New German National License: “African Writers Series” online

For over 40 years, Heinemann’s African Writers Series published canonical twentieth century texts of African literature. The online edition by ProQuest’s Chadwyck-Healey includes over 250 volumes of fiction, poetry, drama and non-fictional prose, including works by Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Steve Biko, Buchi Emecheta, Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, Christopher Okigbo, Okot p’Bitek and Tayeb Salih.

The African Writers Series (AWS) of Heinemann Educational Books was founded in 1962 with the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (originally published in 1958) as AWS No. 1, and with Achebe himself as Founding Editor. Achebe remained Series Editor until 1972, by which time the series included 100 titles. “The list of names of editorial board members drawn from different academic disciplines reads like a ‘who’s who’ in African literary studies.” (Clarke 2003, 165) The initial aim was to produce a paperback series featuring writing by African authors (initially, this was limited to black African authors) that would be affordable for a general African readership. Most of the works in the Series come from English-speaking countries in Western, Southern and Eastern Africa, but there are also a number of volumes translated from French, Portuguese, Zulu, Swahili, Acoli, Sesotho, Afrikaans, Luganda and Arabic (compare the About section of the database).

Africa Writes Back

As African nations won independence, writers like Achebe began to forge distinctive national literatures throughout the continent. Contrary to the colonialist perceptions they want to demonstrate that Africa had a history and a culture in its own right (Okyerefo 2001). „The series gives agency to the African because the novels, short stories, plays, poetry, and autobiographies are written by Africans about Africans, telling their own stories in their own voices for both Africans and non-Africans.“ (Clarke 2003, 168) The series not only launched the national but also triggered a pan-african literature discourse. Programmatically, one of the series’ editor, James Currey, called his memoir “Africa Writes Back. The African Writers Series & the launch of African literature” (Currey 2008).  Authors from East Africa now could be read in West Africa, and works by Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o entered the world market. The English translations of Mongo Beti’s „Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba“ or Sembène Ousmane’s „Le Docker Noir“ were sold much more often than the French editions.

The series editor James Currey reported extensively about the history of the AWS and his personal achievements:

“My connections with South African writers in exile as well as with writers surviving in that country made books available internationally that could not have appeared in South Africa. Later, David Philip, the Cape Town publisher, found a legal loophole which with Heinemann’s co-operation enabled writers such as Alex la Guma to be reprinted in South Africa; this evaded the banned list operated by South African customs at the ports of entry.” (Curry 2003, 580; see also Curry 2008, 183)

However, in the beginnings it was a male Africa. In the first 100 titles only one female author features: Nigeria’s Flora Nwapa (Fraser/Bejjit 2005).

Online advantages & peculiarities

The full-text format allows new approaches to the old literature:

“Researchers can run searches across the whole corpus of texts to find instances of specific words or phrases: one can search for key terms of African nationalist discourse such as ‘Azania’ or ‘black consciousness’, for terms associated with politics and class distinctions such as ‘socialism’, ‘democracy’, ‘middle class’, ‘accent’ or ‘elite’, or simply for references to specific tribes or languages, such as ‘Yoruba’, ‘Xhosa’ or ‘Tswana’.” (Kibble 2005, 66)

The AWS online edition may be useful for studies

  • on the self-conception of an African writer and intellectual
  • on English language and literature and the establishment of a canon of great literature
  • on gender and on cultural contacts, e.g. in the work of Amma Darko (Beyond the Horizon, 1995) with Germany
  • on postcolonialism, e.g. with the question on how colonial structures survived after independence
  • on Romance literature due to the translations from the Portuguese and French (the search can be restricted to translations or the original language of origin)
  • on history, e.g. with the autobiographies of Kenneth Kaundas and Olusegun Obasanjo
  • on the construction of ethnicity, e.g. of the Ibo and
  • on the history of publishing in Africa.

Useful links for users of the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections like Case Studies, Sample Searches, or How to Cite Texts from the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections.

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Editorial Policy

Each volume is reproduced in full, including accompanying text by the author, introductions, notes, glossaries and other editorial matter, and illustrations. Each volume, including anthologies and collections, can be browsed in its entirety via a Table of Contents. All authors are indexed by gender, nationality and dates of birth/death, and all texts by details of first publication (date, place, publisher and language) and details of first publication in the AWS (date and AWS series number). These index fields are all searchable from the Search page, and are displayed in the bibliographic details for each volume. The names of translators and anthology editors, and alternate name forms of authors, are also searchable via the Author field. Original pagination is preserved, and the page layout of poems is reproduced as accurately as possible. Scanned images are used as a supplement to the keyed text for illustrations, figures and unusual page layouts. Typographic characters that cannot be displayed using a web-safe extended Latin character set have been mapped to standard-character equivalents, and scanned images have been provided for cross-referencing (see Editorial Policy).

The Librarians view

Since 2005 the first three attempts to get the National License funding for the African Writers Series were unsuccessful, luckily in 2011 things changed. It took seven years to make this important corpus available to all researchers in Germany.

This corpus is one of the seldom undertakings where literature which is still under copyright protection is digitized:

“The digitisation of the AWS is a substantial undertaking […]. Almost all of the texts included in the AWS are in copyright, which means that the first task has been to identify a rights holder for each title and negotiate a license for electronic reproduction of the text.” (Kibble 2005, 66)

An overview about the printed books gives Frankfurt University’s library catalogue; further studies on the African Writers Series can be accessed via ilissAfrica.

AWS supplements the German National License „Corpus de la littérature francophone de l’Afrique noire“.

Now, please do explore the wealth of the online edition of the African Writers Series!

References:

  • Clarke, Becky: The African Writers Series: celebrating forty years of publishing distinction, in: Research in African Literatures 34 (2003), 2, pp. 163-174, online.
  • Currey, James: Africa writes back : the African writers series & the launch of African Literature, Oxford : Currey, 2008.
  • Currey, James: Chinua Achebe, the African Writers Series and the Establishment of African Literature, in: African Affairs 102 (2003), 409, pp. 575-587, online.
  • Fraser, Robert / Nourdin Bejjit: THE TIGER THAT POUNCED: THE AFRICAN WRITERS SERIES (1962–2003) AND THE ONLINE READER, 2005, Introductory Essay, http://collections.chadwyck.co.uk/infoCentre/products/aws_hist.jsp.
  • Information Centre : About African Writers Series: http://collections.chadwyck.co.uk/infoCentre/products/about_ilc.jsp
  • Kaiza, David: But Why, Father? looking back on the legacy of the African Writers Series, fifty years on, in: Transition 106 (2011), pp. B88-B105.
  • Kibble, Matt: The African Writers Series reborn: an electronic edition, in: Wasafiri 46 (2005), pp. 66-68.
  • Okyerefo, Michael Perry Kweku: The Cultural Crisis of Sub-Saharan Africa as Depicted in the African Writers’ Series. A Sociological Perspective, Frankfurt am Main: Lang 2001.

Note to our German users:

Since September 2013 the works are indexed as individual titles in the catalogue of Frankfurt University Library.

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New in ilissAfrica: AJOL, African institutional repositories and French databases via Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE)

ilissAfrica strengthened its service of full text e-documents through the integration of Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE). Via this powerful OAI-PMH service provider some of the most important African and French repositories and article databases are now part of the combined search in ilissAfrica.

Highlights of the Africa section of BASE:

  1. African Journals Online (AJOL) to promote access to African research. It is the largest and pre-eminent collection of peer-reviewed, African-published scholarly journals, some Open Access.
  2. 30 institutional repositories from African universities, like WIReDSpace, UWC Research Repository, UNISA Institutional Repository, UPSpace, UJ DigiSpace, SUNScholar Research Repository, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar: Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire Culturels Africains (Senegal), Covenant University Repository (Ota, Nigeria) or Addis Ababa University Electronic Thesis and Dissertations
  3. Major French resources like
    • Gallica – bibliothèque numérique de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) – with access e.g. to the accounts, photographs, maps etc. of explorers of Africa
    • Cairn – more than 150 journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences, e.g. Afrique contemporaine, Cahiers d’études africaines, Outre-Terre
    • Revues.org – Revues.org is the oldest collection of France’s open access online journals for social sciences (over 60).
    • Persée: Portail de revues scientifiques en sciences humaines et sociales. Free access to bibliographical data and to some extent to full text articles from scientific journals in the social and human sciences in France
    • HAL – Hyper Article en Ligne and Ressources documentaires. multi-disciplinary open access archive for the deposit and dissemination of scientific research papers, whether they are published or not, and for PhD dissertation
    • Inst. de recherche pour le développement (IRD). – Publications of the scientists of the IRD (former Orstom).
  4. More institutional repositories and digitization databases of LSE, SOAS, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan, Indiana, Harvard and Brigham Young universities
  5. Finally the RePEc:Research Papers in Economics and the Directory of Open Access Journals:Articles bring in many more results from very diverse journals also on Africa

Why BASE?

Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) is one of the world’s most voluminous search engines especially for academic open access web resources. BASE is operated by Bielefeld University Library. As the open access movement grows and prospers, more and more repository servers come into being which use the “Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting” (OAI-PMH) for providing their contents. BASE collects, normalizes, and indexes these data. One can access the full texts of about 75% of the indexed documents. The Index is continuously enhanced by integrating further OAI sources as well as local sources. BASE is a registered OAI service provider and contributed to the European project “Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research” (DRIVER).

Some remarks on selection and usage:

  • The selection was done by choosing specific data provider. There is no further sub-selection like a subject specification on African Studies. So on the one hand one might find results on the natural sciences which you would not expect in ilissAfrica. On the other hand you will find many documents on Africa e.g. in journals which would not be indexed in libraries specializing on African Studies normally.
  • While many repositories deliver keywords and abstracts, only some do support the keyword search.
  • The advanced search for the date range does not work with BASE
  • OR and NOT in the advanced search do work with BASE.
  • Some provider like Persee and Revues.org do not deliver the source information (name of the journal, volume etc.).

Search examples

  • Dogon
  • Khoisan
  • Youth in Sierra Leone – only full text, all document types
  • Mission Congo – AJOl articles, UNISA thesis, Persee, CAIRN articles, HAL documents, digital missionary accounts, pictures and maps e.g. via Gallica
  • Material on the “Kingdom of Kongo” – if one includes the French search term (royaume congo) the results of a title search  lead to journal articles and books in the different library catalogues and databases and via BASE there are found an ORSTOM (IRD) paper, some articles in Persee and some maps digitized by the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. See further Gallica-Maps of the Kingdom of Kongo.
  • dakar photo*
  • South African postcards, e.g. historic postcards digitized by the University of Pretoria
  • online chapters of one book available in the libraries
  • Bambara (not groundnut)

Conclusion

The integration of BASE into ilissAfrica’s cross search is a big step forward: one search index provides access to a multitude of institutional repositories and Open Access databases. BASE is a brilliant example of the potential of the linked web via standardized interfaces. And it helps to increase the visibility of academic knowledge produced and stored in the South.

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List of the OAI-repositories included:

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On Display: Online mapping, spatial data and geo-referenced information in Kenya and Ushahidi-updates in Africa

In Kenya some new interactive platforms and initiatives visualize and connect spatial data to other forms of data in most innovative ways:

Virtual Kenya

Virtual Kenya is designed to provide improved access to spatial data and mapping technology to allow more Kenyans to use and interact with spatial data in their educational and professional pursuits. This will be accomplished by providing online access to publicly available spatial data sets and by offering users a number of interactive tools and learning resources for exploring these data. Users will be able to view, download, publish, share, and comment on various map-based products. The ultimate goal of Virtual Kenya is to promote increased data sharing and spatial analysis for better decision-making, development planning and education in Kenya, while at the same time demonstrating the potential and use of web-based spatial planning tools.

Initially, the platform will feature maps and information based on Nature’s Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being (“the Atlas”), originally published jointly in 2007 by the World Resources Institute together with the Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing, the Central Bureau of Statistics, and the International Livestock Research Institute. The Atlas overlays geo-referenced statistical information on human well-being with spatial data on ecosystems and their services to yield a picture of how land, people, and prosperity are related in Kenya. Since its publication, data and charts from the Atlas have been downloaded regularly from the WRI website, and its online Geographic Information System (GIS) data sets are being used to produce new maps.

Virtual Kenya was implemented by Upande Ltd. Upande focuses on providing services which address problems related to location, direction and destination, with a strong focus on online mapping and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Upande is also involved in developing the ALRMP baseline prototype application for the Ministry of Northern Kenya and Arid Lands. The company also worked for the African Union Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) to create a single-stop bank of information on animal resources in Africa with a web map for the dissemination of knowledge on animal health, animal production and livestock marketing and trade. Also not online is the E-commerce web map page for SORALO (South Rift Land Owners Association) and ATAGRA (Amboseli Tsavo Group Ranch Association), Group Ranch Associations based in the Maasai Mara and Amboseli ecosystems to boost tourism outside of the conventional parks by making information on hotspots searchable to the world. Upande also offers consultancy in Google Map, OpenStreetMap (OSM), OpenLayers, Mapserver, Geoserver and Geonetworks.

Map Kibera

Map Kibera has produced the first complete free and open map of Kibera. In November 2009, local young people used OpenStreetMap techniques. This included surveying with GPS, and digitization of satellite imagery and paper based annotation with Walking Papers. In April 2010, Map Kibera started two media and local news reporting groups formed to elaborate on information in Kibera. Kibera News Network uses handheld Flip video cameras to record local news and stories and edit videos to post on Youtube and share in the community. To support Map Kibera Erica Hagen and Mikel Maron founded the GroundTruth Initiaive. They aim on using digital story-telling, open data and geographic information for greater influence and representation for marginalized communities.

Voice of Kibera

Voice of Kibera uses Ushahidi software to map local stories and reports onto the Kibera map, and serve as a local information hub. This citizen reporting project is an initiative of Map Kibera. Voice of Kibera aims to give collective global voice to Kibera residents by aggregating local citizen reports, Kibera community media and other relevant news and information.

Kenya Open Data

The goal of opendata.go.ke is to make core government development, demographic, statistical and expenditure data available in a useful digital format for researchers, policymakers, ICT developers and the general public. Includes e.g. high quality national census data, government expenditure, parliamentary proceedings and public service locations. There are maps to start exploring, interactive charts and tables for a deeper understanding, and raw data for technical users to build their own apps and analyses.

RCMRD

The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) was established in Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union. It is an inter-governmental organization and currently has 18 contracting Member States in the Eastern and Southern Africa Regions. Its vision is to be a centre of excellence in the provision of Geo-Information and Information Technology applications in Africa and beyond.

Further virtual maps

  • AfricaMap is housed at the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University
  • websites with individual maps or with collections of maps in ilissAfrica

Ushahidi-Updates

Many new Ushahidi-sites have been started since my first Blog post from March 2011 “On Display: Crowdsourcing with Ushahidi – the social and political relevance of the interactive web“:

Liberia:

  • Peace Building Office of the Republic of Liberia.
  • Liberia’s Early-Warning and Response Network (LERN)
  • Liberia Elections 2011 – live Ushahidi election monitoring website
  • compare also Ushahidi Liberia as a non-profit tech company that customise free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping in Liberia.

Benin:

  • Violence Against Children project – Plan Benin uses Ushahidi to map reports of violence against children in Benin. Children, youth and even adults can use SMS to send in reports on violence against children. The goal is to both collect information about the forms and occurrences of violence as well as to strengthen local and national capacity in participating countries to respond to violence against children. It is hoped that the information collected can also serve to shape programs and budgets dedicated to ending this harmful practice.

Nigeria:

Zimbabwe:

  • The National Association of NGOs in Zimbabwe (NANGO) has launched a social service delivery campaign in Harare for residents to speak on problems they are facing in their neighborhood.

Zambia:

  • BantuWatch – platform that allows citizens and civil society to monitor and report incidences around the electoral process in 2011.

South Africa:

Egypt:

  • HARASSmap – a system in Egypt for reporting incidences of sexual harassment via SMS messaging.

Morocco:

  • Moroccans are participating in election monitoring on Marsad.ma (Marsad, in Arabic, means Observatory).

Please add more innovative sites with spatial data as comments on this article!