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Writing for intercultural empathy and understanding


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This is a presentation on the Ken Saro-Wiwa letters donated to National University of Ireland Maynooth, at "Writing for Intercultural Empathy and Understanding Symposium" at NUI Maynooth on 14th February 2014

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Writing for intercultural empathy and understanding

  1. 1. Letters from the Breadbasket: The Detention Correspondence of Ken Saro-Wiwa Helen Fallon, Deputy Librarian, NUI Maynooth
  2. 2. Background • November 2011 – Donation of 28 letters and 27 poems written by Ken Saro-Wiwa to the Library at NUI Maynooth • November 2013 – Publication of “Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa” edited by Íde Corley, Helen Fallon & Laurence Cox – Launch of “Ken Saro-Wiwa Audio Archive” produced by NUI Maynooth Library and Kairos Communications
  3. 3. Ken Saro-Wiwa • leading Nigerian and African writer - novelist, playwright, non-fiction writer, children’s books and television writer • Businessman • Major figure in Nigerian politics; his support for the autonomy of the Ogoni people led to his removal from office in 1973
  4. 4. Founder of MOSOP Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) highlighted the issue of environmental survival in the face of massive oil and gas extraction in the Niger Delta and the associated oil leaks, gas flaring and other environmental crises threatening livelihoods
  5. 5. Detention • MOSOP challenged those who benefitted from the oil: the oil and gas multinationals and the Nigerian military government • 1993 January - MOSOP mobilised 300,000 Ogoni people (60% of the total population) in a peaceful march • Ogoni occupied by the Nigerian military; destruction of villages; an estimated 750 people killed and 30,000 left homeless • 1994 May - Saro-Wiwa and 14 others placed in military detention
  6. 6. Destruction of Ogoni settlement, Port Harcourt
  7. 7. Ogoni Fishermen from Kaa fishing village survey broken canoes .
  8. 8. May 1994 - November 1995 • • • Detention 28 letters to Sr. Majella McCarron Clear and direct, these letters and poems are the last expression of a voice the regime was determined to silence Smuggled out in breadbaskets
  9. 9. Letters • • • • • • • • Mostly handwritten Detention conditions Family MOSOP – leadership etc. Sr. Majella’s work His writing Awards The Trial
  10. 10. Shell Settlement • 1995, November 10 Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight colleagues executed • 2009, June -Shell settled out of court for over $15 million with relatives of the “Ogoni Nine”
  11. 11. Spreading the Story • “Silence Would be Treason: The Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa” - 2013 • Ken Saro-Wiwa Audio Archive • Input to Module on the BA in Local Studies • Exhibitions for University Community, local schools etc. • Guest lectures, presentations, posters
  12. 12. Deepening Understanding • • • • • • Annotated letters Poems Contextual essays Foreword Archival classification Bibliography & Resources list • Trócaire Funding • Bursary
  13. 13. Why? • “Ogoni Story has to be told” • Has meaning for a wide audience and the potential to foster greater understanding of complex issues – Researchers – Activists – Undergraduates – formal input to course; International Human Rights Day Lecture – Public – University of Ibadan Radio, Newstalk 106, Drive Time
  14. 14. Deepening Understanding • The Undergraduates – BA in Local Studies – Eton, media coverage, Shell, artefacts • The Prison Warden – Story of events in the past; Audio Archive • The Reading Group – The missionary and the environment • The Transition Year Students – Artefacts
  15. 15. Deepening Understanding • Sister Majella – Copyright • Dr Owens Wiwa – NUI Maynooth, Special Collections • The Library – legal issues • The Family