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20060719

The Miraculous Journey of Margery Kempe

David Wallace assesses the first autobiography in the English language, The Book of Margery Kempe.

He traces the final journey that its author, the 15th century visionary Margery Kempe, made at the age of 60 - from her home in Kings Lynn to Danzig, Wilsnack and Aachen.

The trek saw her passing through pilgrim boomtowns, crossing paths with crusaders who lived like kings and meeting merchants who wanted to be knights.

20060807

Reviving Asmara

Eritrea, one of the poorest African countries, has an unlikely cultural treasure: the 1930s modernist architecture of its capital, Asmara.

Jonathan Glancey visits the city to see what is being done to preserve and possibly exploit this unique resource.

20060808

Believing in Nigeria

As Nigeria struggles towards true democracy so religion has become increasingly dominant.

Nigeria is one of the most religious nations on earth, but also one of the most corrupt.

In the south a massive wave of pentacostalism promises miracles and material happiness, while the north has witnessed the tightening of Islamic Sharia law.

Anna Borzello travels from south to north to explore the religious climate of Nigeria.

She examines the appalling violence of the middle belt, which has been blamed on religion and has cost thousands of lives.

What does this new religious intensity say about the future of Nigeria?

20060810

Africa Unbound

On the eve of the announcement of the Caine Writing Prize winner, and as part of the Africa Lives on the BBC season, poet and playwright Gabriel Gbadamosi investigates the role of the book in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Talking to writers, publishers and readers he traces the history of book production and consumption from the 19th century to present day; from vanity publishing in dingy backrooms to short stories in cyber-space to the prize-winning literature of Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Ben Okri on sale internationally.

He talks to Cyprian Ekwensi at 84, one of Africa's oldest living writers, examines a new generation of young writers, like 28 year old Chimamanda Adichie, author of Purple Hibscus, who are reaching new readers, both within and outside Africa.

Set against this is the hard economic and social reality of a continent where poverty, insecurity and escapism mean good fiction coming second to motivational books, Christian tracts, romances and thrillers.

20060811

New Kenya and the Maasai

Benjamin Zephaniah visits Maasailand to explore the status of this world famous tribe in the modern era.

As Kenya works to create a new sense of national unity, the brightly-clothed Maasai remain one of the defining images of a reborn democracy.

But as their nomadic lifestyle becomes less and less viable in a 21st century economy, Benjamin Zephaniah asks the Maasai if their way of life is destined to disappear.