Monday, July 10, 2017

My Forthcoming Presentation to Global Minnesota

I have been invited by Global Minnesota to give a presentation on African verbal art on July 12.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Global Conversations: African Folktales to Contemporary Authors

JULY 12 @ 6:00 PM CDT / Free

From ancient oral traditions to contemporary literature, African stories reflect wisdom, cultural identities, and social values developed over countless generations. Join us, St. Olaf College Associate Professor Joseph Mbele, and Augsburg College Associate Professor Mzenga Wanyama for an exploration of how these stories find expression today, both in Africa and in the African diaspora.

Joseph Mbele, Associate Professor of English at St. Olaf College, is a folklorist and author. His writings, including Matengo Folktales, illuminate the underlying values that shape cultures. Dr. Mbele has done fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, and the U.S., and has given lectures and presented conference papers in Canada, Finland, India, Israel, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and the U.S. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin and before coming to St. Olaf in 1990 to teach post-colonial and third-world literature, he taught in the Literature Department at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Over the years, he has taught courses such as Swahili Literature, Theory of Literature, African Literature, Sociology of Literature, Postcolonial and Third World Literature, The Epic, and African-American Literature.

Mzenga Aggrey Wanyama, Associate Professor of English at Augsburg College, was born and raised in Kenya where he received his bachelor’s of education and master’s degrees from the University of Nairobi and then taught English language and literature in Kenyan High schools and at Kenyatta University. In the United States, he had a two-year stint in the graduate program at Howard University in Washington, D.C. before attending the University of Minnesota where he earned a Ph.D. in English. Mzenga also worked as an Assistant Professor of English at St. Cloud State University where he taught courses in literature and writing. His areas of focus are Postcolonial theory and literature and African American literary history.

Presented in partnership with the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library.

Global Conversations: African Folktales to Contemporary Authors
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
6:00 PM

Friday, July 7, 2017

My Talk at Winona State University

On 27 June, I visited Winona State University, to give a talk I had mentioned on this blog. I spoke about Africans and African Americans, highlighting issues and challenges that have faced them historically, and which continue to influence their relationships.

I started with a discussion of the centrality of Africa as the cradle of the human race, the place where language, technology, and literature originated and evolved. The current division between Africans and African Americans did not exist then. It was brought about, primarily, by the Atlantic slave trade, which resulted in the two populations undergoing separate histories. That is the origin of the vexed relationship we witness today between Africans and African Americans.

Fortunately, I have learned about these problems over the years through my involvement with Pan African organizations in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. During my talk, I referred to what I wrote in a blog post regarding misconceptions and stereotypes that Africans and African Americans hold about one another.

I emphasized that Africans and African Americans need to learn about each other's history. Africans need to learn about the African American experience, from the time of slavery, through the civil rights era, to the present time. Likewise, African Americans need to learn about the experience of Africans especially regarding the slave trade, colonialism and the struggle against it, and neo-colonialism.

Africans and African Americans need to learn about the struggles that have defined the black experience in Africa and in the Diaspora, manifested in movements such as Pan-Africanism, anti-colonialism, and the civil rights movement. Without this serious and enduring effort, the relations between Africans and African Americans will continue to be unnecessarily problematical.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Conversation With Patrick Hemingway

Today, I called Patrick Hemingway, largely to wish him a happy birthday, which was June 28. I called him on that day, in the evening, but failed to reach him. Today I was lucky. As usual Carol received the call and called Patrick to the phone.

First I greeted him in the proper Tanzanian way, "Shikamoo." He responded in his usual jovial manners, and when I told him "Happy Birthday," he was pleasantly surprised that I remembered the day. I told him that the date is imprinted in my mind and makes me recall my visit to the Kansas City home where he was born.

As usual, we started talking about books. Patrick mentioned a book by an Israeli writer, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and wondered whether I knew about it. I told him I didn't, and he talked about it in glowing terms. He then asked if I had read the Ghanaian novel, Homegoing, winner of the 2017 Pen/Hemingway Prize. I told him I had not read it, but had recently received a copy, since I am going to teach it in a summer course on African Literature. He said he liked it very much.

I told Patrick that I was recently in Baltimore, and had bought, in a nearby town, a new book on Hemingway, which dwelt on his career in espionage. I said that whenever I go into a bookstore, I first look at the Hemingway section. He said he does the same. He asked for the title of the book, but I did not have it with me. He asked me to tell him about it after I finish reading it, so he could determine its worth.

I have the sense, from my numerous conversations with Patrick, that he is keenly aware of the shortcomings of writers on Hemingway, even reputable researchers. On the theme of Hemingway and espionage, he shared with me some interesting facts. He said, for example, that Hemingway took him and his young brother on board his boat, which he used to hunt for German submarines in the Caribbean Sea.

I told Patrick that I knew about this boat, called Pilar, but didn't know that his father had taken him and Gregory on board. Patrick also gave me a broader picture of what was going on at that time. The German submarines were active on the eastern side of the USA, seeking to sink oil tankers destined for Europe. Patrick told me this was called Operation Drumbeat. He also talked about what was going on in the Pacific at the time, and in Spain, when Hemingway was there. His remarks inspired me to read the book I had told him about, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961, by Nicholas Reynolds.

We talked about Hemingway's relationship to folklore. I don't recall how we got into this, but Patrick noted that Hemingway owned The Golden Bough, and I mentioned Hemingway's short story, "The Good Lion," which imitates the narrative technique of a folktale. I said that in teaching my course on Hemingway in East Africa, I had discussed this tale as an example of Hemingway's appropriation of folklore.

I told Patrick that I want to write a book on Hemingway and Africa, which would project my perspective which he knows very well, from our phone conversations and the documentary film, Papa's Shadow. Patrick said he will be waiting to read the book, adding that he was flattered that I chose to study Hemingway, when I could have chosen another writer. That is the Patrick I know, always unassuming and big-hearted.