||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
English Professor Speaks|
To World Diplomats
MAILED: April 28, 1998|
EAU CLAIRE -- University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire English professor Dr. Tess Onwueme considers the world her classroom. And she's recently done the traveling to prove it.
This semester, Onwueme has ventured to Sweden twice and Tanzania, Africa, once, attending and contributing to respective international cultural and literary conventions. One of those presentations involved giving a speech before some of the world's top diplomats from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
During her first international engagement Feb. 19-21, Onwueme was invited to Uppsala, Sweden, to read from her forthcoming socio-political satire, "Why The Elephant Has No Butt." Her readings, presented in the National Cultural Center, focused on the North-South dichotomy - with special attention to the existing problems of global inequality between the privileged class and the underclass, and between the developed and underdeveloped countries.
On Feb. 23, she traveled to Tanzania to attend the African International Writers-Publishers Seminar 1998, held to promote better relationships between writers and publishers. The seminar was jointly sponsored and organized by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation and the African Books Collective.
A month later, Onwueme was back in Sweden participating in an international roundtable on global culture. The seminar, "Visions of African Cultural Co-operation and Development," at which Onwueme spoke, was held in conjunction with the UNESCO conference on global cultural politics for the next millennium.
The event, which was aimed at encouraging United Nations members to integrate and promote cultural studies more seriously into their education systems, brought together more than 1,000 delegates and diplomats from around the world.
For Onwueme, speaking at this engagement was an enlightening experience.
"I was quite enthusiastic to share my views with this very prestigious gathering of intellectuals and global policy-makers on this subject that has become my life - cultural studies," she said. "It was truly a most gratifying experience, knowing that I had a voice ( a voice that was significant enough to engage such a world audience."
Her speech, titled "Ubuntu 2000: Knowing and Connecting From Self to the Other for the Next Millennium," focused on the subject of global cultural interconnectedness. Onwueme explained that because the word "Ubuntu," which derives from a South African proverb, "I am because you are," has been the guiding principle of her life as a cultural nationalist, writer, teacher and scholar, this provided her with an auspicious forum and international dialogue on the prospects, possibilities and limitations of cultural studies.
"The goal of Ubuntu 2000 is to have all international cultural ambassadors from around the world actively engage their different regions in the quest for global interconnectedness by the turn of the century," she said. "As a geo-political movement, Ubuntu 2000 has been set up to promote cultural studies as a vital aspect of knowledge, particularly for the education and socialization of the youth."
Onwueme said she has very much enjoyed the engagements she has been part of this semester, because it's given her a chance to not only be a teacher of society, but also to be a student of society.
"Much as I'm regarded as a professor at UW-Eau Claire, I see the whole world as a classroom," she said. "Whether I'm teaching here or sharing my work and writings elsewhere, I'm constantly learning all the time."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: April 28, 1998