Africa Writes: Event Preview (29th June – 1st July, London)

You are invited to join
The Royal African Society’s annual literature festival,

Africa Writes

From Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July 2018
The British Library & Rich Mix

Over 60 of the most influential voices in contemporary writing from Africa and its diaspora will be brought together in London, for the seventh edition of Africa Writes! This exciting literary weekend features writers from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Somaliland, Uganda, South Africa, UK, USA and Zimbabwe, highlights themes of history, memory and spirituality, and presents the writers who are changing the face of African literature.


Africa Writes 2018 flyer

Headline events

The festival opens on Friday 29th June at the British Library, with Yomi Ṣode’s one-man show COAT exploring themes of identity, migration and displacement. COAT is an honest and emotional story of Junior, a child born in Nigeria who leaves behind a life he loved to move to London at the age of 9. Whilst cooking up a stew on stage, Sode confronts the difficult realities of growing up in south London as a young man, and the expectations of family, blending poetry and drama in a unique performance style rich with lyricism, humour and hard truths.

The womxn of colour poetry group Octavia hosts the Africa Writes 2018 Party on Saturday 30th June at Rich Mix. Octavia present a Wakanda-themed event featuring art displays, gal-dem DJs and a line-up of poets including Sarah Lasoye, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Hibaq Osman, Rachel Long, Belinda Zhawi, Amina Jama, 2018 African Poetry Prize winners Theresa Lola and Momtaza Mehri (the 2018 Young Laureate for London). Award-winning author and long-time advocate for writers of colour Bernardine Evaristo will deliver a speech on ‘Warrior Womxn Writers’.

Celebrated Somali-British poet Warsan Shire joins Africa Writes on the evening of Sunday 1 July, the first writer under 30 to headline the event in the festival’s seven-year history. In her first UK public appearance since her poetry reached millions of people in Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, Shire will be in conversation about her work, process and inspiration, and will speak about her new projects that explore the intersections of art and healing. This event has now SOLD OUT. AiW note – Warsan Shire is recovering from a serious health issue and is unable to make this year’s Africa Writes headline event. We here at AiW wish her all the very very best for a speedy and full recovery and look forward to the event’s being held in January 2019 – for details see Africa Writes here.


Africa Writes 2017

Africa Writes Young Voices

To kick off the day on Saturday 30th, poets and secondary school students will present the creative writing they have been working on in a free showcase event as part of the education programme. There will be an exciting launch of the Africa Writes Young Voices Anthology, a collection of work produced by young writers in the 2017 workshops. Following this, everyone is invited to join the roundtable discussion where the question: ‘where is Africa in the UK literature curriculum?’ will be asked and discussions with educators championing diverse reading lists will be held.

Book Launches, Panels & Roundtables

Exploring themes of identity, migration and displacement, award-winning writer Leila Aboulela launches her new book Elsewhere, Home at the British Library – a collection of intimate stories of longing and exile set between Sudan and the UK (30th June).

Hit books and pop-culture podcast Mostly Lit host a live version of the show with Afua Hirsch, journalist and author of Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (30th June).

Historical fiction and non-fiction is the focus on 30th June: Ayesha Harruna Attah launches her third novel set in 19th century Ghana, The Hundred Wells of Salaga, and the intriguing history of African literary figures Phillis Wheatley and ABC Merriam-Labour in Georgian and Edwardian London feature.

As Zimbabwe prepares for national elections in August, and the nation reconfigures following the deposition of Robert Mugabe, young writers Panashe Chigumadzi and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma launch their new books These Bones Will Rise Again and House of Stone , presenting inventive new ways of telling the nation’s story and discussing its future (1st July). Highlighted in these books are the interactions between the world of spirits and the self, also a feature of Akwaeke Emezi’s highly-anticipated debut Freshwater. The writer presents a pre-launch of her novel that explores the obanje of Ibgo spirituality and religion, and the metaphysics of identity and being (30th June).

Stories of queer womxn are highlighted in an event featuring narratives from Nigeria, the UK, and Equatorial Guinea, and appearances by Cassava Republic publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, UK Black Pride Founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, and gal-dem founder Liv Little (1st July). Writer and activist Trifonia Melibea Obono will join by video link to speak about her book La Bastarda –the first book by an Equatoguinean woman to be translated into English.

There are many chances to explore, discover and be inspired at this year’s festival. You can get an introduction to Cameroonian literature at a conversation between Dzekashu Macviban (Bakwa Magazine) and Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed (bookshy), read new work by young people in Uganda, hear from the festival authors on their favourite pieces of writing in African Books to Inspire, and meet the 2018 Caine Prize shortlisted writers.

Looking at translation and inter-generational interaction, Numbi Arts will host a discussion on contemporary Somali literature with writer Hanna Ali, whose work explores themes of womanhood, blackness, forced migration, religion and family trauma.


Africa Writes 2017 book stalls

Workshops & Masterclasses

Along with family storytelling events, a lively atmosphere and an international book fair with classics, recent publications and rare finds, there are also plenty of opportunities to get involved and develop your own interests and skills at the festival – a masterclass in literary translation presented by Wangui wa Goro of SIDENSI, a workshop of Afrofuturist literature art, literature and fashion presented by FUNCTION, and a pitching event for budding writers to meet publishing industry experts.

There will be a workshop on small magazines and African literary networks on 1st July from 12.30pm in the British Library. This workshop: Small Magazines, Literary Networks & Self-Fashioning in Africa and the Diaspora explores magazines in contemporary African literary culture with Enkare Review, AFREADA, Bakwa Magazine and others. Through their role as sites of intimacy and collaboration, small magazines give rise to the creation of networks of affiliation which span regions and contexts. From the late days of empire to the present day, they have offered an outlet for the fostering of large-scale forms of activism and for the transmission of new orthodoxies for subjectivity, both individual and collective. This roundtable – with Christopher Ouma, Kate Wallis, Madhu Krishnan, Nancy Adimora , Dzekashu MacViban, and Jama Musse Jama – explores the corridors of storytelling which small magazines create and their role in contemporary African literary culture. For AiW coverage of the network’s research and activities on Small Magazines, see the latest in, with links to, our series of Small Magazines posts here.

There will also be a discussion on podcasts: Books In Your Ears: On Literary Podcasts – which is co-hosted between Africa Writes and yours truly, Africa in Words, along with Not Another Book PodcastNo Binding, BakwaCast, and 2 Girls & a Pod.

Africa in Words is excited to join Africa Writes significantly this year in the Books In Your Ears discussion, looking at one of the most exciting trends in African literature over the past few years – the growth in podcasts. Guest speakers based both in the UK and the African continent will discuss the concepts behind their shows, their interactions with readers and listeners, and how podcasts are forging a new form of African literary networks.

The Africa in Words team will also be present and involved in various other ways at the Africa Writes Festival throughout the weekend in London.


Africa Writes at The British Library

Day TicketsWeekend Passes and tickets for headline events are available to book on the British Library website or over the phone on 01937 546546.  Tickets for the Africa Writes 2018 Party presented by Octavia Poetry Collective are available to book on the Rich Mix website or over the phone on 020 7613 7498.

For more information, to download the programme and to book tickets see:

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