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Friday, 3 June 2016

Four Weeks and Counting: Africa Writes 2016


Africa Writes, the Royal African Society's annual literature and book festival in association with the British Library, is back; and this year's programme looks ah-mazing! Now in its 5th year, the 2016 edition will be focusing on new writing, women's writing and the idea of disruptive stories (across borders, and boundaries of age, sex and gender); and is bound to be an entertaining and exciting experience. Plus, it's just around the corner ... sort of. 

In exactly fours weeks (yes four weeks), all things African literature and books will be taking over the Conference Centre at the British Library. This year's festival brings together over 50 authors, poets, publishers and experts for an exciting weekend at the beginning July. 90% of the festival is free - the book launches (Yewande Omotoso's The Woman Next Door; Nikhil Singh's Taty Went West; Chuma Nwokolo's How To Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories, vol. 2); the panels (on Writing Africa’s Development; on Diversity in Children’s Publishing; on Contemporary Genre Fiction). There are also workshops (on the Digital Debate; on the representation of Africa in literature in rural, urban and cosmopolitan settings), a book store with exciting African books and more. 

There are three ticketed events - the headline events, with one scheduled each evening of the Festival. Friday evening is all about Sex, Love & Poetry, and with it comes readings and uncensored conversation on sex, love and desire spanning the sexuality spectrum and the African Diasporan experience. Saturday evening is not too be missed as Egyptian feminist writer and women's rights activist, Nawal El Saadawi will reflect on the question of gender and the challenges posed for women within traditional and religious societies. On how Saadawi feels about participating in the festival - 'delighted'.


Image via Africa Writes Facebook Page
Finally, on Sunday evening, the festival ends with Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor's play, The Immigrant, set in the near future (2116) with a British man seeking asylum in the African Union. Provocative, much! 
The Goddess Complex by Diriye Osman (Aquatic Arabesque). Image via Africa Writes
It looks and sounds like a really exciting programme, and one I can't wait for. Plus, this will be my third year in a row attending, and I have loved every second of it each year. In 2014, my sister and I had the pleasure of listening to Warsan Shire, and other African women poets reclaim the feminine voice; while my mum and I spent a whole day together at the festival which culminated with Wangui wa Goro being in conversation with Ama Ata Aidoo. And last year, well, I laughed so hard at the Africa Books to Inspire headline event, developed a girl-crush on Ndinda Kioko - seriously that woman is too fly (on an intellectual to a style level - Kioko is the one in blue in the image below), and loved the stage reading of Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor's play, Sunday.
African Books to Inspire. Africa Writes 2015.  Image via RAS News & Event Flickr
So save the date, Friday July 1 to Sunday July 3! And check out the full programme, because it's certainly a weekend not to be missed. I'll be there with my phone and camera in tow, tweeting, taking photos, trying not to go broke buying new books and basking in the awesomeness that is African literature and books. If you're in or around London, I hope you will be there as well!!! 

PS. Also check out the Africa Writes blog, with posts on Nawal El Saadawi on 'feeling that there is something wrong in being a girl', on African immigrationas well as The F-Word mini-series leading up to the event, where Henry Brefo (co-founder ad editor of Africa Writes) and Yovanka Perdiga (writer, African feminist and political pen activist) will be discussing African feminism.

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