On Being African

Five autobiographical extracts from the lives of writers across Africa.


01The Dark Child20050523

By Camara Laye.

Born in 1924 in what was then described as French Guinea, Camara Laye went on to study engineering in France.

This memoir of his childhood, which launched his career as a writer, was published in 1954.

It's a poignant, sometimes nostalgic account of a distant era.

The extract features an encounter with a snake and some wise words from his father.

02Ibadan - A Memoir20050524

By Wole Soyinka.

The Nobel prize-winning Nigerian author was born in 1934.

In this extract from his 'factional' autobiography, we follow the author's alter ego, Maren, who arrives at his new secondary school, Government College.

The institute attempts to recreate a British public school complete with rules, rigid hierarchies and a bombastic dormitory prefect eager to demonstrate his authority and command of the English language.

Read by Jimmy Akingbola.

03A Woman Alone20050525

By Bessie Head.

Bessie Head was born in South Africa in 1937, but went into permanent exile in Botswana at the age of 27.

For 15 years she lived in a small rural community chronicling the lives of those around her in her fiction, and also in these fragments of memoir written between 1965 and 1967 which celebrate the dignity of those who suffer extreme poverty.

Read by Adjoa Andoh

04Call Me Woman20050526

by Ellen Kuzwayo.

The author was born in 1914 in South Africa.

This simply told, fascinating autobiography tells of one woman's lifelong struggle to overcome the appalling injustices of apartheid.

The extract describes the author's childhood on the large family farm owned by her grandparents since the 1880s, but which was taken by the state in 1974.

Read by Ganiat Kusumu.

05 LASTBlack Gold Of The Sun20050527

by Ekow Eshun.

At the age of 33, the British-born journalist tackled the tricky question: 'Where are you from?' He did it with a trip back to his parents' homeland of Ghana, where he lived for three years as a child before returning to the playground taunts and endemic racism of Britain in the 1970s.

Read by Israel Aduramo.