A new exhibit opening Monday at Alden Library will offer Ohio University a look at contemporary literature beyond familiar Western works.
“Writing Africa: The New Generation of African Writers” will profile 19 contemporary-fiction writers of African descent. Although many of the authors live in the U.S., their works examine themes distinctly rooted in African identity, such as immigration and experiences in the diaspora.
Araba Dawson-Andoh, subject librarian for African studies and the social sciences at Alden Library, assembled the exhibit to be displayed in the international collections on the first floor of the library, which typically displays works with international themes.
If You Go:
What: Writing Africa: The New Generation of African Writers
Where: International Collection, First floor, Alden Library
“There’s been lots of news about new African authors, so I wanted the Ohio University community to get to know (them),” she said. “It’s mostly a profile. You have information on the themes and the awards (the authors) won and then also some of the titles they’ve written.”
Dawson-Andoh said many courses offered at OU include works by some of the authors that will be displayed in the exhibit, and students may view it to get a look at those texts and other materials the library has in its collection.
“We are in a global world and this is an academic institution, so I think the campus community has to be broad-minded about what’s going on in the world,” she said. “So maybe people will think there are only authors from the U.S., but this will show that there are writers from other places, and also what are their interests and the themes they write about.”
Jordan Snively, a sophomore in the pre-veterinary program, enjoys reading in her free time and has read several books by authors from countries outside the U.S. She said she would be interested in viewing the “Writing Africa” exhibit because authors of other nationalities offer different perspectives through their works.
“They don’t have the same lives as us, a lot of them,” she said. “Usually when they write books, it’s somewhere along the lines of what they would experience, unlike what we would.”
Dean of University Libraries Scott Seaman said when Dawson-Andoh presented the idea for the exhibit to him, he was excited for the new opportunity to show off the libraries’ extensive resources.
“I thought this was a wonderful idea, particularly because OU and OU Libraries has an unusually rich collection of Africana materials, including African literature,” he said. “So it’s something special that this library offers to the community, to be able to take deep dives into other continents’ literature and in particular, Africa.”
Seaman said despite the large collection of African works housed by OU Libraries, the exhibit is totally unlike past displays. He said seeing the exhibit come together has been an enlightening experience for him because he’s learned more about the history of African literature and how OU’s collection supports it.
“Too often we focus so much on Western culture, and there’s a great diversity of thought on this planet,” he said. “Our collections reflect that diversity of thought, and sometimes we just need to be reminded, either by a poster or an exhibit or a video, that there’s a lot of other perspectives out there that we can delve into.”