African Literature Book Club – film adaptation of “Xala”

To the announcement of the fourth ceremony of El Hadji Abdou Kadar Beye’s marriage to a third wife, a group of Senegalese businessmen and politicians who pride themselves of having expelled the colonisers and taken over the reins of power and capital, chant ‘Vivre l’Africanite’ (Long live Africanity!).

Xala (1975), takes us from the optimism of this nationalist chant to the story of our protagonist and third time groom-to-be, El-Hadji, who is inflicted with xala (Wolof term for impotence) and cannot complete the ultimate step to taking a new wife.

In this satirical work, Ousmane Sembene takes us through the struggle by this independence pioneer to affirm his virility and reclaim his dignity. The image of his impotence is cast a synecdoche of the failures of the postcolonial state – its inability like the protagonist to function. The protagonist women – his wives and daughter – are symbols themselves of a transforming nation and its negotiation between the tenuous binary of tradition and modernity.

Xala is an important commentary on the predicament of a postcolonial state, creatively satirized by a pioneer writer and filmmaker of the post-independence period. It speaks to the impotence of the immediate post-colonial state, the possibilities of a Pan-African future, African womanhood, amongst other themes. The text is heavy with symbolism as is typical of Sembene’s oeuvre.

The African Literature Book Club is delighted to be discussing Xala at our next meeting. We invite interested publics to watch the film adaptation by Sembene himself, and available to watch for free on YouTube with the link provided below:

We are also delighted to be inviting a guest moderator, Oluwatobiloba Akinde, who is a film programmer at the Thursday films series, run at the institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. He is also the co-coordinator of ‘Is that Jazz’, a film club at the Jazzhole (books and records store) in Lagos.

Tobi is a student of Law in the University and has over 3 years’ experience in film screenings and discussions in the University and beyond. A budding film maker himself, Tobi has been part of organizing the black history film festival in Ibadan.

To join us on Saturday June 20th, 15:00-16:30 BST, please sign up via our Eventbrite page, you will receive details on how to join our Zoom discussion via email the day before the event.

Xala insta

African Diaspora, 1860-Present : access until 30th June 2020


Access to the African Diaspora, 1860-Present database on the Alexander Street Press platform is available until 30th June 2020.

Please send your feedback about this resources via the online

Essential for understanding Black history and culture, African Diaspora, 1860-Present allows scholars to discover the migrations, communities, and ideologies of the African Diaspora through the voices of people of African descent. With a focus on communities in the Caribbean, Brazil, India, United Kingdom, and France, the collection includes never-before digitized primary source documents, including personal papers, organizational papers, journals, newsletters, court documents, letters, and ephemera. form.

After the abolition of slavery, African diasporic communities formed throughout the world. The circumstances and histories of the establishment of each community were quite different, and as a result, the experiences, cultures and ideologies of the members of these communities vary significantly.

African Diaspora, 1860-present brings these communities to life through never-before digitized primary source…

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Box of Broadcasts (Learning on Screen) : access until 31st July 2020


Box of Broadcasts, from Learning on Screen, is available to access via Shibboleth (institutional) log-in until 31st July 2020. You will need to go to ‘sign in’, search for ‘University of Cambridge’ in the where are you from box, sign in with Raven and then follow the instructions to create an account.

Access is only available within the UK.

Please send your feedback about this resource via the online form.

Box of Broadcasts (BoB) is an demand TV and radio service for education.

BoB searches the title, metadata and transcripts as well as the broadcast data of upcoming programmes.

To search for content, click on the ‘search’ button at the top of the page. You can search for individual programmes by entering your keywords and clicking the search icon. You can also use the tick box filters under ‘search options’ to adjust your search to precise specifications.


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VitalSource Helps – temporary etextbook content for students


VitalSource is an education technology solutions provider committed to helping education partners create, deliver, and distribute affordable, accessible, and impactful learning experiences worldwide. To assist students during the COVID-19 lockdown the publishers listed below are offering free access to ebooks across all subjects, on the VitalSource platform until the 30th of June 2020. It’s important to note that there is a limit of 7 ebook title downloads per user, so choose your titles carefully.

American Psychological AssociationMcGraw Hill
Bloomsbury AcademicKogan Page
Bristol University PressPearson
CengageSpringer Nature
Edward ElgarTaylor and Francis
Macmillan International Higher Ed.WW Norton
Publishers offering temporary free ebook access

To sign up for an account on VitalSource Helps, click on the link below and register for an account, using your university @cam email address.

You will need to verify your email address by clicking the “confirm your email” link…

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Bloomsbury ebook subject collections : access until 30 May 2020


The University of Cambridge has access to the Bloomsbury ebook subject collections until 30 May 2020. The Bloomsbury collections provides access to over 8000 academic books across 22 subject areas in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Please tell us what you think of this collection using the the online form.


Subject Collections of Latest Research
Anthropology, Art & Visual Culture, Biblical Studies, Business & Management, Classical Studies & Archaeology, Design, Economics, Education, Fashion, Film & Media, History, Law, Linguistics, Literary Studies, Middle East Studies, Music & Sound Studies, Natural History, Philosophy, Politics & International Relations, Religious Studies, Sociology, Theology, and Bloomsbury Open (interdisciplinary)

Archive Collections
From Bloomsbury’s legacy of renowned imprints in key subject areas such as Ancient History, Christology, Continental Philosophy, Classical Literature, Modernism, Philosophy of Education, and Shakespeare Studies

Special Collections

The prestigious Ancient Commentators on Aristotle, The Churchill Collection, International Critical Commentary, and more.

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Project MUSE – opens up temporary access to scholarly content


Project MUSE is supporting participating publishers in making scholarly content temporarily available for free on their platform. Their aim is to make it easier to access vetted research in the humanities and social sciences, from a variety of distinguished university presses, societies, and related not-for-profit publishers, to help support teaching, learning, and knowledge discovery for users worldwide. Most of the free access will last until the 30th June, but different publishers have applied different end dates, so please consult the list from the link below for the most current information.

The free content spans both books and journal titles from currently around 80 publishers. A list of these participating publishers is available from the following link:

The book titles are searchable in iDiscover from today, but for journal articles please search on Project MUSE directly.

Major participating publishers include:

African Books Collective (all books until 30th June)


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African Literature Book Club moves online! Join us for Albert Camus’ “The Plague”

‘In this respect our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences. A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven’t taken their precautions.’
The Plague, Albert Camus

The story is set sometime in the 1940s, in the town of Oran – a large French port of the Algerian coast.  The city is filled with dull business-like people who are too sophisticated and caught up in their modernity to at first take seriously the strange event of rats turning up dead at street corners and doorsteps.

This town has no rats, must be some kids playing silly pranks. Dead rats increase like a bad omen heralding doom, and people are strangely falling sick and winding up dead in the same pattern.  The town must look into this but not take it too seriously because things like this don’t happen in Oran, they happen elsewhere and there is no reason to panic.

Dr Rieux, the central character – a town doctor and the first in touch with the sick and dying – is quick to catch on a sense of crisis but the town leadership is complacently in waiting until the numbers are impossible to ignore. But what do the mere
numbers of the dying mean to the living and unbereaved?

The town is shut down. It can happen to us; it is happening to us. Communications must adapt to the urgent – the only – task of survival.  The meanings of relationships are changing by necessity. What does all this teach us about the meaning and experience of life?

Albert Camus’ The Plague is strangely apt for the times. In the midst of sickness, death, isolations, and lockdowns in the context of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, The Plague is increasingly getting reinvigorated attention as an important read to think about our collective condition today.

We had planned to read Mia Couto’s A River Called Time for our next meeting, but we have decided to bring in Camus’s novel for its profound relevance at this time.

Join us at our virtual meeting of the African Literature Book Club as we discuss this novel. Let’s think together about how this book helps us to reflect on our current condition – a global one and how we may specifically think about its relationship with Africa.

To make this interesting and personal, we encourage everyone who can join us at the meeting to pick a favorite quote from book with which they can discuss how they are experiencing the times.

We are looking forward to seeing you and listening to your important interventions at the next meeting.

Diekara Oloruntoba-Oju –  African Literature Book Club Coordinator

Meeting via Zoom: Saturday 9th May, 15:00-16:30

eBook on iDiscover (Cambridge Uni members):


(also available on Audible)

Please sign up via our Eventbrite page to receive an invite to our Zoom meeting:

Duke University Press: 2020 collection


I’m pleased to be able to announce that the UL has purchased Duke University Press’s 2020 ebooks collection. This means that, as well as acquiring perpetual access to the ebooks within the collection (there will be around 130 in total, once they have all been published), Cambridge users will continue to have access to Duke’s extensive backlist for the duration of the agreement. Duke are renowned for their cutting-edge scholarship, and the UL has now acquired their ebook collections every year since 2016; you can read more about Duke ebooks in this blogpost. As with other content that we acquire directly from publishers, the ebooks are DRM-free, i.e. without restrictions on downloading or the number of concurrent users.

Records for the ebooks will be added to iDiscover on a monthly basis, as they are released. You can see a selection of the 2020 titles which are already available below.

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“Stories of Kalingalinga” – Private View 27th February

The Centre of African Studies, African Studies Library, and Kerstin Hacker warmly invite you to attend the Private View of an extract of the stunning “Stories of Kalingalinga” photography exhibition.

The ‘Stories of Kalingalinga’ exhibition was held at the Ruskin Gallery 16th January – 13th February, and will remain at the Centre of African Studies through to July, before travelling to the Henry Tayali Gallery in Lusaka, and the Wayi Wayi Art Studio and Gallery in Livingstone, Zambia.

The Centre of African Studies and the African Studies Library are hosting an extract of this exciting exhibition showcasing urban life in Lusaka, Zambia through 11 succinct photographic styles.

The Stories of Kalingalinga features work by:

Edith Chiliboy                                     Kerstin Hacker                                   Scotty Jongolo

Danny Chiyesu                                   Margaret Malawo                              Muchemwa Sichone

Zenzele Chulu                                    David Daut Makala                            Yande Yombwe

Natalia Gonzalez Acosta                  Dennis Mubanga Kabwe

All photographs were produced during a collaborative workshop between Anglia Ruskin University and the Zambian National Arts Council in 2019 organised by Kerstin Hacker, Geoffrey Phiri and Zenzele Chulu.  The exhibition also includes video interviews with each photographer.

The Private View will take place on Thursday 27th February, 16:30-19:00, in the Centre & Library (third floor, Alison Richard Building, Sidgwick Site)  Please join our community for an evening of photography, discussion, and refreshments.

The exhibition is open to all, 09:30-17:00, Monday – Friday, from 24th February.

View the catalogue online, or pick one up when you visit!

Press coverage in the Cambridge Independent: “Cambridge photographic exhibition captures real life in Lusaka”

Press coverage in the Times of Zambia: “Stories of Kalingalinga through ambiguous photography”

Please do share with colleagues, family, and friends who might be interested (children welcome)


African Literature Book Club – 14th March

Glass cabinet

We are happy to introduce Small Country” by Gaël Faye (originally written in French as: Petit Pays) as our text for discussion in the forthcoming book club meeting to be held on the 14th of March, 2020.

Gabriel turns 33 at the beginning (or perhaps, the end) of the story.  An immigrant in Paris, on his 33rd birthday, he recalls how often he is asked: ‘where are you from?’ by women he meets on dating sites.  This existential question preludes the story in the novel. Gabriel takes a trip down memory lane to his 11-year-old self – a middle class son of a Rwandan mother and French father, never quite fitting in.  An innocent and perhaps spoilt child of a marriage on the brink of crisis, Gabriel tells us about his childhood, stealing mangoes in the city of Bujumbara, as the events of the most devasting carnage of the genocide unfolds.  At the time Gabriel experiences this heartbreaking conflict, he is still 11 years old but no longer a child.

Set in Burundi-Rwanda and exploring themes of hate, identity, childhood, loss and memory, Faye’s Small Country is pure poetry and will touch you deeply.  The author, Gaël Faye, is a Rwandan-French rapper and poet based in Paris.  This is his debut novel – it has been well received and was the winner of the 2016 Prix de Goncourt de Lycéens.

The novel is less than 200 pages long and in big print.  We hope that you can read the text (it is absolutely rewarding) and we look forward to hosting you at the Centre of African Studies Library and listening to your wonderful contributions during the book discussion.

Please join us 15:00-16:30(ish) on Saturday 14th March, on the third floor of the Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road.

Please sign up via our Eventbrite page:

Or do get in touch with Jenni Skinner for more information:

eBook on iDiscover:

Purchase a copy:

Print copies at the University:

After this, we will read Mia Couto’s “A River Called Time” at our first meeting after the Easter break, scheduled for May 9th, 2020.

Diekara Oloruntoba-Oju – current MPhil in African Studies student, and organiser.