In a rare exchange of literary perspectives, overseas-based Professors Jack Mapanje and Lupenga Mphande will share the high table at the two-day international conference on Malawian literature organised by Mzuzu University (Mzuni) starting Tuesday September 18.

The legendary writers, formerly University of Malawi lecturers, went into exile during the 31-year dictatorship of founding president Dr Hastings Kamuzu—with Mapanje settling in England and Mphande in the USA.

According to an itinerary issued by Mzuni’s department of languages and literature, Jack Mapanje, now senior lecturer in creative writing at Newcastle University, will this morning give a keynote presentation at the maiden conference to be held at St John of God Conference Hall in Mzuzu.

The BBC rated the Of Chameleons and Gods author “one of the most important living African poets”. His homecoming address will be chaired by Dr Jesse Kabwira-Kapasula, a senior lecturer in literature at Chancellor College (Chanco), who is scheduled to unpack the gender ideology of Professor-emeritus Steve Chimombo’s Sister Sister and Shemu Joyah’s award-winning film Seasons of a Life in her paper, titled Patriarchal or African Womanist?

Cementing Mapanje’s prominence in the country’s literary culture, critic Timwa Lipenga will discuss Mapanje’s latest detention memoir And Crocodiles Are Hungry at Night in the analysis Writing Back to the Centres while Dr Damazio Mfune Mwanjakwa delves into his use of the mask as a socio-political motif.

On the other hand, Lupenga Mphande, a professor of African and American Studies at the Ohio State University, will present a paper, titled Migrant Labour System and the Prodigal Son Motif in Malawian Oral Literature. He is well-known for authoring poetry books, A Crackle at Midnight and When My Brothers Come Home.

The conference, to be opened by Education Minister Eunice Kazembe, will also feature Professor Mpalive Msiska’s Critical Practice on and/or for Malawian Literature; Feston Kalua’s Reading Protest, Myth and Exile in Malawi: 1964-1990s; Nick Tembo’s In the Middle of the Storm on the poetics of fear and violence in Bright Molande’s Seasons.

Wednesday’s offerings include ethno-writer Tito Banda’s Overlooked and Sublime: An Indigenous Poetic Genre Escapes Political Incorporation as well as Albert Harawa’s Stock-taking and Watchdog Narratives of Malawian Multiparty Democracy.

Harawa’s paper dissects Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) president Mike Sambalikagwa Mvona’s An Arrow from Malaka and Sangani Harawa’s The President Anointed.

The Mawu leader, who will discuss the cultural identity of local literature and effects of dictatorship, described the conference as a great opportunity for creative writers to share experiences and rediscover the unique place of Malawian writings amid globalisation.

Mzuni plans to publish some of the papers.

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