Literature, Language, & the Arts



African literature includes works of writing which are written by Africans as well as written about Africa. One of the most famous authors of written works on Africa is Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian novelist and poet. Achebe is best known for his first novel Things Fall Apart (1958), which is considered to be one of the most widely read book in contemporary African literature.

Achebe focuses his novels on traditions of Nigerian community, the effect of Christian influences, and the impact of colonialism both during and after the colonial era. His writing style includes oral tradition, folk stories, and proverbs, which manifest in his novels as well in his short stories, children’s books, and essay collections.


Congratulations to the 2013 Children’s Africana Book Award Winners, including William Kamkwamba for his best-selling novel The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind!

Click here for the complete list of CABA Winners

Click here for Boston University’s excellent resource guide
for William Kamkwamba’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

>> Getting Started on Literature on Africa <<


Here are three highly recommended books for teaching African literaure:

African  Novels in the Classroom, Margaret Jean Hay

Editor Margaret Jean Hay presents 24 of Africa’s best known and enjoyed novels and features 24 college professors “from different disciplines discuss how they use specific African novels in the classroom–why they choose a certain novel, what corollary readings they assign, what background information they present in lecture, what major themes emerge in discussion, and what written assignments then explore the students’ engagement with that particular novel” (quotation from the book’s editor, Margaret Jean Hay).

This book best serves as support for teaching the social life of the novels.

For teaching with a focus on the literary elements, these two resources work well:

A Handbook for Teaching African Literature, Elizabeth Gunner

The African Novel in English: An Introduction, Keith Booker


For more information on African literature, please visit the following links:



Africa is a continent rich with language diversity. There are over 3,000 languages spoken in Africa, many of which have roots to the major language families:

  • Afro-Asianic includes Arabic ancestrally native to East and North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula
  • Nilo-Saharan
  • Nilo-Congo (A) comprised of Niger-Congo’s non-Bantu branches
  • Niger-Congo (B) mainly Bantu, Niger-Congo’s largest branch
  • Khoi-San
  • Austronesian is intrusive from Southeast Asia
  • Indo-European (not shown on map) Afrikaans, native to the Southern tip of Africa, intrusive from Europe

Experience the character of different African languages through these translated proverbs:




Just as in any continent, art work can be used to interpret the diverse culture and history of the Africa. The brass plaque depicted on the right, was part of a series of works created to adorn the exterior of the royal palace in Benin City during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The plaques were used to tell complex narratives of Benin society. The creators wanted to communicate the hierarchy and status within their society, as seen by the physical features of each figure. The largest figure, in the forefront, is the one with the greatest authority is depicted as the warrior chief, while the soldiers by his side are of lesser rank.


For more examples of African art and for more ways to incorporate African art into your lessons, see the following: