The American University of Nigeria, AUN, on Thursday, February 4, hosted one of Africa's most prolific writers, Prof. Boubacar Boris Diop, in “An Evening of Readings, Drama, and Discussion.”
Venue was the Robert Pastor Library auditorium of the University, and as the title of the event suggests, students took turns to celebrate Prof. Diop through readings, drama and discussion, following the opening remarks by the Interim Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Science, Dr. Jacob U. Jacob, who said that the event was meant to celebrate the iconic literary giant. According to Dr. Jacob, “We are extremely lucky to have him at AUN.”
Then came Ross Hart with the reading of his review of one of Prof. Diop’s many novels, Murambi, the Book of Bones. Hart, whose reading captivated the audience, concluded that the book “is quite a read.” Students of the AUN Academy also thrilled the audience with readings of excerpts from Prof. Diop’s Marina Nkusi. Chinenye Jewe and Yvan Kamanzi, first-year students, concluded the readings session with riveting readings of extracts from yet another of Prof. Diop’s books: Michel Serumundo. The AUN Theatre Group also treated Prof. Diop and the audience to a drama based on a scene in Michel Serumundo.
The discussion segment of the evening, anchored by French and writing instructor, Mrs. Emilienne Akpan, was particularly revealing, as it saw Prof. Diop field questions from members of the audience. Here, Prof. Diop spoke about his visit to Rwanda in the 90s and the subsequent inspiration for writing Murambi, which is essentially based on the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
Prof Diop also discussed the hostile environment for writers in Africa and emphasized the importance of embracing writing in one’s native tongue. According to him, “Africa is the only continent where novelists find it natural to write in a language their own people don't understand.”
Diop, who said that he started writing at age 16, also stressed the importance of reading to writing, and added that, contrary to the view that the first generation African writers like Professors Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka had finished telling Africa’s stories, “This generation has many stories to tell” and has the responsibility of helping leadership emerge from the society with the power of its literary works.
AUN President, Dr. Margee Ensign, expressed joy at having Prof. Diop at the University: “I think this is the beginning of something really important at the University to have this caliber of authors here with us.”
Diop is a highly acclaimed Senegalese journalist, playwright, essayist, and novelist. He is most famous for his novel Murambi, the Book of Bones. One of Africa’s most respected writers, Diop has won several national and international awards for his works, including the Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire. His books, many of which are originally written in French, have been translated into English and several other languages. In the literary world, Diop is known for his ability to skillfully use his characters to illustrate real issues with real implications.
Now a visiting professor at AUN, Diop is teaching writing courses in the Department of Communications and Multimedia Design and the English Language & Literature program.
By Zamiyat Abubakar