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General News of Tuesday, 11 November 1997

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Nobel Laureate Calls For Pan-African Publishers Network

Accra, (Greater Accra) 7 Nov. Madam Nadine Gordimer, the 1991 Nobel literature laureate from South Africa, today called for the development of a Pan-African network of publishers and distributors to promote the works of African writers. "After almost two generations of independence African writers need such a network to break the monopoly of big international publishers and provide Africans an easy access to African literature", she said, to the applause from an audience of more than 200 writers, students, expatriates and the public in Accra. Madam Gordimer was delivering a paper on the theme: "The Status of the Writer in the World: Which World, Whose World", at the second Pan-African Writers' Association (PAWA) annual lectures. The lectures, organised by PAWA, is in connection with the five- day celebration of the Fifth International African Writers' Day, set aside by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) for people to reflect on the importance of the African writer to the destiny of Africa and Africans. Madam Gordimer lamented over the proliferation of foreign cultural pressures on Africans and suggested the formation of an Organisation of African Culture, along the lines of the OAU, to safeguard Pan-African culture and arts. She declared it as a challenge to ethnic groups in Africa which have the pride to show the world what they have to offer. Madam Gordimer mentioned neo-colonialism, wars and economic hegemony as some of the challenges facing the African writer whom she described as "the repository of the ethos of a people", providing them with true revelations of themselves. She said freedom of expression is the "oxygen of creativity" for writers representing their significance to society, adding, "and this is what oppressive regimes hate". The South African Nobel laureate, who was with the African National Congress (ANC) during the apartheid struggle, mentioned Nigeria as the leader of suppressive regimes on the continent, citing the hanging of the famous Nigerian writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, as an example. According to her, Ghana and South Africa are some of the few African countries where freedom of expression exists. She noted with concern the lack of writers in an era which demands more African literature saying some writers are entering politics which "falls outside the sign of our true calling". Madam Gordimer called for a new generation of African writers to continue from where the post-independence writers left off. She stressed the need for African writers to read each other's works to learn from the beliefs and experiences of their peers in their struggle against political and economic oppression. She suggested that African writers use English, French and Portuguese, languages bequeathed by colonialists, to break the existing language barrier and promote African language and literature. Madam Gordimer drew similarities in the climate, history and plight of Africa and South America and called for more South-South cooperation to break western monopoly in world affairs. Prof. Femi Osofisan, PAWA Vice-President for West Africa, presided at the function which was also attended by the PAWA Vice- Presidents of North and Southern Africa.