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Biography of Jack MAPANJE

Malawi > Literature : Jack MAPANJE

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Biography :

Jack Mapanje (b. in 1944) is a Malawian poet, linguist and editor,  and one of the most important living African poets. He was poet in residence at The Wordsworth Trust, Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria and is now a senior lecturer in English at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

He was born into a poor household in a typical African village in 1944, when Malawi (then Nyasaland) was a British colony, but while he was still a child it became part of the Central African Federation, together with Northern and Southern Rhodesia.

Jack started writing poems, inspired by his despair at the political woes besetting his country.  Although his book, Of Chameleons and Gods, was only sold in one book shop in Malawi, it won considerable acclaim around the world and was awarded the Rotterdam International Poetry Prize. He was ambitious and set up a writers group within his own University and, although he knew it was dangerous, felt compelled to continue with his writing. He was arrested in 1987 while drinking in a bar. The World Service broadcast a news item about Mapanje's arrest the following day and his cause was taken up by writers groups and human rights activists across the world (including, Harold Pinter & Wole Soyinka ) campaigned for his releaese . Dr Mapanje was held without charge or trial in Mikuyu Prison for more than three years, scarcely aware of the international campaign to free him.

When he was finally released, again it was without warning or explanation. Believing his life was still in danger, he fled with his wife and children to Britain.  He has lived there ever since and now lectures at the University of Newcastle.

 Honours and Awards

For his academic achievement, contribution to poetry and human rights, Jack is recipient of the 1988 Rotterdam Poetry International Award and the 2002 African Literature Association (USA) Fonlon-Nichols Award.

Last update : 09/16/2008

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