On Saturday, November 1st, Tulane University’s Department of English hosts its first African Writers’ Symposium, featuring poet and dramatist Niyi Osundare, short story writer Mohammed Naseehu Ali, fiction writer Sefi Atta, and novelist Dinaw Mengestu, who is the current writer-in-residence at Tulane. The Symposium, which takes place at the Freeman Auditorium from 10 AM until 4 PM, is free and open to the public.

“What is particularly exciting about the symposium is that it will cater to the interests of a number of constituencies at Tulane and the city at large,” says Professor Gaurav Desai, chair of the Department of English. “We built it around Dinaw Mengestu’s residency. I am teaching Dinaw's novel as well as the works of the other featured writers in my African literature class this semester, so my students will benefit as well as creative writing students. We have had other Africanist colleagues across campus and from the city at large call in about the event. We are expecting a large turnout!”

The program follows:

10 am Coffee
10:15 am Welcome -- Gaurav Desai
10:30 - 11:15 am Dinaw Mengestu -- Reading and Discussion; Moderated by Paula Morris.
11:15 - Noon Sefi Atta -- Reading and Discussion; Moderated by Elisabeth McMahon.
Noon - 1 pm Lunch
1 - 1:45 pm Mohamed Naseehu Ali -- Reading and Discussion; Moderated by Thomas Beller.
1:45 - 2:30 pm Niyi Osundare -- Reading and Discussion; Moderated by Peter Cooley.
2:30 - 2:45 pm Coffee
2:45 - 4 pm Panel Discussion with Dinaw Mengestu, Sefi Atta, Mohamed Naseehu Ali and Niyi Osundare; Moderated by Gaurav Desai and Eileen Julien.


Niyi Osundare is a poet, dramatist, critic, essayist, and media columnist. He was born in 1947 in Ekere-Ikiti, Ondo State, Nigeria. He taught English at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria from 1989 to 1993, when he became Head of the Department. During General Abacha’s dictatorship, Osundare, a champion of free speech, regularly contributed poems to a Nigerian national newspaper, and thus was often visited by national security agents. In 1997, Osundare was appointed professor of English at the University of New Orleans. He has published more than a dozen books, including Commonwealth Poetry Prize-winner The Eye of the Earth.
Short story writer Mohammed Naseehu Ali was born in Ghana in 1971, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and Bennington College. Ali’s fiction and essays have been published in a number of prominent newspapers and magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Essence. The New York Times described  his first collection of short fiction,  The Prophet of Zongo Street (2005), as “moving, subtle and ingeniously constructed.”

Sefi Atta is a short-story writer and novelist from Nigeria, born in Lagos in 1964, and educated in Nigeria, Britain and the US. A former chartered accountant and CPA, she is a graduate of the creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, and now lives in Mississippi. Her short fiction has won prizes from Zoetrope, Red Hen Press, the BBC and PEN International. In 2006 she was short listed for the Caine Prize for African Literature, and her debut novel, Everything Good Will Come, was awarded the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.

Dinaw Mengestu is the author of the novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears: currently shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, this novel is a Los Angeles Times bestseller, won the 2007 Guardian First Book Award, and was the ‘Seattle Reads’ pick of 2008. Dinaw was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. In 1980, he immigrated to the United States with his mother and sister, joining his father, who had fled Ethiopia during the Red Terror. A graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University’s MFA program in fiction, he received a 2006 fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation in 2007. He has written for Rolling Stone and Harper's, among other publications. He lives in New York City.

Supported by the Department of English Creative Writing Fund, the Symposium is the first of several major literary events this year on the Tulane campus. On March 16, poet Billy Collins, the second visitor in our Poet Laureate series, will give a reading at McAlister Auditorium. On April 6, the acclaimed journalist, essayist, memoirist and novelist Joan Didion will speak at McAlister. Didion is the third author to take part in our Great Writers Series, following standing-room-only visits by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and Sir Salman Rushdie.

In addition, in early March, novelist Claire Messud will spend a week at Tulane as the Zale writer-in-residence, a program sponsored by the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women.

Tulane faculty taking part in the Symposium include Professors Peter Cooley, Paula Morris and Tom Beller, creative writing faculty in the Department of English, and Elisabeth McMahon from the Department of History. The final session of the day will be moderated by Gaurav Desai and Professor Eileen Julien, Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University.

Professor Mark Anthony Neal (Duke University) will serve as the Pierce-Butler Visiting Professor in English in Fall 2008. Professor Neal is the author of four books, What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1998), Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (2002), Songs in the Keys of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation (2003) and New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity (2005). Neal is also the co-editor (with Murray Forman) of That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader (2004). Neal is Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University. A frequent commentator for National Public Radio's News and Notes with Farai Chideya, Neal also contributes to several on-line media outlets, including

Tuesday, October 14th 6:30 pm (Kendall Cram, LBC, Tulane University): Lecture ""Obama, Lil' Wheezy, the 'Katrina-Politans' and other Markers of Modern Blackness" by Professor Mark Anthony Neal. Reception to follow.

Thursday, October 16th 5 pm (Kendall Cram, LBC, Tulane University): Panel Discussion: "There's Misogyny in Hip - Hop: So What?" Moderated by Shayne Lee (Sociology/ADST, Tulane). Panelists: Mark Anthony Neal (Duke), DJ Soul Sister, (DJ, Spoken Word Artist, and Community Organizer), Charles Belonge, (Former DJ with WYLD), Angeletta KM Gourdine, (English and Director of African & African Diaspora Studies, LSU)  Benjamin Brubaker, (Senior, Philosophy, Tulane) Joe Blakk (Rapper and Dj) Curtrell Charles (Senior, Warren Easton High School) and Ju'Juan Mims (Senior, Warren Easton High School).

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000