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Syl Cheney-Coker

Syl Cheney-Coker

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African Studies, Ohio University Press celebrate 50th anniversary

Acclaimed Sierra Leone author Syl Cheney-Coker to visit Athens Campus April 7

Half a century ago, two programs embarked on their first year at Ohio University. Now, the African Studies program and Ohio University Press are celebrating their 50th anniversary by coming together on Monday, April 7 to welcome acclaimed author and poet, Syl Cheney-Coker of Sierra Leone, to the Athens Campus.

Cheney-Coker will present a talk entitled, “African Art, Literature and Power: Whose Narratives Matter?” at 7 p.m. in Baker University Center 242.

“I believe it’s going to be quite interesting,” Cheney-Coker said of his visit and the opportunity to speak in celebration of the anniversaries.

Cheney-Coker’s 2013 book, “Sacred River: A Novel,” was published through Ohio University Press as part of the Modern African Writing Series.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Jeff Kallet, acting sales and marketing manager of Ohio University Press. “He’s got a great reputation. He’s a well-established poet and his last novel was an award-winning book (‘The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar’), so having that opportunity doesn’t come every year, let alone every month. So having the 50th anniversary was really a special occasion. We thought this would be the right time to do it.”

To facilitate the connection between Ohio University Press and the African Studies program, Kallet said it was fitting to have the recently published African author of “Sacred River” speak at the University.

The novel focuses on a modern African nation and the complexities of the people within it, including their hopes and tragedies. Cheney-Coker introduces themes that include politics and social strife, and the book has received warm reviews.
“I think this is an opportunity for people to meet an African writer,” Kallet said. “We hope that it will be of interest to people in all different parts of the campus community.”

Cheney-Coker’s topic on April 7 will not focus on his novel, however. Instead, he has developed his own presentation that he feels is important to share. The talk will center around the idea of African art and literature and how narratives translate from one part of the world to another.

The event is open to the public. Copies of “Sacred River” will be available for purchase and Cheney-Coker will do a book signing after his talk.