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Mapanje (Jack) Archive

Subject strengths: Literature, English Literature

Jack Mapanje was born in Malawi in 1944, growing up in Kadango village in the Mangochi district. He first started to write poetry from despair at the political situation in Malawi; his first collection, Of Chameleons and Gods, was published in the UK in 1981 by Heinemann. The collection was critically acclaimed around the world, but withdrawn from circulation in Malawi in June 1985 by the government of dictator Hastings Banda. In September 1987, Jack was arrested and detained without charge or trial in Mikuyu Prison in Malawi. During his imprisonment, Of Chameleons and Gods won the Rotterdam Poetry International Award in 1988, and Jack was subsequently also awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 1990, recognising his fight for freedom of expression. Despite an international campaign by numerous writers, linguists, and human rights activists, including Harold Pinter, Wole Soyinka, Susan Sontag, and Noam Chomsky amongst others, Jack was not released until May 1991, and was given no explanation of his detention. During his time in prison, he wrote his second collection of poetry, The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison (1993), and much of his third, Skipping without Ropes (1998).

After leaving Malawi with his wife and children, Jack settled in Britain, where he has lived ever since, and has held numerous prestigious posts in universities, the first of these being a fellowship at the University of York in 1992. He was later an Honorary Visiting Professional Fellow in the School of English at the University of Leeds, where he taught a degree course between 1993 and 1996, and edited the collection Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing (2002) based on this course. Jack held a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at Leeds Trinity University from 1999–2001, and has since held a post as Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Literatures of Incarceration at Newcastle University. Most recently, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bedfordshire in 2015 and has held a Visiting Professorship post in the Faculty of Arts at York St John University.

Collection Name and Collection Reference Code:

Collection Name: Mapanje (Jack) Archive

Archive Ref Code: GB186 MAP

Date Range of Material

1970 -2016

Type of Material

The personal papers of Jack Mapanje.

Size of Collection

2 Linear Metres of shelving

How To Order Items From This Collection

Please use the finding aid below to search through a list of the individual items we have within this collection.

If you find an item you would like to consult in the Special Collections reading room, simply make a note of the reference number and title of the item(s) you are interested in (for example MAP/1/1/5, Review of 'And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night' by Stephen Lewis as published in 'The York Press').

You can then place your order by linking to our Request Form

Finding Aid 

Archival catalogue available via the Archives Hub.

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