Compiled by Ogova Ondego
Published June 14, 2007
Chinua Achebe of the Things Fall Apart fame
Two Nigerian authors, veteran Chinua Achebe and new-comer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, are likely to count June 2007 as a lucky month for them. What with their having won two top literary prizes within a week of each other. By so doing, OGOVA ONDEGO writes, Nigeria may be stating to the world that they are literary champions for having adopted English and using it effectively in communicating about their various African cultures.
Seventy-six-year-old Achebe whose 1958 debut novel, Things Fall Apart, sold more than 10 million copies and is the most translated African author, bagged £60,000 Man Booker International prize that will be presented to him on June 28, 2007 at a ceremony in the United Kingdom.
Things Fall Apart
A week earlier, 29-year-old Adichie, a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University in the USA, had won the £30,000 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction with Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel set in the Nigerian Biafran civil war.
Though shortlisted in 2004 for the award orginally known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, did not win.
While the Orange Prize is reserved for women only, the Man Booker International prize recognises a living writer and is awarded every two years. It was first presented in 2005 to Albanian Ismail Kadare.
Meanwhile, we hereby publish a review of African broadcast Cultures sent to ArtMatters.Info from Radio Netherlands Media Network in early 2007:
African Broadcast CulturesRadio Netherlands Media Network
Editors: Richard Fardon and Graham Furniss
Publisher: UK: James Currey Publishers, 73 Botley Road, Oxford OX2 0BS. Tel: +44 (0) 1865-244111. Fax: +44 (0) 1865-246454.
Paperback: 256 pages ISBN: 0852558287. £14.95.
Hardback: 224 pages. ISBN: 0852558295. £40.00
Publisher: USA: Praeger Publishers, Westport, Conn.
Hardback: 224 pages. ISBN 0275970604. $65.00
If you look at a copy of the World Radio TV Handbook from around 10 years ago, you’ll notice that in the majority of African countries there was only one national, government-controlled broadcaster. That situation has changed drastically, and now many African countries also have community radio, commercial radio and even FM relays of international broadcasters such as the BBC and Radio France International.
In 1997, a series of workshops on broadcasting were held at the University of London’s Centre for African Studies. A number of experts presented papers on a variety of themes related to radio in Africa. Those papers, updated to 1999, have now been published under the collective title “African Broadcast Cultures – Radio in Transition”.
Unusually for a specialist publication like this, the book has come out simultaneously in hardback and paperback, and is widely available through online direct from the publishers, or via online bookstores..
Although the editors, and many of the contributors, come from an academic background, the text is very readable. You also don’t have to read the chapters in the order they appear in the book. But we do suggest it’s a good idea to start with one called ‘From Saucepan to Dish’ by Graham Mytton. Mr. Mytton was Head of Audience Research at BBC World Service, and before that spent 10 years working for the BBC African Service. His article gives a good general overview of the way African radio has developed, and helps put the other chapters into context.
The ‘saucepan’ refers to the “saucepan special”, a small battery radio produced for the African market by the Ever Ready company in 1949. It was so-called because the prototype was built into the shell of a saucepan. These sets sold for 14 US dollars, and were very popular until the transistor radio arrived towards the end of the 1950’s.
The book’s editors, Professors Richard Fardon and Graham Furniss, explain in their introduction that they don’t claim to cover completely all aspects of radio in Africa. For example, there’s very little about ethnic music, which they believe is a fascinating subject worthy of a book all to itself. It’s simply that none of the contributors has expertise in that area.
Many of the chapters deal with the practical problems of African radio. Some give case histories from specific countries. For example, here are a few snippets from the story of the local station Radio Tanguiéta in Burkina Faso:
“The first problem for the Tanguiéta committee resulted from the official preference for two local broadcast languages. The choice of Biali and Nateni was seen by speakers of other languages in the community to be overly restrictive. Their demands were agreed by the president, who authorized broadcasts in six languages. Additional presenters were recruited who, although not formally trained, nevertheless claimed a salary.Some months later, the financial situation of the station worsened. By the end of 1995, no salaries were being paid to the presenters at all”.
Tales of financial crises, political problems and practical difficulties like this abound throughout the book. But although most of the chapters are essentially factual, some interesting and occasionally controversial opinions are expressed. For example, British journalist Richard Carver, who has worked with various human rights and journalists organisations, has a rather unorthodox view of the role of Radio Television Mille Collines in the Rwandan genocide in 1994:
“The notion that people could be incited to acts of violence merely by listening to the radio is only tenable if is accepted that RTLM propaganda unlocked profound or even primordial hatreds. Yet all the evidence is that the genocide was a meticulously planned and well-organized affair, with the Hutu extremist militias acting under strict orders according to a pre-arranged strategy. The apparatus of militias, hit squads, arms caches and death lists was put in place in the months before April 1994. In other words, the radio may have produced propaganda for the genocide, but it did not incite it”.
Well, clearly that’s a minority view, and for more on the background to the tragic events in Rwanda 6 years ago, see our dossier Counteracting Hate Radio.
If you want to understand some of the issues and problems facing broadcasters in Africa, there’s a wealth of information here. The editors acknowledge that coverage of the entire continent is uneven, but with over 50 countries and thousands of individual languages in Africa, it would be impossible to cover everything in one book. What it does do very well is give an insight into the complexities of planning and operating radio stations in a continent with a low average income and an underdeveloped infrastructure.
If there’s a criticism to be made, although some of the chapters do have a list of reference sources, there’s very little in the way of guidance for those who wish to explore further some of the issues raised in the book. It would have been useful to have a list of Web sites, or names and addresses of some of the organisations mentioned. As it is, typing some of the source material titles into an Internet search engine is your best chance of coming up with something.
That criticism aside, we think that African Broadcast Cultures is a good read, and provided you buy the paperback edition it’s also good value for money.