Anthology of critical studies on Tess Onwueme set for May release

Tess Onwueme

An international anthology of critical studies of the US-based Professor Tess Osonye Onwueme’s works will be released in May 2019. A professor of Global Letters in English at UW-Eau Claire, Onwueme was a 2016 nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The anthology, which is published by Africa World Press, is titled, Emerging Perspectives on Tess Onwueme. It was edited by Maureen Eke and belongs to an academic series on Black Writers of Note around the world.

Other anthologies in the series include, Emerging Perspectives on Chinua Achebe and Emerging Perspectives on Wole Soyinka.

Emerging Perspectives on Tess Onwueme, comprising contributions from scholars around the world, was commissioned following the 2009 International Conference. Titled, Staging Women, Youth, Globalisation and Eco-Literature, the conference centred solely on Onwueme’s works. It is also a follow up to Onwueme’s nomination for the African Literature Association’s Fonlon-Nichols Award — her contributions to contemporary world literature and drama.

The award is given yearly to a black writer whose works have demonstrated a commitment to democratic ideals, humanistic values and literary excellence in writing.

Onwueme holds the Eau Claire Chair in Global Letters at the University of Wisconsin. She is a Distinguished Professor of Cultural Diversity and professor of English, where she has served since 1994.

Steeped in tradition and ceremony, endowed chairs continue to be a magnet for recruiting and retaining faculty, and represent the highest accolade a university can bestow upon a professor.

The Delta State-born author has held sway in Nigeria’s literary scene since the 1980s and has several awards and publications to her credit, including The Broken Calabash, Reign of Wazobia, Desert Encroaches, Missing Face and What Mama Said.

An accomplished writer, Onwueme has been in the vanguard of campaign for women education and empowerment. She uses the theatre to fight gender subjugation and other forms of discriminations against women.

Her promotion for African culture even in the heart of the United States of America has endeared her to many as the symbol of African cultural values and heritage.

She often frowns at Nigerians attitude towards local arts and preference for everything foreign.

“Our people value foreign paintings; they buy and invest in them. But ours, which is carved and indigenous, is looked down upon, and dismissed; they don’t want to be associated with it because it is ‘crude’ and ‘occultic’. Don’t you see the Eurocentric mindset and the impact of the poisoning, the cancer that is westernisation?” she asked.

Though in the far away US, Mama T, as she is fondly called, stated that Nigeria is close to her wherever she goes.

“Nigeria, to me, is not 1,000 miles away. Anywhere I am, Nigeria is. I carry my cultural identity with me. So, when they see me, they see Nigeria, they see Africa. I live it. I breathe it and I eat it.

“And that is the reason I was able to raise five little children in America and still enforce every opportunity available to make them live Africa; I live the values. I feel a sense of pride being an African. It depends on the way you carry yourself, too.

“If you are apologetic about who you are and your sense of identity, how are you going to teach it to anybody?

“When I walk around the city of America, I walk tall as if I am 100 feet tall because I have no apologies of who I am. But that is not something we find these days. Some may find me backward,” she said.

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