UNN Holds Int’l Colloquium

On Friday, 7th June 2013, the Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), played host to dignitaries from all walks of life including the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Her Excellency, Frau Dorothee Janetze-Wenzel, to a one day international colloquium with the theme: Emergent Women’s Writing in German and African Literature.

In his opening address, the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Uchenna Anyawu said the colloquium was coming on the heels of the death and burial of literary icon, Prof. Chunua Achebe, noting that Nigeria and Germany enjoy a pride of place in the field of literature. “Citizens of both countries have won Nobel Prizes in literature. And Nigeria and Germany have enjoyed cordial, robust and mutually beneficial relationship.”

Earlier in a keynote address, the University Librarian, Dr. Charles Omekwu said the aim of the colloquium was to “look at Germany and African literatures and what we can gain from both considering the contributions of women.”

Harping on the importance of women in the society, he said; “a world without women (www) will be like a face without a smile, a canvass that is tough and rough; a place where things are done in a reckless way. A world without caring mothers, loving wives, pretty sisters and beautiful daughters is not going to be world to live in.” The chief guest lecturer, Frau Dorothee Janetze-Wenzel spoke on Emergent Women’s Writing in German Literature. Quoting famous German philosopher, Martin Buber she said; ‘When all is said and done, it is the ties between humans which give life its value.’ “Literature is describing and analyzing the ties between human beings thus helping us to understand and appreciate life. Without women writers’ perspective, half of the sky would be lost.”

She argued that although very strong women characters were created by male authors like Mumbi inNgugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat or Wanja in Petals of Blood, or Heirich Boll’s Kathariana in The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, it is of vital importance to hear or read what women themselves have to say. Women authors past and present have described and analyzed social and political conditions around them and have helped us to understand human conditions in general or at a particular place and at a particular time,” citing Buchi Emecheta’s Bride Price/ The Joys of Motherhood, Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, Christa Wolfs The Divided Sky which refers to the division of Germany at a certain time, and 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Herta Muller as examples.

She noted that women have the chance and the responsibility to promote education and research. Underscoring the importance of education to the German economy, Janetze-Wenzel, quoting German’s Federal Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle said; “our resources do not lie underneath our feet but between our ears”, adding that the most important resources in times of globalization are education and research.

She received some applause when she explained why they did not sing their national anthem. “Our national anthem is very tricky, it is three stanzas and the one that played today is an old one which says Germany above all Germany does not want to be above all, we want to be equal partners with everybody on the same level. The current anthem says: Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit (Unity and Justice and Freedom). Germany is lucky and happy to be unified again so we like the text of the third stanza and have made it our national anthem.”

The event witnessed the presentation of papers by Prof. I.T.K. Egonu (Emergent Women’s Writing in Africa as seen in the works of Aminata Sow Fall); Dr. Dr. Alloysius Orjinta, (Chairman, LOC) on Liberation Feminism and Liberation Literature for Africa; Dr. (Mrs) Egodi Uchendu (Contribution of African Historian to African Historiography, 1960 to the present); Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Udengwu (Challenging the masters and breaking the jinx: Pioneer Female Dramatists in Nigeria and Germany); Prof. Amaechi Akwanya (Angst in Rilk’s Dunino Elegies) and Mr. Fidelis Okoro (The female Principle in European Epic Tradition).

The high point of the event was the presentation of awards for exemplary gender-aware leadership and integrity to Frau Janetye-Wenzel, Dr. Burkhard Weth, Mr. Thomas Helmer (all of German Embassy); Dr. Aminu Sherahu, D-G, NTI, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga (Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters), Prof. Bartho Okolo (VC, UNN) and others.