For almost half a century Dennis Brutus was at the forefront of the campaign to bring down the apartheid system in South Africa, the place where he was born and which gave him the awareness of racism, poverty and injustice that has informed his work ever since. In 1963 Brutus was shot by the police in South Africa and later imprisoned for 18 months alongside Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. After being exiled from his homeland, Brutus became a prominent political organizer, who in 1970 led the successful campaign to expel apartheid South Africa from the Olympic Games. While working as a university lecturer in the US, he also became a pioneering advocate of postcolonial studies within academia, helping to introduce African literature as a category within the curriculum.

Ekwe-Ekwe no doubt has Nigeria centrally in mind when he concluded his excellent study by stating: "The African 'nation-state' has now run the course of its bloody trail in history. The greatest challenge facing Africans in the new millennium is to dismantle this state and create new state forms based on Africa's critical re-engagement with its rich cultural heritage." Clearly, the author calls for an extensive decentralisation of the African political landscape "away from the murderous over-centralising ethos of the present 'nation-state.'" In such an outcome of Africa-wide "decentring of existing socio-economic life," Ekwe-Ekwe continetalises the validity of Biafranism as localised, grassroots/community empowerment and democracy across Africa. These new state forms, imbued with an organic sensibility that replaces the widespread alienation of the present, is better placed to build an "advanced civilisation for the people" -- to feed, clothe, educate, house and provide peace and security, and create the enabling environment for the development and enhancement of the human potential.

Olaniyan does several things at the same time. He captures the movement of Fela from an artist who imitates to an artist who has found his own distinctive voice that becomes Afro Beat. If Fela was many things, he was first a musician committed to developing his craft and its form. Olaniyan also traces the movement of Fela from an artist who at first created art for its sake, to entertain or for that matter for money, then to one who merely raised questions of morality (a benign humanism or reformism if you will) and finally to an artist who was socially committed. As a socially committed artist, Fela put his creativity, his music and its form in the service of African and Nigerian socio-political issues. Olaniyan in the introduction writes that in Fela’s development to becoming a socially committed artist, there are “three distinct stages that are recognizable: the apolitical hustler, the moral reformer, and the dissident political activist” (3).

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie brings a lucid intelligence and compassion to the painful history of Biafra in Half of a Yellow Sun, says Maya Jaggi. Maya Jaggi was a judge of this year's Caine prize for African writing. The novel's structure, moving in chunks between the late and early 60s, is not without blips. At times I wondered how far Ugwu's omnivorous reading was reflected in his development. But these are quibbles in a landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance. There is a rare emotional truth in the sexual scenes, from Ugwu's adolescent forays and the mature couples' passions, to the ugliness of rape.

These are the preoccupations of the first two lectures. The third lecture and essay in this book deals with the present situation and the balance of the forces or as Achebe puts it the balance of stories. As usual Achebe speaks through stories. "Let us imagine a man who stumbles into an alien ritual in its closing stages when the devotees are winding down to a concluding chorus of amens, and who immediately and enthusiastically takes up the singing with such loudness and gusto that the owners of the ritual stop their singing and turn, one and all, to look in wonder at this postmodernist stranger. Their wonder increases tenfold when they ask the visitor later what kind of modernism his people had had, and it transpires that neither he nor his people have ever heard the word modernism." Here Achebe was making reference to a statement which Buchi Emecheta made to Adeola James some years ago.
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