Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Meet the Author" at Afrifest, August 2

Afrifest is an annual Minnesota summer festival which aims to foster awareness of the experience of people of African descent in Africa and the African Diaspora across the ages.

There are always vendors of different products and providers of various services. It is always a delight to be around them. As In the past, I will be there in my capacity as an educator, cultural consultant and author, and here are the books I will have on display.

This is a collection of ten tales from the oral tradition of the Matengo of Southern Tanzania. I recorded them in the mid-seventies, tranlated them into English, and wrote commentaries on them.

This is a study guide to Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe's famous novel.

I wrote this book to foster mutual understanding between Africans and Americans, with a focus on cultural differences which hinder or complicate relations between the two sides.

This is a collection of short essays in Swahili, on economic, political, social, cultural, and educational issues, with a particular focus on the experience of Tanzania, but relevant to the rest of Africa as well.

This pamphlet is a miniature version of ten posters I created for the first Afrifest, 2007. It highlights the African experience from the origins of the human race in Africa to the present, touching on such topics as the ancient African civilizations, slavery and the slave trade, colonialism, the struggle for independence, the arts, and pan Africanism.

For more information on the festival, check the Afrifest website.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Afrifest 2014 is Coming, August 2

Afrifest, now an established annual festival, is coming again, August 2. The venue is North View Junior High School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

As in previous years, this is a great opportunity to meet Africans from Africa and the Diaspora, as well as friends of Africa. People who might just be curious about Africa show up as well. and the Afrifest Festival affords them a uniqe opportunity to meet people and learn many things, through conversations and the exhibits. Some people come having travelled or lived in Africa, and they see the Festival as a good opportunity to reconnect with the continent.

There are, every year, vendors, music and plenty of great food. There are children's activities and games, soccer matches, and other forms of entertainment.

The Afrifest Foundation board has already started planning for the festival. It invites vendors and volunteers, as in the past. Vendors showcase their products and services, and volunteers gain valuable experience in social and cultural programming.

For young people, in particular, volunteering for, and participating in, the Afrifest Festival is a valuable learning opportunity. I value especially the fact that this festival fosters a pan-African consciousness in the future generation as opposed to the ethnic chauvinism, narrow nationalist, and other sectarian tendencies that fuel many of the problems confronting Africa and the African Diaspora.

The Afrifest Festival is a family event. For more information, visit: the Afrifest Foundation site

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Chance Encounter at Mto wa Mbu, Tanzania, With "Oswego Going Global"

In mid January, 2013, I was at Mto wa Mbu, a small town in northern Tanzania. I was with 29 students from St. Olaf College, on an interim course titled "Hemingway in East Africa."

We spent several days at Mto wa Mbu, which Hemingway describes in his Green Hills of Africa.

On one of those days, I came across Protus Mayunga, a man I had not known before. We had a great conversation. It turned out that we had significant common interests, in fields such as cultural tourism.

He was there with a group of students from the State University of New York, Oswego, and their professor, Dr. Mehran Nojan. Protus who founded and runs a small tour company called The Roof of Africa Adventures, was in charge of the logistics of the group's travel, helping with cultural and other forms of orientation for them. You can see Protus at the far right in the photo.

In the morning, I went and met them at their hotel. I learned that they were in a program called Oswego Going Global. It is a program of travel and learning, which takes students to various parts of the world. In Tanzania, their experiences included climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, visiting the national parks, such as the fabled Serengeti, and getting acquainted with the local people.

I thought it was a great program and was impressed by the enthusiasm and resilience of the participants as they went through diferent places, some quite challenging. When we first met, Protus learned that I had written a book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. He obtained the several copies that I had with me and that evening he shared them with his group. Apparently, they enjoyed reading it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Word on my "Africans and Americans" book from Wisconsin Travellers to Tanzania

I appreciate readers' comments on my writings, keeping in mind that they have spent valuable time reading what I wrote, but also sharing their views. They thus create a dialogue which I find enriching.

From time to time, I see such responses to my Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. Several days ago, I saw, online, a report written by a member of a team that visited Tanzania recently, under the auspices of the Leadership Wisconsin:

In the United States we are accustomed to running from place to place, chasing time and cramming all we can into a day. In Tanzania we found a slower pace--we experienced "African Time." The day is not driven by the clock but rather shaped by people's relationships. It is accepted practice to be "late" as a result of lending a helping hand, catching up with an old friend, or extending hospitality to a stranger. This is something we learned prior to landing at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, having read "Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences" by Joseph L. Mbele as part of our seminar prework.

The report, available online, is titled "Safari of a Lifetime Part 1."

Friday, May 9, 2014

I Did Not Teach the Ama Ata Aidoo Seminar

Unfortunately, I could not teach the Ama Ata Aidoo seminar I had planned to teach. I had health problems which led me to apply for six months of medical leave. After spending six weeks in hospital, I am still recovering at home. I hope to return to teaching in the fall.

As in previous years, I had big plans for the summer, but I have had to shelve them. I trust in God and   look forward to better days.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Preparing to Teach a Seminar on Ama Ata Aidoo

When my Department asked me to teach, next spring, a seminar on West African Literature, I thought about various options. I have taught the works of a number of West African writers, such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Sembene Ousmane, Mariama Ba, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ben Okri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have even, several times, taught an advanced course on Soyinka.

This time, however, I thought of doing something different, something I have not done before: a seminar on Ama Ata Aidoo, a writer who has been producing work from the mid sixties, in drama and fiction, and has continued to create.

Nobody would be surprised if someone offered a seminar, on, say, Ayi Kwei Armah, Achebe, or Kofi Awoonor. But a seminar on woman writer seemed out of the ordinary. Yet, there are such writers, including Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta. I therefore thought Ama Ata Aidoo would be an appropriate choice and a great learning experience for me and for the students.

In the late sixties, as a secondary school student in Tanzania, I enjoyed the short stories of Ama Ata Aidoo. I still remember, for example, the story-telling skills she displays in her "In the Cutting of a Drink." Even as a young reader, I found this story fabulous.

I have taught several of Aidoo's works, especially The Dilemma of a Ghost, which I find profound in its exploration of the differences and tensions between Africans and African Americans. I have also taught her other play, Anowa and her novel Our Sister Killjoy.

I look forward to trying to place Ama Ata Aidoo in the context of the last several decades of African writing in English, and in the context of African women's writing.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Conversation With Patrick Hemingway

Three days ago, November 25, I had another wonderful conversation with Patrick Hemingawy. I called him at 5:50pm, and we talked for half an hour.

It is clear that Patrick enjoys our conversations as I do. He was, again, very generous with his comments about Hemingway, and very insightful. I set out to ask him a pecifically about his time in Iringa, Tanzania, and Hemingway's visit there, in 1954.

He told me a great deal, with his characteristic humour and amazing ability to remember details, without mixing up the chronology. He remembers other people who lived there. He gave me valuable hints for a research project I want to undertake this summer in that area, to document Patrick's time there and related matters.

It was very nice to hear him say, again, that when Hemingway hunted in the area, what we call Ruaha National Park today was not yet a national park. That designation came later, with much assistance from Chief Adam Sapi Mkwawa.

Patrick told me about how pleasant life was in the area, for the Africans, without the kind of increased population he knows exists. There was a hotel not far from Sao Hill, owned by an English lady who was an early activist within TANU, the nationalist movement. I knew at once that he was talking about the late Lady Chesham, for he had told me about her in a previous conversation.

The more I talk with Patrick, the more I discover how much he has taken after his father, including an alert mind a great sense of humour. I don't think I have ever met anyone with Patrick Hemingway's sense of humour about wideranging topics, anyone who talks and laughs so much. But he talks about important subjects.

It is a great joy to be or talk with him. He never gets bored and he always holds the audience captive. He is a gifted story teller.

I am always amazed and humbled when he mentions my book,Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, describing it as a very well written book. He has done this every time we have talked, and this time he said plainly that he wishes he could write Swahili as well as I write English. Such a tribute from such such a very famous person, who has written great introductions to Ernest Hemingway's books, and is very highly respected in his own right, is truly humbling.

For an earlier blog post about my first encounter with Patrick Hemingway, read here,