Awards & Recognition
Tess Onwueme is internationally renowned for her multiple award-winning plays and prestigious literary honors. She has won these coveted literary prizes in recognition of her preeminent value, significance and contribution to African and African American Literature and Drama, World Literature & Drama, Women and Gender Studies––along with her recurrent focused dramatization of concerns about the growing Environmental Degradation and silencing of the powerless masses afflicted by Global Poverty, impacting the Women and Youth featured in her plays. Some of the author's notable awards are:
- 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature nominee.
- 2009: Honored with the prestigious Fonlon-Nichols Award in Literature. The Award ceremony was hosted by the University of Vermont at the Sheraton Hotel, Burlington Vermont, USA on April 17, 2009.
- 2008: Phyllis Wheatley/Nwapa Literary Award for Distinguished Black Writers, New York City, New York, USA.
- 2007: Appointed to the US State Department Public Diplomacy Specialist/Speaker Program for North, East and West India by the US State Department.
- 2003: Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Drama Prize for Then She Said It.
- 2001: Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Drama Prize for Drama Prize for
- Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Drama Prize for Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen.
- 1989/90: Martin Luther King, Jr. Caesar Chavez, Rosa Parks Distinguished Writers Award, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA.
- 1988: Distinguished Authors Award, Ife International Book Fair for Overall contribution to the development of African Literature. Presented at the University of Ife Book Fair, University of Ife (now OAU), Ife, Nigeria.
- 1985: Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Drama Prize for The Desert Encroaches.
Professional Appointments & Positions:
Osonye Tess Onwueme earned her PhD. from the University of Benin, Nigeria (1987), an M.A. in Literature from the University of Ife (1982), following her Bachelors Degree from the university of Ife (1979). With an enriched international experience of teaching in several universities in Africa and the USA, in 1994 she was appointed Distinguished Professor of Cultural Diversity and Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, USA, where she still teaches.
Four times winner of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Drama Prize for the following plays, Then She Said it (2003), Shakara Dance-Hall Queen (2001), Tell It To Women (1995), and The Desert Encroaches (1985), Dr. Onwueme has also been honored with these prestigious international awards: the 1988 Distinguished Author’s Award for her overall contribution to African literature, the 1989/90 Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Writer’s Award, and in both 2000 and 2001, she was awarded major grants from the Ford Foundation for her creative writing and drama production, Who Can Silence the Drums? Delta Women Speak!
In the fall of 2004 Onwueme's Shakara was internationally featured by the BBC World Drama Service as a major broadcast for the season. From April 27-May 28, 2001, The Missing Face was staged Off-Broadway by the Woodie King Jr’s. New Federal Theatre in New York City from April 27th - May 28th, 2001. In addition, one of her polemical feminist plays, The Reign of Wazobia was recently adapted into film/video that will soon be released to the general public.
- 2010: to the eminent position of University Professor of Global Letters, and Professor of English, University of Wisconsin, EC, Wisconsin, USA.
- 1994 - 2009: Appointed Distinguished Professor of Cultural Diversity and Professor of English, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.
- 1992 - 1993: Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies (vg.), Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York.
- 1990 - 1993: Associate Professor of English & Multicultural Literary Studies, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey.
- 1989 - 1990: Martin Luther King, Jr. Caesar Chavez, Rosa Parks Distinguished Writer and Associate Professor of Africana Studies, College of Lifelong Learning/Humanities, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.
- 1988 - 89: Acting President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
- 1987 - 88: Vice President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Nigeria.
- 1988 - 89: Head, Performing Arts Unit, Imo State Univ., Okigwe, Nigeria.
- 1986 - 89: Associate Professor of English, & Head of Performing Arts Program, Centre for Igbo Studies, Imo (now Abia) State University, Nigeria.
- 1982-1987: Assistant Professor of English and Head, Performing Arts Program, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria.
- 1980-1981: Assistant Lecturer, Literature in English Department, University of Ife, Nigeria.
- 1979- 1980: Graduate Assistant, Literature in English Department, University of Ife, Nigeria.
International Stage Production News
- August 25-30, 2015: Tell it to Women staged in the Drama Village, ABU/Ahmadu Bello University Theatre/Performance Dept., Zaria, Nigeria.
- October 18, 2014: The Reign of Wazobia staged in the Schofield Auditorium at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as part of the events marking the Investiture/Dedication of Tess Onwueme’s Lifework, permanently housed in the University of Wisconsin System Library/Archives.
- August-Sept. 2010: Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen (produced in both the Hindi translation and the original English version of the play) and staged at the International Khatakali Centre in New Delhi, India. The English production was co-directed by the acclaimed playwright/poet and then Dean of School of Arts and Aesthetics, Dr. Shiva Prakash at the Jawaral Nehru Univ., and Sanal Edamaruku, President of the International Khatakali Centre, while the Hindi production was directed by the renowned Tamil director, Dr. Kumaran.
- April 2010: What Mama Said staged by the by the ABU (Ahmadu Bello University) Performance Dept., directed by Steve Daniel in April 2010.
- March 2010: Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen staged by the ABU (Ahmadu Bello Univ. Theatre/Performance Dept. and directed by Steve Daniel, March 26-30, 2010.
- November 2009: Wazobia! staged as the inaugural performance for the 2009 Tess International Conference in Abuja, Nigeria. The play was staged on November 12, 2009 by the Abuja University Theatre Troupe, directed by Olympus Ejue.
- December 2007: Parables For A Season. World Premiere at the KICS International Amphitheatre, Khartoum, Sudan, in collaboration with the American Artistic director, Mark Webber.
- April 2007: Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen was staged at Purdue University, Calumet/Lafayette in the Spring of 2007.
- September 2004: Shakara: Dance-Hall Queen, produced by the BBC World Drama Service, BBC Play of the Week, International Drama Feature for the Fall of 2004.
- June - December 2001: Then She Said It; What Mama Said: An extended international production, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, and produced by in collaboration with the Nigerian Theatre Guild, the University of Calabar, Nigeria, and the Cultural Center in the Cross-River State, Nigeria.
- April 27- May 28, 2001: The Missing Face, produced off-Broadway by the New Federal Theatre in New York City; with Producing Director, Woodie King, Jr.
- April 1996: The Reign of Wazobia, Directed by Ayana Bateman, Ensemble Theatre Company, off-off Broadway Production, NY, New York.
- October 1995: Legacies. Staged at the Kher Theatre, Univ. of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, WI. Directed by Paul Carter-Harrison.
- November 1994: The Reign of Wazobia. Staged at the Kher Theatre, UW-Eau Claire. Directed by the playwright Tess Onwueme.
- October 1992: Tell It To Women. Staged at the Nommo African American Play Festival, produced by the Ensemble Theatre Company, New Jersey in the Symphony Hall, Newark, New Jersey. Directed by Evelyn and Marvin Kazambu.
- December 5, 1992: Tell It To Women. Staged under the auspices of the Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations (Prof Ibrahim Gambari) to celebrate Onwueme’s unique contributions to the development of Nigerian Theatre and Culture at the Columbia University Dag Hammarskoldj Center, New York City, December 5, 1992.
- January 1992: Legacies. Performed by the ETA Professional Theatre, S. Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. Directed by Kimati Porter.
- December 1991: Someday Soon. Performed by the Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre, New York. Directed by Woodie King, Jr. & playwright J.E. Franklin.
- April 1991: The Reign of Wazobia. Produced by Dr. K. Kendall, Chair, Theater Department, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.
- April 1991: The Artist’s Homecoming. Performed by the School of Performance, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey. Directed by Claudia Chavice.
- October 14-30 1988: The Desert Encroaches. Performed at the Pfeifer Theatre, as one of the selected plays, marking the occasion of the First International Women Playwrights Conference, State Univ. of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York. Directed by Ed Smith.
- Feb. 4-March 30 1988: The Broken Calabash. Performed at the Bonstelle Theatre by the Theatre Department at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, and directed by Dr. Von Washington.
- April 4 –13, 1993: The Reign of Wazobia. A showcase production of African Drama at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. Co-Directed by the playwright and actor Collin Brown.
- June 30, 1989: Legacies. International premiere at the Inauguration Ceremony for the Performing Arts Department, and sponsored by the Center for Igbo Studies, Imo State University, Nigeria. Subsequently, the play was selected as the Vice-Chancellor’s Command Performance for the convention of the Nigerian University Vice-Chancellors, and Governors of the Eastern States of Nigeria.
- March 30, 1988: A Scent of Onions. Produced as the Commencement/Convocation Drama Performance, Federal University of Technology, FUTO Theatre produced as the Vice Chancellor’s Command Performance for the first Convocation Ceremony of Imo State University in Dec., 1986.
- September 26- 1987: Mirror for Campus, Produced as A Show-Case Command Performance for the Visiting Nigerian Vice-Chancellors/Presidents of Universities, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria. In 1988, the production featured at the National Theatre, Lagos with encore performances in several Nigerian universities: Univ. of Nigeria Nigeria, Nsukka in April, 1988; the Univ. of Port Harcourt, Rivers State in May 1988; the Imo State University, Okigwe, in June 1988, etc.
- April 6-10, 1987: In Search of a Theme. Produced as a Visiting Command Performance presented at the University of Ife, Ile-Ife, during the Annual Convention of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists (SONTA).
- December 1986: A Scent of Onions staged as the Convocation Play/Drama at the first Graduation Ceremony for the (then) Imo State University (Now Abia State Univ.) in Etiti with the Vice-Chancellor Prof. MJC Echeruo requesting an encore production of the drama.
- April, 1986: The Desert Encroaches. Produced as a Command Performance, to mark the occasion of the installation of Justice Alagoa (Rtd.) as Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. An encore performance of this production featured at the Oduduwa Hall/Theatre at the Univ. of Ife, Ile Ife, in June 1986.
- October, 1984: The Broken Calabash, World Premiere at the National Theatre, Lagos, Nigeria as part of the national annual drama features. After touring a number of cities, this successful production adapted for film by the National Television Authority (NTA) Nigeria. The film was featured for national broadcast, marking the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Nigerian Independence from Britain.
Tess Onwueme Receives an Exalted New Post
Africa’s foremost female playwright and Distinguished Professor of Cultural Diversity and English at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, USA, Osonye Tess Onwueme has been honoured with a new appointment as the University Professor of Global Letters at her institution.Click here to read full article
Anthology of critical studies on Tess Onwueme set for May release
An international anthology of critical studies of the US-based Professor Tess Osonye Onwueme’s works will be released in May 2019. A professor of Global Letters in English at UW-Eau Claire, Onwueme was a 2016 nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature.Click here to read full article
Onwueme: We are fast becoming a nation without memory, lost and dead
That Professor Tess Osonye Onwueme is one of Nigeria’s cultural ambassadors in faraway University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, U.S. is an understatement. In fact, she embodies Nigerian and African cultural values in her dressing and approach to global issues.Click here to read full article
Osonye Tess Onwueme: Staging Women, Youth, Globalization, and Eco-literature
The conference focuses centrally on Tess Onwueme as a playwright, scholar, activist, and producer whose works explore a wide range of social, political, historical, cultural and environmental concerns of Nigerians, specifically, women, youth, and people of the Niger Delta, as well as Africans on the continent and in the African diaspora.Click here to read full article
The State Of My Art, Scholarship, By Onwueme
US-based Nigerian multi-award winning writer, Tess Onwueme, was recently appointed University Professor of Global Letters at the University of Wisconsin, USA. Here she shares her story with ANOTE AJELUOROU. Excerpts:Click here to read full article
Sample Keynotes by Tess Onwueme
- November 14, 2011: “Erupting Silences.” Senghor-Damas-Cesaire Distinguished Lecture Series (affirming Negritude and today’s Afrocentric Movement), Africana Studies, Villanova University, PA.
- November 10, 2011: “Ode To the Taken.” Co-Keynote Presentation following Winona LaDuke at the Human Rights International Conference, held at the Powers Hall, Central Michigan University, Mt Pleasant, MI.
- 2009: “I Write To Kill Silence!” Keynote Address, Presented at the 2009 Tess International Conference, held at the Rockview Royale Hotel, co-hosted by the Central Michigan University, USA, the University of Abuja, Nigeria, and the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, from November 11-14, 2009.
- 2009: “If you Want Justice, You Must work For Truth!” Fonlon-Nichols Award Address, Presented at the Meeting of the African Literature Association, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA, April 17, 2009., and published in the Journal of the African Literature Association (JALA), Vol 3, 2 (Summer/Fall) 2009, 39-47.
- 2011: Onwueme, T.O. ‘If You Want Justice, You Must Work For Truth’: Fonlon-Nichols Award or a Call to Action”, in Literature, The Visual Arts And Globalization in Africa and its Diaspora. Ed. Lokangaka Losambe and Maureen Eke, 15African Literature Association annual Series (2011), 55-64.
- 2009: Onwueme, T.O. "I Write To Kill Silence!” Keynote Address, Presented at the 2009 Tess International Conference, held at the Rockview Royale Hotel, co-hosted by the Central Michigan University, USA, the University of Abuja, Nigeria, and the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, from November 11-14, 2009.
- 2002: Onwueme, T.O. "Buried In the Rubble: The Missing Face in African Literature." African Literature Association ALA Bulletin, 28, 2 (Spring 2002), 40-60.
- 1999: Onwueme, T.O. "To The Would-Be African Female Writer: Husband Yourself First”, in The African Writers’ Handbook, James Gibbs and Jack Mapanje, ed., African Books Collective Ltd., Oxford (1999: 38-42).