In a rare exchange of literary perspectives, overseas-based Professor Jack Mapanje and Lupenga Mphande will share the high table at the two-day international conference on Malawian literature organised by Mzuzu University (Mzuni) this Tuesday.
The legendary writers, formerly University of Malawi lecturers, went into exile during the 31-year dictatorship of founding president Dr Hastings Kamuzuâ€”with Mapanje settling in England and Mphande in the USA.
According to an itinerary issued by Mzuniâ€™s department of languages and literature, Mapanje, now senior lecturer in creative writing at Newcastle University, will this morning give a keynote presentation at the maiden conference to be held at St John of God ConferenceÂ Hall in Mzuzu.
The BBC rated the Of Chameleons and Gods author â€œone of the most important living African poetsâ€. His homecoming address will be chaired by Dr Jesse Kabwira-Kapasula, a senior lecturer in literature at Chancellor College (Chanco), who is scheduled to unpack the gender ideology of Professor-emeritus Steve Chimomboâ€™s Sister Sister and Shemu Joyahâ€™s award-winning film Seasons of a Life in her paper, titled Patriarchal or African Womanist?
Cementing Mapanjeâ€™s prominence in the countryâ€™s literary culture, critic Timwa Lipenga will discuss Mapanjeâ€™s latest detention memoir And Crocodiles Are Hungry at Night in the analysis Writing Back to the Centres while Dr Damazio Mfune Mwanjakwa delves into his use of the mask as a socio-political motif.
On the other hand, Mphande, a professor of African and American Studies at the Ohio State University, will present a paper, titled Migrant Labour System and the Prodigal Son Motif in Malawian Oral Literature. He is well-known for authoring poetry books, A Crackle at Midnight and When My Brothers Come Home.
The conference, to be opened by Education Minister Eunice Kazembe, will also feature Professor Mpalive Msiskaâ€™s Critical Practice on and/or for Malawian Literature; Feston Kaluaâ€™s Reading Protest, Myth and Exile in Malawi: 1964-1990s; Nick Temboâ€™s In the Middle of the Storm on the poetics of fear and violence in Bright Molandeâ€™s Seasons.
Wednesdayâ€™s offerings include ethno-writer Tito Bandaâ€™s Overlooked and Sublime: An Indigenous Poetic Genre Escapes Political Incorporation as well as Albert Harawaâ€™s Stock-taking and Watchdog Narratives of Malawian Multiparty Democracy.
Harawaâ€™s paper dissects Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) president Mike Sambalikagwa Mvonaâ€™s An Arrow from Malaka and Sangani Harawaâ€™s The President Anointed.
The Mawu leader, who will discuss the cultural identity of local literature and effects of dictatorship, described the conference as a great opportunity for creative writers to share experiences and rediscover the unique place of Malawian writings amid globalisation.
Mzuni plans to publish some of the papers.