosted by the Alliance Française and the Goethe Institute in cooperation with the Kenya Cultural Centre (Nairobi, Kenya). She was also a featured performer and workshop facilitator at the "African Storytelling" festival celebrating the diamond jubilee of the Northwestern University’s Program of African Studies.
Mwangola is the Chairperson of the Governing Council of the Kenya Cultural Centre. She is a member of the Academic Planning Team of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (East Africa), Aga Khan Univ
Malika Ndlovu(aka Lueen Conning) is a Durban-born poet and playwright. She has two poetry anthologies, Born in Africa But and Womb to World: A Labour of Love, besides her pieces featured in several local and international publications. She is dedicated to creating indigenous multi-media works in line with her personal motto “healing through creativity."
Ndlovu is a founder-member of Cape Town-based women writers' collective WEAVE, co-editor of their multi-genre anthology WEAVE’s Ink @ Boiling Point: A selection of 21st Century Black Women’s Writing from the Southern Tip of Africa. In 2004 Ndlovu joined The Mothertongue Project, a women's performing artists, writers and visual artists collective. In August 2006 she returned to her hometown by invitation of The Playhouse Company (Durban) to restage her play A Coloured Place written in 1996, in celebration of the 10th anniversary SA Woman’s Arts Festival. For Human Rights Day 21st March 2007, Ndlovu conceived and facilitated Wordwise: A Celebration of World Poetry Day - inspired by this 1999 UNESCO global initiative and hosted at Iziko Museum's Slave Lodge in collaboration with the Cape Town City Council.
In November 2008 she launched her new solo poetry anthology entitled Truth is Both Spirit and Flesh and her poetic memoir Invisible Earthquake: A Woman’s Journal Through Stillbirth in March 2009. Ndlovu’s latest play Sister Breyani had its world premiere at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in 2009and later moved to the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town for a successful run.
Chantal Synman is an artist and cultural worker. She is a founder-member of the Wentworth Arts and Culture Organisation (WACO) and of the community theatre company, The Company, which successfully staged Sasol Fever at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre and other venues throughout Durban. She has performed in numerous productions staged at the Playhouse Company in Durban, including Malika Ndlovu’s acclaimed play, A Coloured Place (for which she collaborated on the research); Snapshots (written and directed by herself); Women of Mud and Kweku Anansi. Chantal has worked extensively with the popular Madcaps Educational Theatre Company, creating edutainment and industrial theatre. She holds a degree in humanities from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She has worked for the eThekwini Municipality as a Heritage and Culture Consultant. In February 2009 her new play Conversations with my Ex launched with great success at the Musho! Festival in Durban.
Andia Kisia (Kenya) was born in Nairobi, Kenya and is a novelist, dramatist, and screenwriter. In 2001, Kisia published her first work, a short story, A Likely Story, in Kwani? (So What?), a Kenyan literary magazine. She is also the author of two radio plays, K Street (2002) and The Homecoming (2003), both of which won the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) African Performance Playwriting Competition and were later performed for BBC Radio. In addition, Andiah has written a stage play, The Roosting (2003) which premiered at the Phoenix Theatre in 2003. She has written a film, The Aftermath (produced by M-Net Nairobi in 2002), a dramatization of the plight of a child soldier returning from a civil war.
In 2004 Kisia was a playwriting resident at the Royal Court in London, where she began work on an as yet untitled play. That same year, she published a short story, A Turn in the West, in the short story collection, A is for Ancestors: a Selection of Works from the Caine Prize for AfricanWriting. Recently, she has written A Bronx Tale, a children’s play for Riksteatern in Sweden and is at work on her first novel. She is currently studying at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Amandina Lihamba (Tanzania) is a professor in Theatre Arts and has recently completed her tenure as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of the University of Dar-es-Salaam. Besides her academic and creative writings, she has worked as a performer and director for the stage and screen. Her research and writing interests include culture, politics, communication, the arts, gender studies and education. She was one of the pioneers of initiatives for gender equity and equality in education and the arts including the Tuseme program, which has received international and regional attention. A recipient of Rockefeller, Fulbright and other fellowship awards, she has been the chair and member of numerous regional and national organizations of theatre, culture, media, gender and governance. She is one of the editors of The Eastern Region of the Women Writing Africa (2007) series published by the Feminist Press.
Sandra L. Richardsis Professor of African American Studies and Theatre with a courtesy appointment in Performance Studies at Northwestern University. A graduate of Stanford and Brown universities, she has published numerous articles on African-American and Nigerian dramatists and is the author of Ancient Songs Set Ablaze: The Theatre of Femi Osofisan. From 2001-2004, she held the Leon Forrest Professorship of African American Studies that supported ongoing research on issues of cultural tourism to slave sites throughout the Black Atlantic. Publications from that project have appeared in Africa and Trans-Atlantic Memories: Literary and Aesthetic Manifestations of Diaspora and History (2008); Considering Calamity: Methods for Performance Research (2007); The Sage Handbook of Performance Studies (2006);and Theatre Journal (2005). At Northwestern, she teaches courses on African American, African, and American drama, black feminist theories, performances of memory, display performance, and spectatorship in museums and theatres.
Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka(Nigeria) is an Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Theater and Film at the University of Kansas. Her area of specialty is African literature and theatre with emphasis on women’s writing. Part of her research borders on the African Diaspora, particularly on the use of theatre and its depiction of women during independent struggles; there are remarkable similarities in the experiences of continental Africans. She also concentrates on the intersection of national and gender identities in African women’s creative writings (prose and drama) and their impact on critical theory of African literature since the 1970's. Her publications and projects include Yoruba Dance: The Semiotics of Movement and Body Attitude in a Nigerian Culture; Negritude, Feminism and the Quest for Identity: Re-reading Mariama Bo’s So Long a Letter; “Gender and the Revolutionary Ethos in Morountodun” in Femi Osofisan: Interpretative Essays 1; and “Performing Phillis Wheatly: Research Notes.” She also enjoys the practical aspects of theatre training. Examples are the creation and performance of “Phyllis Wheatly”: the 18th century African poetess; choreography of Many Colors Make The Thunder King at the Gutherie Lab. Theatre; and directing “Sistahs and Brothers in Identity Crisis.”
Praise Zenenga (Zimbabwe) holds an interdisciplinarydoctorate in theater and drama fromNorthwestern University. He also teaches in theAfricana Studies program at the University ofArizona. His teaching and research areasinclude African theater and dance aestheticsand theater for social change. Before coming to the United States, Zenenga was a lecturer at the University of Harare in Zimbabwe and worked throughout the country with Theatre for Development.
|Celebrating Writers of the African Diaspora Festival is made possible by the Center for African Studies, with financial support provided in part from the Title VI program of the US Department of Education and the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois. Co-sponsors include Allen Hall/Unit One, PAR/Global Crossroads, College of Fine and Applied Arts Creative Research Award, Office of the Provost, Dean’s Office - College of Liberal Arts and Science, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Department of African American Studies, Department of English, Comparative and World Literature, Center for Global Studies, International Programs and Studies, School of Social Work, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, Lorado Taft Lectureship on Art Fund/College of Fine and Applied Arts, and Women and Gender in Global Perspectives.|