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The representation of the literary works of Anglophone and Francophone African women writers (1960-2012) in UKZN library.

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The emergence of African women as authors in the world of literature has been recorded as a phenomenon of the 1980s which has brought dramatic changes in the literary world. Many African authors are of the belief that although African women are well known for their skilled oral storytelling, they are also well known for their neglect, and marginalisation in the literary world. However, against all odds, African women have not only managed to break the pattern and have their voices heard but they have also established the importance of their voices to be heard. Universities and their libraries are such places where that voice could or should be heard. The purpose of the study was to attempt to establish the extent to which the literary works of Anglophone and Francophone African women writers, published between 1960 and 2012 were represented in UKZN Pietermaritzburg and Howard College campus libraries. This will help to raise awareness of and the value of the literature by African women, in UKZN. The research questions constituting the focus of this study were: To what extent have Anglophone and Francophone African women writers had their works published between the years 1960 and 2012? What are the distribution patterns of this literature in terms of country of origin, and language and to some extent publisher? What are the perceptions and the views of academics in French Studies and English Studies of the significance of this literature? To what extent do these academics focus on this literature in their curricula and in the delivery of their modules or to what extent does it form part of their modules, and is it part of their own research? What are the views of Subject Librarians and Principal Librarians responsible for English and French in UKZN Pietermaritzburg and Howard College campus libraries, regarding the significance of this literature? Is it adequately represented in the library holdings, the acquisition of which is generally driven by academics? Has the situation described by d’ Almeida (1994) as true of the 1980s improved and if so, to what extent? The findings on the extent of the works published by Anglophone and Francophone women writers deriving from the results that emanate from the search for the literary works of the authors revealed that the number of published Francophone countries were greater that the Anglophone; but the number of Anglophone authors were greater than the Francophone. In terms of the perceptions of the participants, the findings revealed that academics both French and English, as well as subject librarians strongly believe that African women’s literature was an exceptionally fascinating literature. The significance of the literature was linked to a number of elements such as their history of endurance and perseverance, the themes and topics explored by women writers. The availability of books by African women writers was believed to be scarce on African libraries’ shelves. The poor relationship between African authors and African publishers was seen as one of the elements contributing to the situation, while republication was seen as one of the solutions to increase availability and accessibility. The study revealed that the teaching of the literature by African women was considered a necessity due to its significance both by the English and the French academics. Although the literature was considered well taught, and that UKZN did demonstrate that African women’s literature in English was taken into consideration in terms of teaching, however in terms of the representation of this literature in the curriculum, the study revealed that African women’s literature was not well represented. With regard to the teaching of the French literature, it was not perceived as an issue that needed questioning in the French studies. French academics believed that literature and African women’s literature included was neither discriminated against nor unequally taught, although the study revealed that not much of it was taught in UKZN. Although the impact of the works by women writers in terms of its significance was confirmed and felt to a significant extent in UKZN, the study revealed that the teaching of the literature was limited in both the English Studies and the French Studies. UKZN Library did represent both Anglophone and Francophone women writers in its collections, however, the level of representation of the authors, be they Anglophone or Francophone, was not found to be satisfactory. Womanism was the preferred approach for this study because it enabled the explanation of, or at least the interrogating of and at times, even the challenge of the significance of the literature as it was elaborated throughout the study by interviewees. The approach proved useful by shedding light on the collection of the literature in UKZN Library. Recommendations were made, as they emanated from the study, mostly with regard to the promoting of this literature and implicitly raising its awareness in UKZN and beyond.


M.I.S. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2015.