European studies blog

Exploring Europe at the British Library

14 January 2016

West African Literature and Thought in French

Some of the most important contemporary writing in French has emerged from West Africa. As part of the programme of events accompanying the current British Library exhibition West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song, the Library is holding a seminar on West African Literature and Thought in French on Friday 22 January from 10.30-1700 in the Conference Centre.

This event will bring together authors (including leading writer from the Côte d’Ivoire, Véronique Tadjo), publishers, translators and other specialists to explore topics including the history of the Francophone West African book as well as the complex processes of translation between oral and literary cultures and across various other linguistic, historical and political contexts.

The programme for the seminar is:

10.30-11.00  Registration. Tea/ Coffee

11.00-11.10  Welcome: Janet Zmroczek (Head of European and Americas Collections, British Library)

11.10-12.00  Opening Panel:  West Africa at the British Library

  • Marion Wallace (British Library), Overview of the British Library’s current major exhibition ‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’ 
  • Jody Butterworth (British Library), Introduction to the Endangered Archives Programmes based in Francophone West Africa

12.00-12.50  Panel: Introducing West African literature and culture (Chair: Patrick Corcoran)

  • David Murphy (University of Stirling), Négritude and the rest? A brief history of West African Literature in French
  • Chérif Keita (Carleton College), The Sunjata Fasa (The Epic of Sundiata) as the Matrix of Mande Personhood

12.50-13.45  Lunch. A sandwich lunch will be provided.

13.45- 14.45  Round table: Translation and reception (Chair: Charlotte Baker)
With Kathryn Batchelor (University of Nottingham), Georgina Collins (University of Glasgow), Michael Syrotinski, (University of Glasgow), Wangui Wa Goro (SIDENSI)

14.45- 15. 45  Round table: Publishing translated fiction in the UK (Chair: Ruth Bush)
With Becky Nana Ayebia Clarke (Ayebia Clarke Publishing), Suzanne Diop (Présence Africaine Editions), Samantha Schnee (Words without Borders), Audrey Small (University of Sheffield)

15.45-16.00  Tea/Coffee

16.00-17.00 Véronique Tadjo : a reading and a conversation with Nicki Hitchcott (University of Nottingham)

Covers of five books by Veronique Tadjo
A selection of Veronique Tadjo’s books from the British Library’s collections

The seminar has been organised by Teresa Vernon (British Library) and Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool/AHRC) in partnership with the AHRC ‘Translating Cultures’ theme and The Society for French Studies, with the support of the Institut Français. A book stall provided by the Africa Book Centre will be available on the day.

You can book by following the link to our ‘What’s On’ page or by contacting the British Library Box Office ( +44 (0)1937 546546; [email protected]). Prices are £25 (concessions £15-18, see ‘What’s On’ for full details).

The seminar will be followed in the evening by a performance at 19.00 by acclaimed Malian band Trio Da Kali, who will be performing from their own repertoire, before accompanying Chérif Keita’s recitation of the Epic of Sundiata. Please note that separate tickets are required for this event and for visits to the Exhibition itself (open 09.30-18.00) on the day.

Photograph of the Trio Da Kali underneath a tree
Trio Da Kali (photograph: Youri Lenquette)



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