Renowned Nigerian playwright and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka finished a Scholar-in-Residence at New York University in the United States this week. NYU’s Institute of African American Affairs hosted Mr. Soyinka as for a series of discussions between October 3rd and October 7th on Negritudism and Afropolitianism.
Awam Amkpa, Professor of Drama and Africana Studies at NYU, and a former student of Mr. Soyinka in Nigeria, introduced and guided the scholar throughout the week and moderated some sessions.
Mr. Soyinka’s main lecture, “Negritude By Any Other Name”, emphasized the role African intellectuals and their voices in the need to address continental challenges like terrorism, migration, religious absolutism and their consequences. He also addressed how artists can be a conduit to solve these issues.
The following day, Tuesday October 4th, saw Mr. Soyinka participate in an imagined dialogue between his work and the late Senegalese intellectual Leopold Seder Senghor on the application of Negritude ideas. The conversation, through a film directed by Manthia Diawara, was followed up on a Q&A session between Mr. Soyinka, Mr. Diawara, and eminent historian of Africa at NYU Frederick Cooper.
The final event was a deeper conversation between Negritudist ideas and Afropolitian ideals, with particular emphasis on the African diaspora. The conversation was mainly between Mr. Soyinka and author Taiye Selasi on how Africans, and Black people more generally, connect and relate to each other through these intellectual framings.
Mr. Soyinka, explaining Negritudism to Mrs. Selasi and the audience, argued that “there is no such thing as ‘African Culture’ there are ‘African Cultures’.” His response was to emerging notions, particularly within Afropolitican communities, that there is a broad or singular notion of an African. In his remarks he emphasized how there are connections between unique African and diaspora communities globally.