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Africa, Culture, World Art

Writer as Anthropologist


The other day I found a gold mine in the Nigerian-born singer/songwriter Keziah Jones. I was listening to Pandora and I heard this beautiful music pouring out. Immediately, I looked him up and ordered one of his discs. After ordering one of his discs it occurred to me, how many other musicians/artists/writers are out there that I haven’t heard of who are doing excellent work?

After listening to his music for the past week it occurred to me that in terms of culture as an American I’ve been grossly deprived. I went to a historically black college and didn’t read not one African text. I couldn’t name any poets who are living on the continent or at least were born on the continent with the exception of Chris Abani who’s mostly noted for his fiction.

As writers, I believe culture work is one of the implied clauses of being a writer/artist. It troubles me that when I meet writers from other places, I can’t have a conversation with them about their literature or music or film. This all must change.

So, I’m enlisting all of my readers to send me small vignettes that detail how they’ve encountered African authors, poets, filmmakers, maybe you’ve traveled to the Continent. I’m hoping this can be a collaborative discovery.

Won’t you join me in this cultural tour, finding out the writers, musicians, artists of the African Diaspora? And next we can move to other continents.

About Abdul Ali

I'm a fellow at American University studying creative nonfiction and poetry. I write across a few genres but it's all brought together by larger questions about culture.


2 thoughts on “Writer as Anthropologist

  1. Hey Abdul. This blog is cool. Just what it needs to be and no more. Oh – that reminds me. I have some funny stories about Moroccan music. OK ttyl. xox

    Posted by Laura Hartmark | October 27, 2009, 1:12 AM
  2. This is really old, but no one’s mentioned any names, so I might as well start.

    From South Africa:
    James Percy Fitzpatrick wrote “Jock of the Bushveld.” It’s a good book, (a bit like Wilson Rawls’ “Where the Red Fern Grows”). Also from SA, is Nadine Gordimer. I’ve only read “July’s People,” a book I hated, but that could definitely be because she didn’t use standard punctuation. There’s also Ahmed Essop, (I dislike most of his work, but you might enjoy it). Mandoza is a singer, (his best song may be Nkalakatha). Bryce Courtenay wrote a fantastic book, “The Power of One,” and I’ve heard of, but never read Mark Mathabane’s “Kaffir Boy.”

    And isn’t Chinua Achebe from Nigeria?

    Posted by inkomazi | January 29, 2013, 1:06 AM

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