This bold, challenging, and celebratory new book accompanies a major exhibition at the British Library—the first in the UK to explore in such detail the vibrant cultural history of this complex and compelling region.The authors explain how West Africans have profoundly shaped their own histories, focusing in particular on their profound and engaging literary culture, exploring the region's centuries-old written heritage alongside its even older oral traditions. The book ranges across a millennium of history, from the great empires of the middle ages through colonialism, resistance, and independence to contemporary life and culture. Writers, scholars, and artists have harnessed the power of words to build societies, to make political statements, to communicate faith, to fight injustice and enslavement, and to respond to the experience of Diaspora. Today, West Africa is experiencing an outpouring of creativity in a variety of media. In this richly illustrated book, leading international scholars of music, literature, history, and anthropology offer a unique insight into the stories of West African societies past and present.