PEN on Twitter

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In January, Beijing issued a white paper calling for accelerated expansion of China’s news media abroad and the deployment of a press corps of 100,000 around the world, particularly in priority regions like Africa. In the last few months alone, China established its first TV news hub in Kenya and a print publication in South Africa. The state-run Xinhua news agency already operates more than 20 bureaus in Africa. More than 200 African government press officers received Chinese training between 2004 and 2011 in order to produce what the Communist Party propaganda chief, Li Changchun, called “truthful” coverage of development fueled by China’s activities.

Mohamed Keita, Committee to Protect Journalists

Africa’s Free Press Problem - NYTimes.com

(via fictionthatmatters)

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fictionthatmatters:

Fiction vs. Reality: the portrayal of Chinese people in African pop culture
“While most foreign news and media tends to negatively portray Chinese people living in Africa, for example by suggesting that their presence is colonial in nature, I have been more curious about the how Africans perceive the Chinese people in their midst, and their portrayal in popular culture isn’t a bad place to start.” 
(via Fiction vs. Reality: the portrayal of Chinese people in African pop culture - City Life - This Is Africa)

fictionthatmatters:

Fiction vs. Reality: the portrayal of Chinese people in African pop culture

“While most foreign news and media tends to negatively portray Chinese people living in Africa, for example by suggesting that their presence is colonial in nature, I have been more curious about the how Africans perceive the Chinese people in their midst, and their portrayal in popular culture isn’t a bad place to start.” 

(via Fiction vs. Reality: the portrayal of Chinese people in African pop culture - City Life - This Is Africa)

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millionsmillions:

“As is the case with so much African fiction, the claims that Bombay’s Republic makes about history don’t so much occur in a real historiographic vacuum as they occur in the context of a long history of Africa being read as a historiographic vacuum.” -Aaron Bady reviews Rotimi Babatunde’s Bombay’s Republic, the first installment in series of posts by lit bloggers reading through the shortlist of the Caine Prize for African Writing.
[Image via WSJ]

millionsmillions:

“As is the case with so much African fiction, the claims that Bombay’s Republic makes about history don’t so much occur in a real historiographic vacuum as they occur in the context of a long history of Africa being read as a historiographic vacuum.” -Aaron Bady reviews Rotimi Babatunde’s Bombay’s Republic, the first installment in series of posts by lit bloggers reading through the shortlist of the Caine Prize for African Writing.

[Image via WSJ]

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Eskinder Nega’s Verdict Postponed 
PEN President Peter Godwin:“We are disappointed Eskinder Nega’s ordeal didn’t come to an end today with the acquittal he deserves. The trial proceedings only reinforced the baselessness of the charges against him, and the court’s explanation for the delay in issuing a verdict—that it needs another six weeks to transcribe the record—does little to inspire confidence in the court’s workings. “We ask the world to join with us in pressing the Meles government to bring the unjust persecution of Eskinder Nega and his fellow journalists in Ethiopia to an end.” 
(via PEN American Center - May 11, 2012: Eskinder Nega’s Verdict Postponed)

Eskinder Nega’s Verdict Postponed 

PEN President Peter Godwin:
“We are disappointed Eskinder Nega’s ordeal didn’t come to an end today with the acquittal he deserves. The trial proceedings only reinforced the baselessness of the charges against him, and the court’s explanation for the delay in issuing a verdict—that it needs another six weeks to transcribe the record—does little to inspire confidence in the court’s workings. 


“We ask the world to join with us in pressing the Meles government to bring the unjust persecution of Eskinder Nega and his fellow journalists in Ethiopia to an end.” 

(via PEN American Center - May 11, 2012: Eskinder Nega’s Verdict Postponed)

In conversation with Rotimi Babatunde, Nominee for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing
The short story ‘Bombay’s Republic’ by Rotimi Babatunde, Chair of the Nigerian PEN Centre’s Writers for Peace Committee, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing… Babatunde’s ‘Bombay’s Republic’ tells the story of an African soldier of the ‘Forgotten Army’, who served on the Burma front during the Second World War, before returning home as a decorated veteran. 
(via Pen International – In conversation with Rotimi Babatunde, Nominee for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing)

In conversation with Rotimi Babatunde, Nominee for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing

The short story ‘Bombay’s Republic’ by Rotimi Babatunde, Chair of the Nigerian PEN Centre’s Writers for Peace Committee, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing… Babatunde’s ‘Bombay’s Republic’ tells the story of an African soldier of the ‘Forgotten Army’, who served on the Burma front during the Second World War, before returning home as a decorated veteran. 

(via Pen International – In conversation with Rotimi Babatunde, Nominee for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing)

CEMESP releases 2011 Freedom of Expression Report on Liberia
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Rotimi Babatunde is the winner of the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Bombay’s Republic”, a gripping tale of a young Nigerian man swept into World War II as a soldier in the Allied “Forgotten Army.” Babatunde is a playwright and author, as well as the Chair of the Writers for Peace Committee at the Nigerian PEN Center.


Bombay’s discoveries of the possible would come faster than the leeches in Burma’s crepuscular jungles. At first, Bombay’s tasks were limited to mule driving and porting baggage. If there are people trying to kill me, it would be stupid of me not to be in a position to kill them also, he repeatedly grumbled to his superiors. To shut him up, he was posted to a combat unit.

The campaign to recapture Buthidaung was in progress. Bombay’s unit was deployed to a swampy pass of the Kaladan Valley where they got isolated from the main army for weeks. Their situation got dire and it seemed they would have to feed on wild bananas lined with pawpaw-like seeds but tasting like detergent. Then Bombay’s squad ran into enemy ambush. They had no option but to dive for cover as hostile gunfire reduced the vegetation above their heads to shreds. Their ammunitions had already gone too low to mount a credible resistance but Bombay thought it wiser to go down fighting and his squad agreed. They charged shrieking at the machinegun position with pangas raised, their common howling and bawling coming as if from a primeval horde of lunatics hell-bent on murder. The firing stopped. Perhaps a freakish mistake damaged the enemy’s equipment mid-operation, anyone would have assumed. When the manic charge Bombay led reached its destination, the enemy was gone. The squad met three machineguns and several abandoned magazines, the operators of the weapons long melted into the greenery like frost crystals blown into the jungle’s humid oven. To Bombay’s astonishment, all the firearms were in excellent working condition. The captured guns ensured the squad’s return to base. On arrival Bombay was made a lance corporal, the first of the promotions that would elevate him to the rank of sergeant and carrier of the regimental flag, and given the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery, one of the three medals he would be awarded on the front.

Read more

photo by US Army Africa on a CC license

reprinted with permission from the Caine Prize for African Writing

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Rotimi Babatunde, Chair of the Nigerian PEN Center’s Writers for Peace Committee, recently won the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing for his story “Bombay’s Republic”The Prize was founded in 2000 to celebrate the richness and diversity of African writing in English.

“Bombay’s Republic” tells the story of an African soldier of the “Forgotten Army” who served on the Burma front during the Second World War before returning home as a decorated veteran. At its height, the “Forgotten Army” had approximately a million soldiers, most of whom were drawn from British colonies in Africa and Asia.  We asked Babatunde to share his journey as a writer and inspirations for “Bombay’s Republic.”


PEN International: What was the inspiration for your story, “Bombay’s Republic”?

Babatunde: The lore of the Burma veterans which endures in the Nigerian folk consciousness. My first memorable encounter with it occurred in childhood, when I stumbled on my older siblings discussing an anecdote relating to a particular veteran. On return from the war, some schoolchildren asked him to tell them about the Black Hole of Calcutta since he had been to Asia. But the veteran didn’t visit Calcutta while abroad and he did not want to appear ignorant to the students. As a way out of his quandary, he simply literalized the phrase, replying that the Black Hole of Calcutta is the name of a bottomless, pitch-dark hole which he saw with his very eyes in Burma.

Read the full interview here.

Published with permission from PEN International