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Ghirmai Negash talks about censorship and liberation, the life of an African writer

July 8, 2021
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For many African writers, censorship can entail a lived experience as well as a current threat, even for those who emigrated to the United States.

Ghirmai Negash danced close to the flame of censorship several times before arriving at Ohio University. So re-examining the impact of censorship on the work and lives of African writers was an apropos culmination to his year as president of the African Literature Association, both as a conference topic and as a moment of introspection about his own journey.

A life of exile

“I consciously started reflecting and writing on issues of censorship and freedom of expression during my exile years in Europe in the 1980-90s,” said Negash, now professor of English and director of African Studies at Ohio University. He was born and raised in Eritrea, a land with a long and complicated history of colonization and oppression.

Negash belongs to the generation of Ethiopian and Eritrean students who fought against the feudal rule of Emperor Haile Selassie and later the Soviet Union-backed military dictatorship of Colonial Mengistu Haile Mariam.

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