AS former US president Barack Obama prepares to return to South Africa – and the continent – for the first time since he left office, ahead of next week’s annual Nelson Mandela lecture, he has paid homage to some of Africa’s best writers.
In honour of former President Nelson Mandela’s centenary next week, the annual lecture will focus on “Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World”.
Ahead of the lecture, Obama wrote on his Facebook page that he was proud to have visited sub-Saharan African more often than any other sitting president before him.
He praised the continent for its “wonderful diversity, thriving culture, and remarkable stories”.
“Kenya, of course, is the Obama ancestral home. I visited for the first time when I was in my twenties and I was profoundly influenced by my experiences – a journey I wrote about in my first book, Dreams from My Father.”
Obama said that, over the years, he had drawn inspiration from Africa’s extraordinary literary tradition.
Titles Obama included in his recommendations were Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Return by Hisham Matar, and The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes.
And, of course, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.
“Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon,” Obama wrote.
“Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it.”