Literature, Language & the Arts

Lesson Plans

  • Language as Evidence: Using Swahili to Understand East African History
    World history teacher Eric Beckman created a resource-rich website for educators to teach about East African history and contemporary society through classroom study of the Swahili language. These lessons are useful for teaching about the Bantu migration, Indian Ocean trade network, imperialism, colonialism, and globalization. Includes multimedia resources and editable powerpoints and worksheets for classroom use.
  • South African Short Stories: Apartheid, Civil Rights, and You
    Created by high school teacher Carol Marshall, these lesson plans will not only introduce students to a diverse group of South African writers and literature, but also help students to begin to understand how apartheid created discriminatory and despicable laws, boundaries, and limitations for those who lived in South Africa during this time period. Additionally, students will explore how race in America impacted citizens here in a profound way through a lesson plan on the Little Rock Nine.
  • Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali Reading Guide
    This student reading guide features a timeline of the Empire of Mali, a character list from the reading, chapter by chapter comprehension questions, pulled quotations, and reading activities. 

Multimedia Resources

The Language of Africa series highlights a number of languages spoken around the continent and explores the personal and cultural connections each language has for its speaker. These abbreviated clips are an excellent way of introducing the multiculturalism and linguistic diversity found throughout the continent and provide students with an opportunity to think about the way their use of a specific language(s) carries with it historical and cultural connotations as well.

Afrikaans

In this particular video, Professor Zoliswa Mali provides an example of the Afrikaans language. Afrikaans is one of the official languages of South Africa and is the third most spoken language in the country. For more information on the Afrikaans language, please follow the link here.

(Portuguese) Creole

In this particular video, Professor Fallou Ngom provides an example of the Creole language. Creole is one of many languages spoken in Senegal, but examples of Creole can be found in numerous countries worldwide. For more information on the Creole language, please follow the link here.

Mandika

In this particular video, Professor Fallou Ngom provides an example of the Mandinka language. Mandika is the primary language of the Gambia but variations are spoken in Senegal and parts of Guinea-Bissau. For more information on the Mandika language, please follow the link here.

Sesotho

In this particular video, Professor Zoliswa Mali provides an example of the Sesotho language. Sesotho is one of the official languages of South Africa and is the national language of Lesotho. For more information on the Sesotho language, please follow the link here.

Xhosa

In this particular video, Professor Zoliswa Mali provides an example of the isiXhosa language. IsiXhosa (known as Xhosa in English) is one of the official languages of South Africa and is widely spoken throughout the country. For more information on the isiXhosa language, please follow the link here.

Zulu

In this particular video, Professor Zoliswa Mali provides an example of the Zulu language. Zulu is one of the official languages of South Africa and is the most widely spoken home language there. Zulu is also spoken in surrounding Southern Africa countries, such as Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. For more information on the Zulu language, please follow the link here.

Ifeoma Onyefulu

Author of a number of award-winning children’s books, such as Ikenna Goes to Nigeria and Here Comes Our Bride!, Onyefulu expertly combines her passion for photography with her desire to spread representative portrayals of Nigeria to children around the world. In this video, Onyefulu discusses her motivations and intentions behind her books with staff at Boston University.

Congratulations to the 2016 Children’s Africana Book Award (CABA) Winners!

The awards are granted to the best and most accurately representative children’s materials about Africa. We highly recommend using these books, as well as the recipients from previous years, in the K-12 classroom!

BEST BOOKS: YOUNG READERS

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BEST BOOKS: OLDER READERS

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For the complete list of past CABA winners for younger readers, visit here.
For the complete list of past CABA winners for older readers, visit here.

>> Getting Started on Literature on Africa <<

Here are three highly recommended books for teaching African literature:

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:



Language

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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:

 

Arts

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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: