Gain insights into this vast region’s fascinating heritage through unique collection items and newly commissioned articles by leading experts and teaching resources. Experience the region’s history, politics, literature and religion through fascinating stories from the region’s 17 nations.


Travels in the Timannee, Kooranko, and Soolima

How word, symbol and song shaped history

Gus Casely-Hayford (SOAS and King’s College London), Janet Topp Fargion (British Library) and Marion Wallace (British Library) introduce the cultural dynamism and creativity of West Africa, and explain how word, symbol and song have shaped a thousand years of history.

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This tiny brass sculpture is in the form of Sankofa bird – a bird looking backwards. It is a popular symbol in Ghana.

Building West Africa

Dr Gus Casely-Hayford (SOAS and King’s College London) introduces a thousand years of West African history, looking at the power of story and symbol in the past and today.

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Portrait of Phillis Wheatley sat writing at a desk, opposite the title page from her book Poems on various subjects, religious and moral, 1773

Crossings: African writers in the era of the transatlantic slave trade

Marion Wallace (British Library) introduces the leading writers of African heritage in 18th-century Britain, and explains how the pen became a weapon against both the slave trade and the system of enslavement itself.

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Fela Kuti. Photo: Bernard Matussière

The Ransome-Kuti dynasty

British Library curator Janet Topp Fargion introduces the influential Ransome-Kuti dynasty.

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A printed cloth marking 15 years of Senegal’s independence in 1975. It shows Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906–2001), the Senegalese intellectual, poet, politician and president (1960–80).

Speaking out: political protest and print cultures in West Africa

West Africans made powerful use of writing and publishing to oppose colonialism and fight for independence. Since then, authors have not been reluctant to comment on the state of their nations and the world. Stephanie Newell (Yale University) and Marion Wallace (British Library) reflect on these developments.

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