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The stories of Africa: Chris Abani on TED.com

Posted by: Shanna Carpenter

As we end our first week of much needed vacation for the TED media team, we continue our archive highlights with a powerful and poetic talk from 2007.

Nigerian author Chris Abani shares the power of the narrative in this TEDTalk. He knows that stories can change lives — the first story he wrote, at 16, was considered powerful enough by the then Nigerian government that he was tortured and imprisoned for writing it. Before Abani turned 21, he had been through two more lengthy episodes of jailing and torture for his writing. Eventually, Abani did escape to England, without much more than the clothes he wore. He continued to write, and today is a professor at UC Riverside and this year was named a Guggenheim Fellow for fiction.

Abani’s recent books and poetry still reflect the painful experience of growing up in a violent and war-torn country. His latest novella, Song for Night, assumes the voice of a mute teenage boy soldier in West Africa whose job it is to detect mines. The boy is mute because his vocal cords were purposefully severed, so that if he was killed by a mine, his screams would not alert a possible enemy. Despite his cheerful personality, Abani does not shy away from revealing the anguish of his characters. His other, equally powerful, novels are The Virgin of Flames, Becoming Abigail, GraceLand and Masters of the Board. He has published several collections of his own poetry and is a publisher himself under the Black Goat imprint, which seeks to have a proportional representation of African poets. In every form, Abani will not stop telling the stories of Africa.

Twitter URL: http://on.ted.com/2N

Watch Chris Abani’s talk on TED.com where you can download this TEDTalk, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances from our archive of 475+ TEDTalks.

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