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Ulli Beier (1922- ) is a German editor, writer and scholar, who had a pioneering role in developing literature, drama and poetry in Nigeria, as well as literature, drama and poetry in Papua New Guinea. His wife Georgina Beier had an instrumental role in simultaneously stimulating the visual arts in both Nigeria and PNG.

He was born in Glowitz, Germany, in July 1922. His father was a medical doctor and an appreciator of art and raised his son to embrace the arts. After the coming of the Nazi party to power, the Beiers, who are non-practicing Jews, left for Palestine. In Palestine, while his family were briefly detained as enemy aliens by the British authorities, Ulli Beier was able to earn a BA as an external student of the University of London. However, he later moved to London to earn a degree in Phonetics. A few years later, after his marriage with the Austrian artist Susanne Wenger, he was given a faculty position at the University of Ibadan to teach Phonetics.

Career

While at the University, he transferred from the Phonetics department to the Mural Studies department. It was at the Mural Studies department he became interested in Yoruba culture and arts. Though, he was a teacher at Ibadan, he ventured outside the city and lived in nearby cities, of Ede, Ilobu and Osogbo, this gave him an avenue to see the spatial environment of different Yoruba communities. In 1956, after visiting a Black writers conference in Berlin, Ulli Beier returned to Ibadan and founded the magazine "Black Orpheus", the name was inspired by Jean Paul Sartre's famous essay "Orphée Noir". The journal quickly became the leading space for Nigerian authors to write and publish their works. The journal became known for its innovative works and literary excellence and was widely acclaimed. Later in 1961, Beier, co-founded the Mbari club also called Mbari-Mbayo, a place for new writers, dramatist and artists, to meet and perform their work. Later he directed the Iwalewa Hous, an art centre at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.

Ulli Beier is known for his effort in translating African works. He emerged as one of the scholars who introduced African writers to a large international audience for his works in translating plays of dramatists such as Duro Ladipo and publishing "Modern Poetry" an anthology of African poems, published in 1963.

Beier left Nigeria in 1968, he worked in Papua New Guinea and intermittently returned to Nigeria for brief periods of time. While in Papua New Guinea, he co-organised with Georgina Beier the country's first art exhbition, at the University of Papua New Guinea’s Centre for New Guinea Cultures, featuring artwork by Timothy Akis. Ulli Beier created the literary periodical Kovave: A Journal of New Guinea literature, which reproduced works by Papua New Guinean artists including Timothy Akis and Mathias Kauage.[1] His efforts have been described as significant in facilitating the emergence of Papua New Guinean literature.[2]

He returned to his native country of Germany in 1981.

Published works

  • Voices of Independence: New Black Writing from Papua New Guinea, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980. 251 pp.s
  • Editor: The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry, 1999.
  • Black Orpheus: An Anthology of New African and Afro-American Stories, 1965.
  • Thirty Years of Oshogbo Art, Iwalewa House, Bayreuth, 1991.
  • Neue Kunst in Afrika: das Buch zur Austellung, Reimer, Berlin, 1980 (Contemporary Art in Africa, Pall Mall Press, London, 1968).
  • A Year of Sacred Festivals in One Yoruba Town, Nigeria Magazine, Marina, Lagos, Nigeria, 1959.

References

Beier, Ulli. Literature Online biography. Published in Cambridge, 2005, by Chadwyck-Healey

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