Prof. Taban Lo Liyong Writing Series
Professor Taban Lo Liyong is Africa’s most revered poet and writer. Often named in the same category of other literary greats that defined African Literature in the world like this of Wole Soyinka, Ngugi-wa-Thiongo, Okot P’Bitek. Prof. Taban Lo Liyong has published books some are: Another Nigger Dead, Showhat and Sowhat, Carrying Knowledge Up a Palm Tree, Franz Fanon's Uneven Ribs and many more.
At a loss for the youth, most of his books are no longer in print. While a majority of Africa’s population are illiterate, Prof. Taban Lo Liyong laments the lack of reading comprehension among the learnt. They fail to comprehend the complexity of his writing, deemed too difficult, too dense, thus prompting publishers to stop printing his books.
As a child, asking my father a question was a feat one did not take lightly. The answers often meandered into the why and how and the philosophy, and one was afraid to be imprisoned from the important duties of child play. Now as an adult I want to hear him meander. It is a treat to find what page in the book did we land on and how long of a chapter in his vast repository of a brain.
Writing Series Interview
This time though, I was not to be intimidated. Armed with my notes and my cameraman, we were on a mission to hear from the Professor. My reasons for interviewing him were threefold. One, in my self-assigned role of custodian of South Sudan’s traditions and culture, I was not going to pass the opportunity to talk to Taban Lo Liyong who looms large in South Sudan’s literary scene. The second and main motivation was for the Dr. Noela Mogga mentor series, where we interview professionals to illuminate our youth on how to succeed. The third reason was personal, I had some gaps in my family history that I wanted answered. For example, solitude in writing; was it something that bothered the Prof? There are those who cherish solitude, and then others who seek company. His answers may surprise you.
I had 10 questions, and our interview lasted 2 hours. I have decided to post all of it, unabridged, in a series of three YouTube videos on Taste of South Sudan channel. You will learn about his early education, school experience, and interspersed here and there are wisdom. And plenty of advice for the young writer.
Here is an excerpt from Part I: What Inspires You to Write?
“I did not start by writing. In the village we started by telling stories in the evening. After dinner, by the fireplace, we would tell stories. In 1945, when I went to school, every Friday we would take turns telling stories. If you did not have a story to tell, you stood in front of the class in shame,” Prof Taban Lo Liyong.