international conference


The guest of the conference

Spoken word artists from South Africa Napo Masheane, Ntsiki Mazwai and Natalia Molebatsi, voices of the vibrant
post-apartheid spoken word movement.


Kenyan spoken word artist Shailja Patel, whose masterpiece collection Migritude has been recently published and translated into Italian. Tsistsistas poet and cultural activist Lance Henson, long-standing defender of the rights of indigenous people and one of the most inspiring voices of contemporary North American literature


Storytellers Kaha M. Aden, Gabriella Ghermandi and Tahar Lamri, three of the finest African migrant writers living in Italy


Prof. Itala Vivan and Prof. Maria Renata Dolce, among the most influential Italian scholars on postcolonial studies, convenors of the 2008 International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA) Conference. Prof. James Tsaioor, eminent scholar in African and Afro-Diasporic Literatures, Folklore and Gender Studies


H.E. Cecilia Obono Ndong
Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea to Italy

Prof. Furio Honsell
Mayor of Udine


In Western mainstream media Africa is often represented as “underdeveloped” and “the poorest” continent.
This stereotypical view leaves Africa and Africans at the margins of the various discourses in the globalizing
world. In order to offer alternative visions to this view, the Azania Speaks International Conference intends
to host empowering “voices of partnership” coming from Africa. These voices represent a clear sign of transformative cultures which flow on the musical waves of oral poetry, and create harmonious visions of the future based on genuine values of partnership such as caring, cooperation and sustainability.
The strength of these transformative cultures resides in the power of rhythm and sound: music and oral poetry are ancient and powerful “medicines”.
In oral poetry sound and words blend to overcome conventional linguistic stereotypes.
The rhythmic structure of the spoken word is metaphor and representation of a healing and renewed
psyche. The performing poet and the audience find mutual comfort in a renovated inner architecture where
the spoken word embodies the restorative, regenerative Great Cosmic Dance.

The conference will touch upon the following areas:

  • the power of oral poetry and storytelling
  • female voices in contemporary African oral poetry
  • contemporary African poetic production in connection to ancient African oral traditions.

At an educational level, the conference will focus on the interrelation between the partnership model and a viable and sustainable education based on three areas: intellectual (focused on partnership critical thinking), ethical (will and decision-making), and aesthetics embracing a creative and caring approach.
The conference aims at discussing literature(s) in English(es) that express a strong desire to recover and re-shape (in postcolonial aesthetic terms) a sacred pre-colonial mythological past, a past where the figure of a feminine divinity stands at the core of a narrative r-evolution.


The Azania Speaks conference begins with a round table with H.E. Mrs. Cecilia Obono Ndong (Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea to Italy) and Furio Honsell (Mayor
of Udine), followed by the keynote speech of Prof. Nduka Otiono of the University of Alberta, one of the most distinguished scholars on the field of contemporary African oral poetry, who will present the most recent investigations on performing poetry in Africa.
The Azania Speaks conference aims at representing “other” possible patterns of construction of the self and forms of coexistence generated by non-hierarchical relational processes, in order to better understand and promote respect for the variety and complexity of world cultures, languages and literatures at local, national and international level.
Therefore the conference also aims at being a “meeting-point” between African spoken word artists and poets of local “minority” cultures and trans-cultures (Friulian, Sardinian, African migrant writers of Italy).

Multimedia and texts The proceedings of the Conference will be published in a volume (Forum, Udine) that will be used for a series of seminars for undergraduate and graduate students, scholars and post-doctoral fellows. The volume will include a DVD recording the most significant moments of the conference as well as the creative performances of the artists.