Lolade Fadulu '17 in various modes of conversation with author Chris Abani during his visit to Amherst on Feb. 24
Through his writing and public speaking engagements, award-winning Nigerian author Chris Abani has become an internationally respected voice on topics related to humanitarianism and ethics. In his 2008 TED Talk, he referenced the South African philosophy of Ubuntu, which he explained as meaning, “The only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.”
His most recent essay, The Face: Cartography of the Void, begins, “This essay is not just an exploration of my physical face; it is about the face we all identify with. It is about more than just what flesh covers my bone structure. It is about reflection too. What we see or want to see in the mirror.”
These sentiments on humanity and inward reflection served as the basis for his talk at Amherst on Feb. 24, titled, “My Face & Ours: Views of Today’s America.” From personal anecdotes about growing up with four brothers in the Igbo culture of West Africa to a chilling tale about an interaction with a police officer who pulled him over late one night in upstate New York, Abani’s talk investigated the various roles that race, culture and language play in fashioning our sense of self and our perceptions of others.
Prior to his talk, Abani sat down for an interview (video below) touching on a variety of topics, including the power of language and crafting moral narratives; his process for writing The Face: Cartography of the Void; and the advice he gives to his students in his classes about literature and writing: