Featured Speakers

Below you will find information about the featured presenters at the 2016 African Literature Association Conference, including the keynote speaker, Chris Abani.

Chris AbaniChris Abani is an acclaimed novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter, and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria, received a BA in English from Imo State University, Nigeria, an MA in English, Gender, and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London, and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. He has resided in the United States since 2001.

Abani’s fiction includes The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin 2014), nominated for the Hurston/Wright 2015 Legacy Award, Song For Night (2007), The Virgin of Flames (2007), Becoming Abigail (2006), GraceLand (2004), and Masters of the Board (1985). His poetry collections areSanctificum (2010), There Are No Names for Red (2010), Feed Me The Sun – Collected Long Poems(2010), Hands Washing Water (2006), Dog Woman (2004), Daphne’s Lot (2003), and Kalakuta Republic (2001). Poet Kwame Dawes has noted that “Abani’s line has a sharp precision that turns a scream into a line of memorable lyric music without losing the emotion and force.”Chris Abani

Through his TED Talks, public speaking, and essays, Abani is known as an international voice on humanitarianism, art, ethics, and our shared political responsibility. His critical and personal essays have been featured in books on art and photography, as well as Witness, Parkett, The New York Times, O Magazine, and Bomb.

He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Hemingway Award for Graceland, the PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the Hurston Wright Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, among many honors. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, German, Swedish, Romanian, Hebrew, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Portuguese, Dutch, Bosnian, and Serbian.

Abani’s many research interests include African Poetics, World Literature, 20th Century Anglophone Literature, African Presences in Medieval and Renaissance Culture, The Living Architecture of Cities, West African Music, Postcolonial and Transnational Theory, Robotics and Consciousness, Yoruba and Igbo Philosophy, and Religion.

Abani is currently a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago.

See Chris Abani's Homepage for more.



Raoul PeckRaoul Peck was born in Port-­‐au-­‐Prince, Haiti. He was educated in Haiti, Zaire (Congo), the United States, France and Germany. His parents fled the Duvalier dictatorship in 1991, finding asylum and a new life in the Republic of Congo, which became their second home for nearly twenty-five years. Peck initially attended school in Leopoldville, later public school in Brooklyn, New York, and finally Orleans, France. He lived for an extended time in Zaïre and Germany and studied industrial engineering and economics at Berlin University. He started a Ph.D. in Development Strategies, which he chose to abandon after two years following the sudden death of his doctorate mentor. He was accepted into the competitive film program at The Berlin Germany Academy of Film, where he received a degree 1984. Peck has worked as a journalist and photographer and film professor. He currently resides between France, Haïti and New York.


  • Title
  • "Murder in the Pacot"
    130 min
  • "Fatal Assistance"
    134 min
  • "Moloch Tropical"
    107 min
  • "Sometimes in April"
    Narrative, HBO
  • "Profit, Nothing But"
    57 min
    110 min
  • "Corps Plongés"
    91 min
  • "Chère Catherine"
    Video Essay
    19 min
  • "Haiti, the Silence of the Dogs"
    52 min
  • "Desounen - Dialogue with Death"
    52 min
  • "The Man by the Shore"
    105 min
  • Lumumba - Death of a Prophet"
    67 min
  • "Haitian Corner"
    98 min


Namwali SerpellNamwali Serpell was born in Zambia in 1980. Her story “The Sack” won the 2015 Caine Prize for African writing. In 2014, she was chosen as one of the most promising African writers under 40 for the Africa39 anthology, a project of the Hay festival. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award for women in 2011. Her first published story, “Muzungu,” was selected for the 2009 Best American Short Stories and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, n+1, McSweeney’s (forthcoming), Bidoun, Callaloo, The San Francisco Chronicle, The L.A. Review of Books, and The Guardian. She is an associate professor in the University of California, Berkeley English department and her first book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, was published in 2014.

Click here to read Namwali Serpell's award-winning story, "The Sack."

Fred KuwornuFred "Kudjo” Kuwornu
, an activist-producer-writer-director, was born and raised in Italy and based in Brooklyn. His mother is an Italian Jew, and his father a Ghanaian surgeon who lived in Italy since the early 60's. Fred Kuwornu holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Mass Media, from the University of Bologna. As a teenager, he started his career as a DJ and Producer. Later, he moved to Rome where he began working as a TV show writer for RAI public television.

After his experience, working with the production crew of Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna”, Fred decided to research the unknown story of the 92nd Infantry “Buffalo Soldiers” Division, discovering and documenting the journey taken by the real 92nd Infantry veterans, and the entire African American segregated combat unit, which fought in Europe during WW II.

Fred thus produced and directed the Award-winning documentary Inside Buffalo (“Best Documentary” at the Black Berlin International Cinema Festival). Inside Buffalo had viewings at the Pentagon, the Library of Congress and it received a letter of congratulations by President Barack Obama. In 2012, he released "18 IUS SOLI "which examines multiculturalism in Italy but also specifically looks at questions of citizenship for the one million children of immigrants born and raised in Italy but are not yet Italian citizens.

He is the founder of the Association Diversity Italia promoting the importance of racial and ethnic diversity in Italy and Europe using film and other art forms as tools for building a more inclusive society. His next projects, with the new production company Do The Right Films Entertainment are: "Afropolti@n", a documentary about a contemporary concept of Pan Africanism, and "Blaxploitalian" a documentary about 100 Years of Blackness in the italian cinema. Fred Kuwornu had the privilege of being a guest lecturer and keynote speaker at conferences such as "Ethnicity, National Identity in Contemporary Italy" and "Documentary for Social Change" at top universities like Yale, Berkeley, UCLA, NYU, Brown, Columbia, University of Toronto, Oxford University (in the UK) and others.