Kenyan scholar and literary critic Chris Wanjala, who died at age 75 in October, was among the pioneering first generation of post-colonial East African scholars of English literature. Renowned for a self-effacing humility, he taught at the University of Nairobi for four decades, publishing 10 books and more than 50 articles. A public intellectual along with other university colleagues in the early 1970s — including Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Okot p’Bitek, and Taban lo Liyong — Wanjala helped transform the curriculum from a eurocentric one to one that had African oral and written literature at the centre of its intellectual enterprise. In the process, they also transformed literature curricula across East Africa. It was this story that Prof Wanjala told at a conference we hosted at the University of Johannesburg in August on potential lessons for curriculum transformation in SA from experiences in the rest of Africa. In displacing courses taught by British lecturers at the University of Nai...

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