Literary Activism in Contemporary Africa

Literature has always played a key role in social and political life in Africa, even when it is not deliberately or obviously activist in its aims or form.

African writers like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Obi Wali and poets Christopher Okigbo and Stella Nyanzi have long been seen as key thinkers and engaged intellectuals.Tracing this history, this lecture shows how creative work changes society and discusses the role of literary collectives such as Chimureng, Jalada, and Bakwa.


Tracing the history of literary influence, this lecture delves into the profound impact that creative works have had on African societies. Through their novels, essays, and poems, these writers have explored themes such as colonisation, post-colonial identity struggles, cultural heritage, and the tensions between tradition and modernity.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s commitment to writing in his native Kikuyu language, for instance, highlights the importance of linguistic decolonisation and cultural reclamation.

Date: Thursday, 12 Oct 2023

Time: 18:00

Venue: Barnard’s Inn Hall

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Professor Madhu Krishnan

Madhu Krishnan is Professor of African, World and Comparative Literatures at the University of Bristol, where she currently serves as Director for the Centre for Black Humanities.

She is author of Contemporary African Literature in English: Global Locations, Postcolonial Identifications (2014), Writing Spatiality in West Africa: Colonial Legacies in the Anglophone/Francophone Novel (2018) and Contingent Canons: African Literature and the Politics of Location (2018).

She is currently working on a five-year project funded by the ERC titled ‘Literary Activism in Sub-Saharan Africa: Commons, Publics and Networks of Practice’.