Keynote and Sponsored Speakers

Ama Ata Aidoo is one of the most respected and prolific writers from the African continent.  Born in Gold Coast (now Ghana) to a royal household, she was educated at the Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast, and attended the University of Ghana at Legon, where she studied both writing and drama.  She published her first work, the play The Dilemma of a Ghost in 1964 and has since published an additional play, Anowa, as well as novels (most notably Our Sister Killjoy (1977) and Changes (1991), for which she was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize), and several collections of poems and short stories.  Her works chronicle the transition from colonization to decolonization and reflect a growing disillusionment with the gap between the hopes for independence and the reality. 

The 70th birthday of Ama Ata Aidoo will be celebrated with a staged reading from her two plays on Saturday, April 14th at 2:00 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Theater on the SMU campus.  This will be followed by the launching of her newest book of short stories, Diplomatic Pounds and Other Stories as well as the launch of a festschrift in her honor, Essays in Honour of Ama Ata Aidoo at 70.

Jean-Pierre Bekolo was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon and is one of the most innovative African film directors.  He studied physics at the University of Yaoundé and then went to Paris, where he studied film at the National Institute of the Audiovisual (INA), notably under celebrated semiotic film theorist Christian Metz.  Bekolo released his first feature-length film, Quartier Mozart (1992) at the age of just 25.  The film, which explores male-female relationships among young people in Yaoundé, exhibits elements of magical realism, melodrama, and film noir, and also reflects the influence of African-American filmmaker Spike Lee.  The film was shown at Cannes, and went on to critical acclaim, winning awards at FESPACO, the Montréal Film Festival, and the Locarno Film Festival, and receiving a nomination for a British Film and Television Award.  His other films include Le Complot d’Aristote / Aristotle’s Plot (1996),  Les Saignantes / The Bloodiest (2005), and the short film, La Grammaire de grand-mère / Grandmother’s Grammar (1996), on the Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety.

We will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Quartier Mozart, with a special screening, in the presence of the filmmaker, on April 13th at 7:00pm in the Hughes-Trigg Theater on the SMU campus.

Bekolo's other films will be screened as part of the ALA film series at the Adolphus Hotel, April 11-15.


Fabien Eboussi Boulaga studied at the Minor Seminary of Akono in southern Cameroon before entering the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1955. He was ordained 1969 and incorporated into the Society of Jesus in 1973. Boulaga left the Jesuits in 1980 and has been a professor at the University of Yaoundé, University of Abidjan and most recently the Institute Catholique de Yaoundé in Cameroon. Boulaga spent a year at Harvard and has been a guest at other universities and also frequently presented at conferences and symposia worldwide.

Featured Speaker:

Charles Cantalupo is Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and African Studies at Penn State. His new memoir is titled Joining Africa – From Anthills to Asmara. His translations include three books of Eritrean poetry, We Have Our Voice and We Invented the Wheel (poems by Reesom Haile) and, with Ghirmai Negash, Who Needs a Story? – Contemporary Eritrean Poetry in Tigrinya, Tigre and Arabic. A monograph, War and Peace in Contemporary Eritrean Poetry is based on the poetry in Who Needs a Story? His other books include two collections of edited essays on Ngugi wa Thiong’o; two collections of poetry, Anima/l Woman and Other Spirits and Light the Lights; and  A Literary Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes's Masterpiece of Language. With major grants from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and others, Cantalupo co-chaired Against All Odds: African Languages and Literatures into the 21st Century in Asmara, Eritrea, in January 2000. He is the writer and director of the documentary Against All Odds and a co-author of the historic “Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures."

Sponsored Speakers:

Pius Adesanmi is the internationally-acclaimed winner of the Penguin Prize for African Writing in the creative non-fiction category for his  bestselling book, You're Not a Country, Africa. His first book, The Wayfarer and Other Poems, won the Association of Nigerian Authors Poetry Prize in 2001. One of Nigeria's major public intellectuals of the post-Soyinka generation, Adesanmi holds a First Class Honours degree in French from the University of Ilorin, a Masters in French from the University of Ibadan, and a PhD in French from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He has since pursued a career as a writer and scholar of Francophone and Anglophone African and Black Diasporic literatures and cultures. He was an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, USA, from 2002-2005 before moving to his current position as an Associate Professor of English and African Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. A widely-published commentator on Nigerian and African affairs, his weekly op-ed column is syndicated by many African newspapers and blogs.


Dr. Adesanmi's presentation is sponsored by the Graduate Student Caucus of the ALA

Zaynab Alkali was born in 1950 in Tura-Wazila community of Borno State, Nigeria. She was educated at the Queen Elizabeth

Secondary School in Ilorin, Ahmado Bello University in Zaria, and Bayero University in Kano. She has had a long and distinguished career as a writer, publishing  three novels, The Stillborn (1984), The Virtuous Woman (1987)  and The Descendants (2005), as well as a collection of short stories, Cobwebsand Other Stories (1997), as well as poems, and a collection of short stories in German.  She has held various teaching posts in institution such as at Bayero University, the University of Maiduguri, and Modibbo Adama College, U.of Maiduguri. Alkali's work explores various themes ranging from the influence of religion--her father converted to Christianity and she subsequently convertedto Islam--to the connections and disconnections between feminism and women's lives in Africa.  She has also published an essay on the subject entitled "Feminism: A Radical Theme in West African Literature."

Dr. Alkali's presentation is sponsored by the Woman's Caucus of the ALA. 

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 (USA); a Master of Creative Arts from the University of Melbourne, Melbourne (Australia); anda 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. Her academic interests and experiences include performance and cultural studies, education and the arts, broadly defined. 

Dr. Mwangola's presentation is sponsored by the Translation Caucus of the ALA.

Please note that Mohmood Mamdani has withdrawn from the conference due to a scheduling conflict.

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