Africa Writes, the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing brought to you by the Royal African Society, returns to the British Library from Friday 5 July to Sunday 7 July 2019 featuring three headline events and a packed festival weekend. Bringing together over 60 of the most influential African writers and thought leaders, this 8th festival edition covers over 20 countries and explores a cross-section of themes and critical ideas about African literature today.
Following on from the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, previous festival headliners, Man Booker shortlisted author Chigozie Obioma will headline this year’s Africa Writes. Closing the festival on Sunday, 7 July, Obioma will talk about his writing, Igbo cosmology and the blurred lines between myth and reality in his latest novel An Orchestra of Minorities. The event will open with an evocative staged reading of Obioma’s critically acclaimed debut novel, The Fishermen, followed by an in-conversation led by award-winning author and curator Irenosen Okojie.
Chigozie Obioma says: “I’m really excited to be a part of this celebration of the written word and to be in company of a cohort of writers from Africa. I’m certain those three days will be like being at a concert in Lagos while in London.”
Africa Writes 2019 will open on Friday, 5 July, with Our Bodies Speak Poetry, an evening of intergenerational poetry, story-telling and performance exploring the body as a site of power, possibilities and resistance. The event will feature a slate of award-winning poets, writers and activists including Raymond Antrobus, Adesola Akinleye, Caleb Femi, Jessica Horn, Miss Jacqui, Fatimah Kelleher,Nick Makoha, Sitawa Namwalie, Koleka Putuma and Belinda Zhawi. This event will be BSL interpreted.
On Saturday, 6 July, the evening headline event, delivered in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature, will celebrate Margaret Busby’s landmark anthology, New Daughters of Africa. The anthology, which brings together the work of over 200 African women writers, will be brought to life by a panel of award-winning contributing authors including Bernardine Evaristo, Nadifa Mohamed, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ and Namwali Serpell.
Key topics emerging in this year’s festival programme include cosmology, masculinity and fatherhood, mental health and Africans in Europe. Against the dominant backdrop of Brexit, the festival will shine a light on the diverse experiences of the African diaspora communities in the UK, Europe and beyond through a series of book launches and discussions, including Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Manchester Happened, a dazzling collection of stories that re-imagine the journey of Ugandans who chose to make England their home; a double book launch of authors Johny Pitts’s Afropean: Notes from Black Europe and Emmanuel Iduma’s A Stranger’s Pose; and Sylvia Ofili’s German Calendar No December, a humorous and moving graphic novel on Nigerian-German identity. Through Africa in London, a session in partnership with the Mayor of London’s Office, audiences will join in a collective listening exercise and discussion of African Londoners’ lived experiences.
Africa Writes will spotlight the national politics of Rwanda and Somalia. Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, award-winning author Yolande Mukagasana launches the English translation of La mort ne veut pas de moi (Not My Time To Die). With intimate access into Al Shabaab in Somalia, BBC Africa Editor Mary Harper paints the complex picture of life for ordinary people in the group’s shadow ― stories of tremendous loss, unbearable compromise, and unexpected profit with the launch of Everything You Have Told Me Is True.
Africa Writes will once again offer a platform for inspiration and discovery of new writing. Audiences at this year’s festival will learn about the latest literary innovations in East Africa, hear from emerging and established queer writers, and be introduced to Angolan literature with Kalaf Epalanga. They will also meet the 2019 Caine Prize shortlisted writers, as well as other writers through The Reading Salon. Emerging writers and illustrators focusing on the Young Adult genre will also have the opportunity to pitch to publishing industry experts at the Meet the Publishers session. The festival’s flagship event, African Books to Inspire, will return with a special focus on masculinity.
Africa Writes will continue its programme of workshops, including workshops on Arabic comic strip translation, professional book reviewing with Kinna Likimani and storytelling for children and their families. There will also be a carefully curated workshop and event aimed at audiences from 16+. Young people will be inspired to create poetry out of mathematical data in a workshop with Keisha Thompson and have a safe space to discuss what it means to be a young Black man in the UK today at SAFE: Black British Men, a session titled after Derek Owusu’s seminal anthology, with Alex Wheatle and others. As part of the Africa Writes: Young Voices education programme, secondary school students will be able to present their creative writing to a live audience at a showcase event on the afternoon of the Friday, 5 July.
This is a press statement from the Royal African Society (RAS) organisers of the annual literature festival.
Download the programme here