New literary series views Africa through African eyes

Wed Aug 4, 2010 7:54am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Yinka Ibukun

LAGOS (Reuters Life!) - Tired of reading accounts of Africa through the eyes of outsiders, 14 African writers have set out to document the diversity of their content in a series of books and blogs partly inspired by the soccer World Cup.

The first World Cup to be held in Africa triggered a wave of pan-African solidarity as fans from Dakar to Dar Es Salaam threw their support behind African teams, hoping the home advantage would boost the continent's chances of success.

But the tournament also highlighted the rich diversity of a continent all too often lumped together by the West as a monolithic block blighted by conflict, hunger and corruption.

"For 400 years, Africa's history was hijacked by Europe. The great travel books were all written by Europeans. Africans didn't talk about Africa," said Alain Mabanckou, from Congo Republic, one of the writers taking part in the project.

"Instead, it was the European who explained Africa to him. Now, we want to know how an African sees a fellow African country," said Mabanckou, a recipient of France's prestigious literary award, the Prix Renaudot.

The Pilgrimages Project, sponsored by the U.S.-based Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artistes, involves the 14 writers exploring an African city not previously well known to them and documenting their experiences in 14 30,000-word books.

"It's great being an African tourist. I don't stand out and many things are familiar so I can concentrate on details," Ugandan author Doreen Baingana told Reuters by telephone from Hargeisa, in the breakaway Somali enclave of Somaliland.

"Goats in a city, for example, do not surprise me in the way they would if I were from the UK," she said, the animals bleating in the background behind her.   Continued...