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WOMEN WRITING AFRICA (article first published : 2003-09-14)

Adams Campus Bookshop and Wits University Press recently launched Women Writing Africa: The Southern Region, Women Writing Africa Project, Volume 1.

The publication is edited by M J Daymond, Dorothy Driver, Sheila Meintjies, Leloba Molema, Chiedza Musengezi, Margie Orford and Nobantu Rasebotsa. Associate editors were Heike Becker, Betty Govinden, Mary Lederer, V M Sisi Maqagi, Virginia Phiri and Cristiana Pugliese. Consulting editors were Tuzyline Jita Allan and Marcia Wright with text editor Florence Howe.

This landmark collection documents and maps the extraordinary and diverse landscape of Southern Africa women's oral and written literatures. Presenting voices rarely heard - some recorded as early as the mid-19th century, as well as rediscovered gems by well-known authors such as Bessie Head and Doris Lessing - it reveals a living cultural legacy that will revolutionise the understanding of African women's literary and cultural production.

The texts - ranging from communal songs and folktales to letters, diaries, political petitions, court records, poems, essays, and fiction - provide a vivid picture of women's lives, and demonstrate the critical role played by women in cultural continuity and resistance to oppression. Work and family, the cruelty of colonialism and war, and the struggles for liberation are described in voices from 20 languages and six countries in the region: Botswana, Lesotha, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Each extract is accompanied by a note that provides historical background. The editors' introduction sets the broader historical stage, and explores the many issues involved in collecting and combining oral and written literature from diverse cultures in one volume, Unprecedented in its scope and achievement, and the result of a decade of research, Women Writing Africa: The Southern Region will be an essential resource for anyone interested in women's history, culture, and literature, in Africa and worldwide.

The Women Writing African Project is a project of the Feminist Press at the City University of New York. Funded by the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, Women Writing Africa aims to restore African women's voices to the public sphere. Through the publication of a series of regional anthologies, each collecting oral and written narratives as well as a variety of historical and literary texts, the project will make visible the oral and written literary expression of African women. The definition of "writing" has been broadened to include songs, praise poems, and significant and legal documents. The project has been undertaken with the expectation that the publication of these texts will allow for new readings of African women's history.

More details from Cedric Sissing, Adams Campus Bookshop on 031 261 2320 or 082 873 2702 or fax 031 261 6053 or e-mail adamsbks@iafrica.com or visit www.adamsbooks.co.za




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