- While in exile, Abdulrasak Gurnah began to write as a coping mechanism for the trauma of having to leave his homeland.
- He became an important voice of the experiences and history of post European colonialism on the continent of Africa.
- He is the first African laureate to be named to the Nobel Prize for Literature category for nearly 20 years.
Gurnah was born in 1948 in Zanzibar. Upon liberation from the British Empire in 1963, Zanzibar went through a violent uprising which led to persecution of Arab-descended minorities. Being a member of that targeted ethnic group, Gurnah was forced to seek refuge in England when he was 18. It was while he was in exile that he began to write as a way to cope with the trauma of having to leave his homeland.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Heiko Maas, issued a statement on October 7, 2021, on the decision by the Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to Abdulrazak Gurnah. The statement reads:
“With Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, not only is an important voice of post-colonialism being honored, but he is also the first African laureate in this category in almost two decades. In his novels and short stories, Gurnah addresses the history of colonialism and its impacts on Africa, which continue to make themselves felt today – including the role played by German colonial rulers. He speaks out clearly against prejudice and racism and draws our attention to the rarely voluntary but never-ending journey of those who strike out for another world.
“I would like to offer Abdulrazak Gurnah my most sincere congratulations on winning the Nobel Prize for Literature – his award shows how necessary a lively and broad-based discussion of our colonial heritage continues to be.”
The African Tourism Board (ATB) recognized Abdulrasak Gurnah’s achievement, and ATB President Alain St.Ange had this to say:
“We at the African Tourism Board congratulate Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah for being awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature. He has made Africa proud. Through his achievement he shows that Africa can shine and that the world only needs to untie the wings of each and every African to let us fly.”
The President of the African Tourism Board has been pushing for Africa to rewrite its own narrative and never misses an opportunity to re-echo this call, saying that the key USPs of Africa can best be echoed by Africans.
ATB continues to push for Africa to be more united as one as it prepares for the complete re-opening of its tourism industry.
Gurnah is currently a professor emeritus of English and postcolonial studies at the University of Kent.