Professor Tess Osonye Onwueme

Internationally renowned for her award – winning plays, she is the esteemed University Professor of Global Letters at the University of Wisconsin, USA, the author of over twenty plays, joined this exclusive rank of accomplished writers / scholars like Professor Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, after her eighteen years of exemplary academic and administrative service as distinguished professor of cultural diversity and professor of English, following her years of teaching in both Nigeria and other American universities in the eighties and nineties.

The US State Department recognized her exceptional talent as an educator, administrator and communicator with unique charisma to lead, motivate and mobilize diverse people with her innovative ideas, when in 2007, Professor Onwueme was appointed to the State Department’s Public Diplomacy Specialist / Speaker program for North, East and West India and with the special mandate to serve as a global ambassador / cultural envoy to “Win Friends For America”.

Onwueme’s remarkable success in this regard led to the performance and translation of her works into the Hindi language, including the production of the award winning Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen in both Hindi and English at the famous international Khatakali Centre in New Delhi, India, according to Professor K. Batra (2010), “Onwueme’s creative works continue to influence and generate significant interest around the world, as they are widely produced / staged, studied, taught and written about in scholarly books, dissertations, theses, book chapters, journal articles and international media. Onwueme’s works have a wide range of social, political, historical, cultural and environmental concerns of the masses in the global community today, with emphasis on women, youth in continental African and the Diaspora”.

A remarkable advocate for the environment, the eradication of poverty, literacy and the empowerment of women and youth, Onwueme’s award winning plays like (The Broken Calabash, The Desert Encroaches, Wazobia, What Mama Said, Tell it to Women, Then She Said It, The Missing Face and No Vacancy), are featured not only in academic and public stages around the world, but also in prestigious stages like the National Theater in Nigeria, Off – Broadway, New York, USA, India, Canada, Europe, various parts of Africa and the Caribbean.

Tess Onwueme has won many exalted international honors / awards. Among them are: ‘The prestigious Folon – Nicholas Award (2009); the Phyllis Wheatley for Distinguished Black Writers Award (2008); the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Writers Award (1989/90); the Distinguished Authors Award (1998); major grant awards from the Ford Foundation (2000 and 2001); and to date, the only four time winner of the Association of Nigeria Authors (ANA) drama prize with Then She Said It (2003); Shakara: Dance Hall Queen (2001), Tell it to Women (1995) and The Desert Encroaches (1985). The 2009 Tess International Conference (“Staging Women, Youth, Globalization and Eco-Literature”), which was exclusively devoted to Tess Onwueme’s creative work, was held in 2009, following the author’s prestigious Fonlon – Nicholas awards in Burlington, Vermont, USA.

The goal oriented mother of five children earned her PhD in Drama from the University of Benin (1987) an MA in Literature (1982) and a BA in English (ED) from Ife in 1979 – where she also won the faculty prize for the Overall Best Performance in BA/B.Sc. degree Examinations in 1978/79. Professor Tess Onwueme is a frequent guest/keynote speaker at university campuses around the world, where she increasingly shares popular spotlight with the community of distinguished writers / speakers devoting their work to the crises of today’s environment, culture, youth, gender, race and class with socio – political subjects.