The anthology is edited and introduced by Jack Mapanje, the Malawian poet who was himself imprisoned for over three years without trial.
He has selected contributions of literary and historical significance from many distinguished writers and political activists including Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo, Kenneth Kaunda, Steve Biko, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Wole Soyinka.
Their words provide a harrowing record of physical and mental suffering along with heartening insights into human courage, resilience and a 'stubborn will to be free'.
Jack Mapange was born of Yao and Nyanja parents in Kadango Village, Mangochi District, in southern Malawi. He went to school at Kadango, Chikwana Mission, and Zomba Catholic Secondary School. He has a B.A. degree and a diploma in Education from the University of London. In 1975 he joined the staff of the Department of English at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, as a lecturer, before working as a research student in linguistics at University College, London in the early 1980s.
'Of Chameleons and Gods' received the Rotterdam International Poetry Award in 1988. Mapanje was arrested soon after this book was banned in Malawi. He was imprisoned in Malawi and detained without Charge or Trial from September 1987 to May 1991. His second volume of Poetry, 'The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison', written while he was detained, was published by Heinemann in 1993.