Prof. Véronique Tadjo from the School of Literature, Language and Media in the Faculty of Humanities will deliver her inaugural address entitled The Cartography of African Literature: Beyond borderson Wednesday, 22 August 2012 at 17:30 for 18:00 in the Senate Room, 2nd Floor, Senate House. The lecture will cover the impact of oral tradition and its persistence in the shaping of contemporary African literature. The importance of history and memory as well as the relevance of francophone literature in strengthening an inter-African conversation will be highlighted.
Véronique Tadjo was born in Paris and grew up in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. She has a BA in English from Abidjan University and a doctorate degree in African American Literature and Civilization from the Sorbonne. In 1983 she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Howards University in Washington, D.C. and then went on to lecture at Abidjan University.
She has travelled extensively in Africa, Europe and America and has lived with her family in Lagos, Nairobi and London.
Tadjo’s work includes two collections of poems, Laterite/Red Earth, which won a literary award and several novels among which The Shadow of Imana: Travels in the Heart of Rwanda which bears witness to the genocide and Queen Pokou: Concerto for a Sacrifice based on an ancient Akan myth. It was awarded the prestigious prize, “Le Grand Prix Littéraire d’Afrique Noire” in 2005. Her most recent novel, Far away from my Father is a story set against a backdrop of looming civil strife in Côte d’Ivoire that highlights the tension between tradition and modernity, between faith practices and scientific truth, as well as the deceptive legacy of polygamy. Each of her novels explores the dynamics of an individual’s most intimate relationships and the social contexts that shape them. She is also a writer of children’s literature, an illustrator and a painter.
Her work has been translated into many languages, including English, Swedish, Italian, German, Vietnamese, Xhosa and Afrikaans.
In the contest of her academic work, Tadjo’s research interest focuses on African literature; the issue of the French language in Africa; Memory and Trauma and the resilience of oral traditions in urban settings. She teaches French and francophone literature, language as well as translation. She is the Head of French Studies in the School of Literature & Language Studies.
The cartography of African literature: Beyond borders - A writer’s perspective
Each African writer must trace his or her own path inside the cartography of literature on the continent. My journey started with a trip across the Sahara and ended up in a remote town in the north of Côte d’Ivoire. Although it was only the beginning of many other trips and discoveries, it was there that I began to understand fully the impact of oral tradition and its persistence in the shaping of contemporary African literature. Of course, I wasn’t alone in thinking along these lines as I hope to demonstrate with book extracts from the works of some key African writers across the language barrier. In this paper, I shall argue that modernity can be derived from the synthesis between the old and the new. The importance of history and memory will also be highlighted. The motivations behind the process of writing and the essential role played by the readership in the emergence of a strong literature will be discussed. Lastly, I shall analyse why it would be beneficial to have a greater access to francophone and lusophone literatures in South Africa.