When I went to University and chose to study English literature (to the dismay of my family and friends) I was a lost soul. I was side-stepping more lucrative prospects in law, business and science. English literature was the Eureka of my awakening. I had unconsciously began a journey to discover the contradictions of my being. The literature department, curiously called English Department, at Midlands State University in Zimbabwe where I did my undergraduate degree teaches mostly English authors from Chaucer to Dickens. It bothered me that our educational system still connived with the past. Questions crawled in my mind. They still do. What is the reason in this day and age that we should be brought up on an impoverished reading diet in a so-called English Department? Why is this pattern so in our time? Why does it still persist? Has this all been an accident of content, time, place and history? A Russian child grows under the influence of his native imagination: a Chinese, a French, a Spaniard, a German or an Englishman first imbibes his national literature before attempting to take in other worlds.
The great difficulty posed by colonial history is that it brought us into a world with no real centre and no easily defined point of view. In fact the cultural onion was peeled to a point were our tears refuse to dry. One of Africa’s eminent writers, Chinua Achebe, highlights the problem with the world knowledge system when he rightly points out that it is dominated by Europe and it excludes the “African testimony.” Let me hasten to add that I am fully aware of the simplifications I am indulging in so that my basic points can stand out. I realize , for instance there is some sort of effort to try to study African writing and I also realise that there is effort by some European universities to “post –colonise” the African knowledge system, but despite these academically elegant labels and nonsensical pedagogical qualifications that can be made from the high chair of academia, there is some patronising attitude in all this. European education teaches little about Africa, or worse ignores it. The other day, I sat in a coffee shop with an English born PhD literature student who confessed that she had never read anything by an African writer in high school. There was regret in her voice and a silent acknowledgement of a lot she had missed out. She blamed her curriculum.
I disagree. It is important to read beyond the classroom. It is important to read after exams. Reading must been seen as a liberating and empowering civil right for every individual in the world. It is about acquiring experiences and freedoms, understanding truth and consequence.
As Sentinel Literary Quarterly, we have international ambitions to embrace writers from all parts of the world so that we can educate each other of our different cultures and peculiarities. It is our hope that we will expose our readership to various literary experiences because as writers and readers, we can only have a more rounded appreciation of life by peeking through the windows of diverse imaginations. While, we thrive on an eclectic mix of contributions, starting from the October issue we will be including special features on national and sometimes regional literatures or themed issues. And from January 2012 we are planning to introduce a print edition of SLQ. So, keep watch of our news through our tweeter feeds, Facebook page because we are about to turn sexier.
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