Four members of the HWS faculty presented papers at the 40th Annual Conference of the African Literature Association (ALA) this spring. The conference, “Texts Modes and Repertoires of Living In and Beyond the Shadows of Apartheid,” featured the work of Professor Emeritus of French and Francophone Studies George Joseph, Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Marie-Helene Koffi-Tessio, Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies James McCorkle ’76, and former Visiting Independent Scholar in Africana Studies Thelma Pinto.
The conference was hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was the first time in forty years that the ALA held their annual conference in South Africa, which highlighted the twentieth anniversary of the end of apartheid and the democratic elections in South Africa. It also marked the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
“Holding the conference in South Africa was especially important in that many of the ALA’s founders were writers forced into exile, including South Africans such as the poet Dennis Brutus, who had to escape the apartheid regime,” McCorkle says. “With the end of apartheid in 1994, this year’s conference marked the 20th anniversary of a fully democratic South Africa and considered, as the conference’s title suggests, “living in and beyond the shadows of apartheid.”
McCorkle’s paper, “Narrating Memory: Rayda Jacobs Yvette Christiansë and Andre Brink,” focused on contemporary South African fiction that portrays the slave era in South Africa. “Contemporary South African novels that explore the long period of slavery in the Dutch and then British colony of what would become South Africa, provide insights into the legacies of racism and apartheid,” he says. “These are important narratives in that they reconstruct or envision narratives that do not otherwise exist. They give voice and authority to those (the enslaved) whose position was essentially invisible and silent.”
McCorkle says his paper grew out of teaching several of the novels in his First Year Seminar, which compares the manifestations of racism in the United States and South Africa.
Professor Emeritus of French and Francophone Studies, Joseph presented a paper titled, “Forced to Keep Separate Bedrooms in France: Fadel Dia’s À mes chers parents gaulois.” Joseph’s paper is a continuation of his work on the Senegalese writer Fadel Dia in which he examines the ways Dia satirizes the clichés of French colonial history to create a searing denunciation of the modes of apartheid implicit in French colonialism and postcolonialism.
In her paper, “South Africa and Francophone Literature,” Koffi-Tessio examined how Francophone writers Léopold Sédar Senghor, Seydou Badian and Maryse Condé used historical and contemporary South Africa as a source of inspiration for their work.
Former Scholar in Residence Thelma Pinto presented “Alienation as an Outcome of Exclusionary Politics” which examined whiteness in the work of three South African women writers over a 50-year period: Noni Jabavu’s “Drawn in Colour;” Zoe Wicomb’s “Playing in the Light in 2007;” and Kopano Matlwa’s “Spilt Milk.” Pinto also chaired the roundtable, “African Women Writers and Artists in Conversation” and participated in “Culture of Personhood and Social Renewal in African Women’s Literature,” as well as a roundtable celebrating the work of the late Mbulelo Mzamane.
Founded in 1974 the ALA is an independent non-profit professional society open to scholars, writers, teachers, artists and students from every country. The ALA is dedicated to the advancement of African and African-diaspora literature and culture. The ALA’s headquarters is housed at Hobart and William Smith Colleges with the support of the Office of the Provost and the Africana Studies Program. McCorkle serves as director of the headquarters.
In the photo above are Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies James McCorkle (left) and Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Marie-Helene Koffi-Tessio. McCorkle and Koffi-Tessio presented at the 40th Annual Conference of the African Literature Association along with faculty colleagues Professor Emeritus of French and Francophone Studies George Joseph and former Visiting Independent Scholar in Africana Studies Thelma Pinto.