Posts Tagged ‘University of Juba’

Dear Esteemed Readers,

Writing on/for the New Sudan Vision, Dr. Thuou Loi Cingoth, a core member of the organizing panel that constituted South Sudan National Anthem, narrates a brief account of how the National Anthem was written/composed:

This is in brief how the National Anthem was written by the technical team mentioned above and sang by the choir of the University of Juba.  This is important to make clear for the records.

Please check it out below, it is a very interesting, behind-the-scene account of the events and intrigues leading up-to the creation of the national anthem:

And in case you are wondering what the product being described above was, the lyrics of the national anthem for the Republic of South Sudan are given below: Listen to it here

Oh God!

We praise and glorify you

For your grace on South Sudan

Land of great abundance

Uphold us united in peace and harmony

Oh motherland!

We rise raising flag with the guiding star

And sing songs of freedom with joy

For justice, liberty and prosperity

Shall forevermore reign

Oh great patriots!

Let us stand up in silence and respect

Saluting our martyrs whose blood

Cemented our national foundation

We vow to protect our nation

Oh God, bless South Sudan!

Or you can sing along or teach yourself how to sing it from this link:

1. (with lyrics and sound)

2. (with lyrics and sound)

3. (sound, very clear)

4. (with picture and sound)


PaanLuel Wel.


Prof Taban Mokotiyang Rekenet Lo Liyong is a marvellously gifted man of letters and his unconventional writing style and flamboyant personality have established him as one of Africa’s literary icons.


Prof Taban Mokotiyang Rekenet Lo Liyong is a marvelously gifted man of letters and his unconventional writing style and flamboyant personality have established him as one of Africa’s literary icons.

Posted Friday, October 21 2011

Lo Liyong: Literary icon who delights in ruffling feathers

In Summary: “Eccentric scholar Prof Lo Liyong has courted controversy with his dismissal of East Africa as ‘a dry, desolate, barren stretch of wilderness where literature has simply refused to sprout’”

Sporting a grey goatee and wearing a cream-coloured flowing robe, an old leather bag in his hand and a brown Scottish style cap on his balding head, he cuts the image of a magician in a Nollywood movie.

But Prof Taban Mokotiyang Rekenet Lo Liyong is a marvellously gifted man of letters and his unconventional writing style and flamboyant personality have established him as one of Africa’s literary icons.

Since the 1960s, he has courted controversy, beginning with his dismissal of East Africa as a literary wasteland, “a dry, desolate, barren stretch of wilderness where literature has simply refused to sprout.”

It is a charge he would repeat time and again, but most passionately in 1975, when he wrote in the 50th edition of the respected literary journal Transition in a piece titled: East Africa, oh East Africa I lament thy literary barrenness.

Despite his advanced age, Prof Lo Liyong still walks with a spring in his step and has a combative nature which belies his slight frame.

Prof Lo Liyong was in unapologetic mood when Saturday Nation sought him out in Nairobi last Thursday.

“I am fed up talking to myself. Africa has ceased to produce intellectuals. I don’t come here to cause mayhem. But I come to continue the revolutionary fire we started four decades ago,” he said.

Few exceptional Africans

But slipping back to his intellectual pride for which he is well-known, the dean of the Faculty of Arts, Drama and Music at the University of Juba says: “Some critics write that I am controversial but with all the stupidity in Africa and the world these days, which intelligent man or woman would like to follow the herd or pseudo-leaders? I consider myself my own man.”

He continues: “Okay, we do have few exceptional Africans. (Chinua) Achebe created popular literature which resonates well with the African way of narrating a story.

“Soyinka showed us what can be done with the big vocabulary; (Kamara) Laye produced classics. But in terms of really understanding what the European mentality is all about, only Ayi Kwei Armah and I have got it right.”

Armah is the author of the seminal novel The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born which expresses the “rot” that characterised post-independent Ghana in the last years of founding president Kwameh Nkrumah and the frustration many citizens of the newly-independent states in Africa felt after attaining political independence.

Prof Lo Liyong says Africa will only get it right when it decides to pursue excellence and has harsh words for the parallel system of university education, saying it has robbed Kenya of its academic heritage.

“Let the parallel students be taught by parallel lecturers, but every African country should set aside a centre of excellence to produce the continent’s Nobel laureates.

If you had allowed yourselves to have parallel runners you will not have excelled in athletics,” he says.

Dismisses Nobel Prize

His statement is not likely to go down well with many, including his colleagues in the academia, given private sponsorship is a multi-billion shilling industry providing a lifeline, not only to thousands of students who are not absorbed through the Joint Admissions Board, but also to the professors who see it as meal ticket to shore up their earnings.

Prof Lo Liyong dismisses Nobel Peace prizes, saying they are a mark of weakness. “It means you turn the other cheek when you are slapped.

“We need genuine Nobel prizes in chemistry, physics and mathematics and we cannot produce them in the current state of things,” he laments.

Defending his unconventional style of writing and speech, he describes the English language as a “prostitute with whom we have all slept in our different ways,” saying it has succeeded because it is malleable and there are so many versions of it.

He has often been accused of using sex innuendos in his writing, a charge he dismisses with a wave of the hand.

“All these conflicts boil down to sex. And if it is easier to use that language to drive the message home faster, why not?” he poses.

The eccentric scholar says no one can live off writing fiction in Africa. “But that is no excuse. Those of us who have salaried employment owe it to our society to write works of art and publishers too owe it to society to publish them.

“For every 10 textbooks you publish, you should publish two books for intellectual enhancement of Africa — serious novels, poems and works of literary criticism.”

True to his style of commenting on almost everything under the sun, he has no kind words for “fake faiths” whose leaders, he claims, are living in opulence at the expense of hapless faithful and challenges writers to expose them in novels.

“Why is nobody writing about this scandal of using the Lord’s name in vain? How can they use poor women’s last pennies to buy planes and fleets of cars?”

He claims that some pastors are using wireless electric shocks to fell people in churches so as to sell their miracle theories.

Because of this no-holds-barred approach, for which he has earned the title of East Africa’s literary enfante terrible, Prof Lo Liyong has received praise and criticism in equal measure.

And the don’s detractors are in droves. One of them is Maseno University history professor William Ochieng, who accuses him of having made Nairobi his Centre for Invective Dispensation (CID), where he would criticise every aspect of the ivory tower and leave the campuses aflame with clamorous debate.

He says true to the poet’s name, he is now taban (Arabic word for tired) and has lost relevance in today’s literary dispensation.

“Taban no longer deserves publicity and can only be dotted as a museum piece. He lacks p’Bitek’s artistic bravura and Ngugi’s restless soul. His classroom and public lectures are unstructured and rigourless. He punches his colleagues without regard to reason,” writes Prof Ochieng.

But Narok University College lecturer Solomon Waliaula says Prof Lo Liyong’s place in African literature is assured because of his unique writing style.

“Literature is different from history, which is about currency of thought. His writing represents a watershed in African fiction, incorporating as it does both folk elements and the most self-conscious kind of European fiction,” says Mr Waliaula.

Wanted to kill me

But perhaps the 72-year-old scholar’s fame lies in his contribution to the ‘On the Abolition of the English Department in 1968’ which sought to position African literature at the centre of the education system.

Together with the late Henry Owuor-Anyumba and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, he called for the educational system to emphasise oral tradition (as a key traditional African form of learning), Swahili literature, as well as prose and poetry from the African-American and Caribbean societies.

According to his own accounts, he was born in Sudan and carried on the back to Uganda to escape “a malevolent relative who wanted to kill me.”

“But in 1978, I dumped my passports at the immigration offices as I no longer wanted to be a man of two minds and two nations.

“To crown it all, I went to my village and vied for the position of MP to reestablish my credentials,” he says, clearing the air over what his critics said was his taking up Ugandan nationality to escape conflict.

He was briefly a member of the Regional Parliament of Juba during the regime of President Gaffar Numeiri between 1982 and 1985, where he is said to have been a vociferous backbencher in the mould of the philosopher Bertrand Russell.

So what is his contribution to the development of the new nation, South Sudan, which recently got independence after decades of war with the Arab regime in Khartoum?

“The work we are doing in South Sudan is unique. We are trying to decolonise from the Arab north as well as from European influences,” he says rather defensively.

He says he will soon build a unique university to be called African Continental University to inculcate practical education and theoretical disciplines in students.

“Last week I also translated my Wer Pa Lawino (The Defence of Lawino) into English. Now is the time for philosophers to assess where we are coming from, where we came from and where we are going to.”

Prof Lo Liyong obtained his BA in Literature from Howard University, USA, and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, USA, where he was the first African to graduate from the Iowa Writers Workshop.

On completing his studies in the US, the tyrannical regime of Idi Amin prevented him from returning to Uganda. He instead came to Kenya and taught at the University of Nairobi.

He has also taught at international universities in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Japan and South Africa.

The father of six has published over 20 books which include Carrying Knowledge Up a Palm Tree (1998), an anthology of poetry that addresses various contemporary issues and follows African progress in recent history.

Some of his works of fiction are Eating Chiefs, Frantz Fanon’s Uneven Ribs, Another Nigger Dead and Words that Melt a Mountain which demonstrate Taban’s ability to experiment on various stylistic devices.

In one of his most controversial assertions, he rejects long-established literary conventions defined by Aristotle for effective writing.

In The Uniformed Man (1971), he calls for readers to approach text in a different way, that is, not to follow the usual conventions of literature such as “introduction, exposition, rising action, etc. up to the climax”. Instead, text should be unconstrained by expectation and read with a consistent appreciation for “each word, phrase, or sentence”.

Some critics, however, think that he has overdone it. “If age gives one poetic freedom to say anything, then we can only say that Taban, occasionally, overstretches this freedom,” writes Masinde Muliro University’s Prof Egara Kabaji.

He says his play Showhat and Sowhat does not conform to the basic structures of a play and is lacking of any edifying stylistic form.

The book revolves around two families: those of Mr Showhat and Mr Sowhat.

Showhat is a rich man with an ego that has eclipsed his reason. He is given to boasting and showing off. On the other hand, Sowhat is a pauper, but proud in his own way.

The main conflict arises when Shiney puts Sowhat’s daughter in the family way. The case is brought up to a judge who rules that the two should exchange homes.

What is even more interesting is that My-show, Showhat’s wife, conceives and gives birth while living with Sowhat!

Prof Lo Liyong says this outrageous solution is what Kenya, and other African nations need if they are to become true states.

“The play is a comment on Kenya’s politics and its disillusion. I say intermarry and you become states or you remain with the current attitude and you all perish.”

“But which producer is capable of staging this play in its present form without annoying himself or without annoying his audience?” wrote Prof Kabaji in a recent issue of the Sunday Nation.

Prof Lo Liyong defends it saying it is it is “a very serious book containing murderous jokes.”

“That book and The Colour of Hope are about youthful rebellion. Those who have ears let them hear; those who have eyes let them see.

“ If every time I have to sit down to explain what I wrote, then it goes to confirm that I was right about the literary desert,” he admonishes.

“No Kenyan is talking about the post-election violence. Instead, people like Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o are writing folk tales.

f we don’t change our attitude about one another, the next election could even be worse. Give a chance to these Sheng-speaking young people. And that is what I am saying in the books,” he explains.

Prof Lo Liyong traces the failure of the African continent to the first generation of African intellectuals. “We, the pioneering philosophers, writers and academics were the second troupe of the decolonisers.

“But the problem arose when some of us did not critically relate with the new black rulers. I remember when people like Armah were criticising Ghana’s founding father Kwameh Nkrumah , saying the beautiful ones were not yet born, we were critical of him at the time.

“Even Ngugi was calling Kenyatta the black messiah yet there is no saint,” he says.

CHINUA ACHEBE: The laureate-in-waiting

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe gestures during a news conference

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe gestures during a news conference

Posted  Thursday, October 20  2011

The 2011 Nobel Literature Prize has already been awarded, and Africa’s Chinua Achebe, perennially taunted as a worthy contender, has to wait another year.

The same goes for Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who was heavily tipped by literary punters to win last year. That was curious. The nominees are only revealed after 50 years.

The literature prize is given to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”.

So, why, for instance, has the 81-year-old Nigerian, widely considered “the most significant African writer of the 20th Century”, been given short shrift by Nobel’s Swedish Academy over the years?

This year’s Nobel Literature Prize went to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. His works comprise 15 collections of poetry, among them The Great Enigma and The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Transtromer.

Transtromer’s austere, polished poetry exploring themes of seclusion, emotion and identity, won the nod of the Swedish Academy “because through his condensed translucent images, he gives us a fresh access to reality”.

The 2010 prize was claimed by Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, another European — leading to accusations that the Academy is biased against non-European writers.

Those claims were given more impetus by the fact that the highly secretive Academy comprises 18 members — all Swedes — who have exercised historical notoriety in picking writers who critics have deemed, on average, as “minor, inconsequential, transitional or obscure, with the bulk of their yellowing works out of print,” contends Burton Feldman in The Nobel Prize: A History of Genius, Controversy and Prestige.

The Academy, notes Feldman, has overlooked more deserving literary heavyweights — Russia’s Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekov and Vladimir Nabokov; Frenchman Emile Zola; and James Joyce, the Irish novelist and poet.

Famous snubs also include America’s Gertrude Stein, Arthur Miller, John Updike and Virginia Wolf — creating a mazy understanding of the Academy’s selection process.

While nominations are by invitation from qualified persons and organisations, in Africa, there has never been a bigger brush-off than Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart, his seminal, prescient and introspective effort of 1958, is considered Africa’s best literary work yet.

Elegantly written in spare prose, sprinkled with cubicles of Igbo wit and axioms, the “archetypal African novel” set in colonial Nigeria as a canvas of modernity’s onslaught on culture has been read and studied worldwide, and its characters; the tragic hero Okonkwo, Nwoye, Unoka, Ikemefuna and Obierika, celebrated.

It has been translated into 50 languages. The most for any author, dead or alive.

In 2005, Time magazine named the “milestone in African literature”, Achebe’s magnum opus, one of the ‘best 100 English language novels written since 1923’ — the year Time was founded.

Things Fall Apart thus sits pretty on the shelf of noteworthy reads: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Ernst Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird.

While Achebe has been the perpetual laureate-in-waiting, Africa has had other Nobel Literature winners: Albert Camus, the French-Algerian (1957), even though Nigerian Wole Soyinka became the first African-born writer to win it 1986.

Soyinka is famous for his protest plays — The Lion and the Jewel, The trials of Brother Jero, Kongi’s Harvest, The Interpreters (a complex read), Season of Anomy; and fictionalised memoirs Ake and The Man Died.

He was, however, awarded for his collection of poetry because he, “in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones, fashions the drama of existence”.

Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz, author of 50 novels, was honoured in 1988. Mahfouz survived an assassination attempt in 1994 from Islamic fundamentalists who were angered by his portrayal of God in Children of Gebelawi. He was honoured with a state funeral when he died in 2006, aged 94.

South Africa’s Nadine Gordimer became one of only 12 women Literature laureates in ’91. Among her works include A Guest of Honour and In the Heart of the Country, which dwells on political issues and psychological tensions of a racially divided Rainbow Nation.

Gordimer, now 87, was awarded because “through her magnificent epic writing she has, in the words of Alfred Nobel, been of very great benefit to humanity”.

Another South African, turned Australian, the recluse JM Coetzee who doesn’t drink, smoke, laugh much or eat meat, went to the Embassy of Sweden in Stockholm to receive his Nobel in 2003.

The author of the acclaimed Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace was awarded because he, “in innumerable guises, portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider” and his work features “well-crafted composition, pregnant with dialogue and analytical brilliance”.

But, give or take, are these laureates superior in edge, readership constituency, influence, readability, historical peg and overall contribution to understanding the arcane facets of cross-cultural literature in Africa than Chinua Achebe?

Few African writers, the aforementioned laureates inked in, have highlighted the continent’s glorious heritage, juxtaposing its post-modernity, colonialism and neo-colonialism better than Achebe.

And not just with Things Fall Apart.
Achebe’s other works, no less important, include The Trouble with Nigeria, his blunt and brave critique of 1984; A Morning Yet on Creation Day, his 1975 collection of poetry; and the essays Hopes and Impediments (1988) and Home and Exile (2000).

The successors of Things Fall Apart — minus Okonkwo, its protagonist — include No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A man of the People and Anthills of the Savannah.

But it’s Things Fall Apart, dubbed “the most significant African novel of the last 50 years”, that remains the substratum upon which succeeding works of African literature were erected.

Indeed, Achebe’s body of work, in total, blends cultural, socio-political, religious and secular components to advance a deeper understanding of not only the Igbo, but African culture as well.

Feldman notes that the Swedish Academy casts a favourable eye on “activist writers” fronting visible social or political causes. Achebe has hardly been critical of his country like the exiled Soyinka and Gordimer.

In his will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that winners should have the most outstanding work in an “ideal direction”.

For a dozen years since 1901, the Nobel Committee interpreted a literary work’s “ideal direction” as a “loft and sound idealism”, universal interests that the snubbed writers — Achebe’s confinement to African cultures and Ngugi’s hangover with colonial themes — are seemingly short of.

During World War I, “ideal direction” equalled ignoring writers in combatant countries as a way of the Academy’s neutrality in the war, and hence the heavy roll call of winners from Scandinavian countries, which were not at war.

Since 1901, the Academy has never explained how winners are arrived at outside the citations. But favouring European authors has received criticism over the years, even in Sweden, which has more literature laureates than all of Asia.

To cement this perception, listen to Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, who in 2008 told the Associated Press that “Europe still is the centre of the literary world”.

Asked why American writers rarely won, the last having been Toni Morrison, author of Beloved and Song of Solomon in 1993, he offered that “the US is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature… that ignorance is restraining”.

In 2009, Engdahl was replaced by Peter Englund, who trashed Engdahl’s sentiments, agreeing that the Nobel Literature Prize was “Eurocentric” and that “we tend to relate more easily to literature written in Europe and in European tradition”.

Englund, however, did not escape scathing criticism when that year’s winner was the obscure Romanian-German Herta Muller. Most professors of literature and critics, charged the Washington Post, had never heard of the authoress of Everything I Possess I Carry with Me.

Knut Ahnlund, a member of the Academy, resigned after Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek won in 2004. Ahnlund called her writing “a mass of text that appears shoveled together without trace of artistic structure”, adding that her winning had “caused irreparable damage” to the award’s standing.

That reputation had been dented when the 1997 Prize went to Italian leftwing playwright Dario Fo, a lightweight even in his country, noted The Independent.

The Academy sometimes favours neglected genres from which illustrious luminaries are picked to re-divert attention to them.

Indian-British writer Salman Rushdie and American dramatist Arthur Miller were favourites that year, but their winning would have been “too predictable, too popular”.

Graham Greene and Nabokov were passed in 1974 in favour of Swedes Eyvind Johson and Harry Martison, a joint win, despite their glaring anonymity beyond Swedish borders a the time.

Something else.

To win the Literature prize, you must have one toe in the grave: Transtromer is twisting 80. Vargas Llosa is 75. The youngest ever winner was Rudyard Kipling, he of the famous poem, If.

Kipling won the 1907 Nobel Literature Prize at 42 “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration”.

If Professor Chinua Achebe never wins, he will go down as one of the greatest “laureates who never was.” And Nobel Prizes are no longer awarded posthumously.