Toni Morrison’s life and works feted in Uganda

Saturday October 26 2019

US author Toni Morrison s

US author Toni Morrison smiles in her office at Princeton University in New Jersey, while being interviewed by reporters on October 7, 1993. She died on August 6, 2019 following a short illness. PHOTO | DON EMMERT | AFP 

BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
By BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
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Uganda’s literary community recently celebrated the life and work of American author and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.

The event, held on October 16 at the Embassy Plaza in Kampala, had the theme Toni Morrison: The Poetics of Memory.

It was organised by the Makerere University Department of Literature, Uganda Women Writers Association (Femrite), and the US Mission to Uganda.

Morrison, who died on August 5, is best-known for her novels The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Beloved (1987) — which won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction — and A Mercy (2008).

She also wrote Tar Baby (1981), Jazz (1992), Paradise (1998), Love (2003), Home (2012), a novella God Help the Child published in 2015, and a number of children’s books that she co-wrote with her son Slade Morrison. She also published several essays, reviews and speeches.

Some of the major themes in Morrison’s works include a critical examination of the African-American experience and especially the black female experience; racism, injustice and the struggles of cultural identity.

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The event featured readings of Morrison’s major works and a panel discussion made up of Susan Nalugwa Kiguli (a poet and senior lecturer of literature at Makerere University/Femrite), Mwalimu Austin Bukenya (Makerere University/Femrite), Priscilla A Ocen (US Fulbright Scholar/Professor of law at Loyola Law School, USA), and Lillian Aujo (Femrite).

“For Toni Morrison, writing was a liberating tool that freed not just the writer but her readers, and not just African American readers or Americans but whoever read her,” said Dr Kiguli, adding, “Toni Morrison was a writer who wrestled with the notions and perhaps ghosts of race, identity, gender and storytelling.

“She excavated black reality and dealt with it. She imagined it into spaces it was yet to occupy; she gave blackness especially female blackness a courageous, intellectual and powerful presence.”

Morrison won several awards and honorary degrees, also receiving the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, becoming the first African-American woman to be selected for the award.