UT to host symposium for African writers

Aimée Santillán

Starting Tuesday, the Department of English will bring five writers of contemporary African literature to the Union as part of its Symposium for African Writers.

Aaron Bady, English lecturer and postdoctoral fellow, said the event is expected to provide an introduction to writers who represent contemporary African literature and for them to read and discuss each other’s work. According to Bady, the symposium — sponsored by the Ethnic and Third World Literatures specialization, the Department of English, the UT Africa Program and the Michener Center for Writers — will include talks from Taiye Selasi, Maaza Mengiste, Sofia Samatar, Nnedi Okorafor and Laila Lalami.

“The symposium was created on a desire to bring some of the most exciting African writers that are writing right now,” Bady said. “We want for them to have a conversation about what it means to be a writer in the 20th century — and particularly for this group of people that are very global.”

Bady said each of the writers will bring a different subject to the event. He said Okorafor and Samatar are science-fiction and fantasy writers who will speak about the concept of Afrofuturism, which is fantasy with an awareness or an interest in Africa. He also said the goal was for those two writers to have a conversation with another more conventional literary writer, specifically Selasi, who is known for her Afropolitan writing, which emphasizes ordinary experiences in Africa.

The other two writers, Lalami and Mengiste, are historical-fiction writers who will discuss unknown or unpopular historical stories that took place in Africa, according to Bady.

“I think this is a great introduction to some really amazing writers whose work doesn’t necessarily get around,” Bady said. “In a lot of ways, these five writers represent where African literature is going.”

Selasi will open the symposium, then it will continue through Wednesday with talks from the other authors. The symposium will conclude with a panel of all five writers conversing with each other. 

“This is a chance to put a conversation between these writers and to see what they have to say to each other,” Bady said. “I’m very excited to see what they have to say to each other and how that conversation will look like because it is a conversation that doesn’t happen often.”

An earlier version of this article misstated the hosting department. The English department will host the symposium.