We’ve had a busy twelve months at AiW, one full of firsts – such as our linked ‘Series’ posts featuring Guest contributors, and the beginnings of our Q&As. The blog has now been running for two years, and we’ve gained new followers (now a community of over 2,200 on twitter, wordpress and by email).
We’d love to hear of your favourite posts or AiW highlights over the last year – let us know in a comment or a tweet and see below for details of our comment competition – but in the meantime, in the spirit of a birthday reflection, here are just a few of ours…
One of our most significant highlights of the year has been welcoming new, regular authors, Rebecca Jones, Stephanie Santana and Charlotte Hastings. Based at Birmingham, Harvard and Manchester, respectively, AiW has expanded beyond our institutional roots at the University of Sussex.
Rebecca’s ‘Spotlight’ series has enabled the blog to expand to include writers working in African languages. In just one example, Rebecca highlighted the work of a major Yoruba playwright Akínwùmí Ìsòlá. For Rebecca:
he’s funny and down-to-earth at the same time as his work tackles important moments in Yoruba history and contemporary life. He also has an incredible way with Yoruba – his novels and plays make full use of the dexterity of Yoruba, its distinct range of puns, jokes, proverbs and ideophones – and they’re full of earthy insults and plays on words. For me, another good reason to read Isola is that he’s particularly interested in the history of women.
In her posts, Steph has engaged with current debates on literature and theoretical hot topics. Part of AiW’s first series, this Jungle Jim post was her first commission, embedding a pan-African pulp fiction mag in its varied and interesting networks, geographically, historically and epistemologically.
Steph asks challenging questions of Jungle Jim‘s South African Sci-Fi issue:
How does current South African sci-fi (which I am taking to be sci-fi written by writers of South African origin) position itself in relation to Africa and the rest of the world? Is sci-fi better equipped to address these issues than other genres? Is it, as Wanuri Kahui suggests, an optimal vehicle for African writers, who were often denied the right to record the past, to now write the future?
But her Wainaina piece is a tour de force. She wrote:
Wainaina’s address was a kind of exorcism in its own right, an attempt to rid African literary and cultural studies of the ghost of Afropolitanism
A memorable post, and an engaged and smart response to Binyavanga Wainaina’s plenary session at the ASAUK12 Conference in Leeds.
Back in March Charlotte described the many historical appearances of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a Victorian icon of British abolitionist efforts in the late 19C. Her post therefore –with hindsight – continued this process of reinvention, reflecting the ways in which Africa in Words, alongside other digital media, forms part of new public histories.
Nara Improta’s ‘Black Atlantic’ series celebrated the 20 yr anniversary of Paul Gilroy’s influential work of the same name. Initiated by Nara, the series encompassed the many ways in which Gilroy’s work has been a jumping off point for those wishing to explore nationalism, culture and the complex connections between, across and through this historic seascape. From art at Tate Liverpool, to sambajazz in Rio, the posts gave our readers many windows on the legacy of Gilroy’s approach. Charlotte has also worked with Nara Improta to conceive a new series, ‘African Classics’, which invites writers of all kinds to reflect on those books they consider their own African classics, texts that have had a foundational influence on their lives, work and research. African Classics will continue to grow in 2014.
Africa in Words brings its readers engaged and considered reviews of a wide range of new fiction from Africa. In Kate Haines’ nuanced and personal reflection on Love is Power, or Something like that, she describes how A. Igoni Barrett’s short stories:
made me wrestle with the push and pull of my own disconnection and connection to these stories located in contemporary Nigeria [as they]… explore…the dynamics of power that push together and pull apart intimacy
Q & A’s have formed a key part of new developments in the blog, featuring new writers, publishers and key figures alike. Katie Reid’s interview with the poet Warsan Shire followed Shire’s unanimous win of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize and preceded her much anticipated reading at the Africa Writes 2013 event, ‘Diaspora Writes Back’. For this remarkable Kenyan-born, London-based Somali author, her poetry – crafted with exceptional insight and power, gently and generously activist in its sensibility – is a reflection of character, as well as the realisation of a long term aspiration:
It’s been evident to me from a very young age that the voices of the community I come from are fragmented, subdued in different ways. I’ve always really had lots of things to say, since I was a child, and because of that I thought, if I become a writer – which is all I’ve ever wanted to do – I want to get across what my uncle has to say, or a man down the street . It’s 50% empathy, 50% creepiness! – or curiosity. But I love the idea of being able to take on another person’s voice and being able to share something. Say you see a Somali woman on the bus, and she has a pushchair, and is in a full hijab […] it’s being able to tell the stories of those people, especially refugees and immigrants, that otherwise wouldn’t be told
So much that we are proud of in 2013 – bring on year 3! In the meantime we’d love to hear some of your favourite posts from across the year…
One of the things that matters to us most is that Africa in Words can start conversations. To continue our birthday celebrations over the course of this week, we are therefore launching a competition for the best comment on the blog. Share your thoughts and reactions to any of our posts (we hope these highlights provide inspiration) by Monday 12 November 9am (GMT) and you could win a much sought-after copy of Kwani? 07.