In other Words… AiW news and quarterly wrap (Jan-March 2020)

A round-up of other words – our top posts & quarterly news – on AiW’s radar, collated from across our platforms, January through March (with an added wish for safety and health for you and yours as we head on through 2020)…


Top posts and pages – #PastAndPresent 


South Africa National Arts Festival 2020 – “completely virtual for the full 11 days of amazing”. 
January saw a call go out to artists for South Africa’s 2020 National Arts Festival Fringe, a call which has since widened for ideas from “all artists, producers and anyone else whose imagination we’ve sparked to tell us how they could be part of Virtual NAF2020” – a first in the Festival’s history.

– AiW featured: Moving Futures, Moving Bodies, Tom Penfold’s review of Acts of Transgression: Contemporary Live Art in South Africa (Wits UP, 2019), edited by Jay Pather and Catherine Boulle, includes the volume’s discussion of performance artist Dean Hutton’s remote appearance in the 2017 NAF with his controversial work #fuckwhitepeople, as evidencing “the trace of live art as the most malleable creative form”.

Aké Festival – “Black Magic”: free and online “to everyone from everywhere”.
The Aké Arts and Book Festival (22-25 October) announced its 2020 theme “Black Magic” back in January, with a literary focus on children’s writing and political memoirs.

And in Aké news this week –  

– AiW Featured: ‘The Smouldering Fires of Ake Arts and Book Festival 2019‘. For a taster, travel with Temitayo Olofinula’s journeying experience of last year’s theme, ‘Black Bodies: Grey Matter’, which closes by reminding us that “the body never forgets the fellowship of like minds”. 

Caine Prize for African Writing and AKO Foundation partnership announced in late January.
The Caine becomes the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing as part of the agreement with the AKO Foundation, a London based charity supporting projects which promote the arts, improve education or mitigate climate problems. The 2020 ceremony, originally scheduled for 23 June, may have since been postponed but the Prize chair Ellah P Wakatama, OBE, still expects shortlists to be announced in May. 

– AiW Featured: Over the years, AiW has opened broad, long, and critical conversations about prize culture, covering the Caine Prize extensively, from Kate Wallis’ kick off on joining the Prize blogathon in 2013, to our yearly reviews of the shortlisted stories, and coverage of the Prize anthologies.

RAS – Africa in 2020: Art & Activism, January 28.
At the end of the month, we were at ‘Africa in 2020: Art & Activism‘, at SOAS in London – a powerful, motivating event and insightful conversation between African arts practitioners and the audience in Q&A. Speakers – from L to R in RAS photo below: @DCAFEgypt’s Ahmed El Attar, playwright and director; Tanzanian artist Valerie Asiimwe Amani – @ardonaxela; Head of Programmes @basa_news, South Africa, @tumyB, Boitumelo ‘Tumy’ Motsoatsoe; Senegalese Musician and Broadcaster, Makhtar Fall, AKA Xumman – @gunmanxuman; the panel was chaired by: Dr Jenny Mbaye, @CityUniLondon. Catch some of the conversation through @royafrisoc‘s livetweets and threads – #Africa2020:




Top posts and pages – #PastAndPresent 




Image credit: @mathabo_tlali on Instagram

Wonderful Wanda comes to US and Canada.
In exciting news coming from Jacana Media, the English language version of the children’s book Wanda (also in isiXhosa, isiZulu,  and Afrikaans) gained a rights deal with Interlink Publishing for Canadian and North American release in September 2020. Congratulations to Jacana, as well as authors Sihle Nontshokweni and Mathabo Tlali, and illustrators by Chantelle and Burgen Throne – we are thrilled for you and your wonderful story!

– AiW Featured: Wanda appeared in our Alternative Advent  last year – Season’s Readings/ #24Books.

Berlinale Talents, 22-27 February.
Congrats are also in order for the lineup for the prestigious Berlinale Talents

Akwaeke Emezi and Tomi Adeyemi in ELLE Magazine, 3 February.
ELLE ran a feature ‘Voices of Change’, about African and African-American YA fiction writers, among them Akwaeke Emezi, author of debut Freshwater (2018) and YA novel Pet (2019), and Tomi Adeyemi, the writer of the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy. Adeyemi, fast becoming a literary rock star, discusses the “very surreal” frenzy surrounding her books; Emezi the importance of representation: “I’m going to seek out all the other books that exist out there, and I’m going to write some of them, too, so that there are more stories with kids who actually look like me.” 

– AiW Featured: ‘‘The archive of my life’: The UK pre-launch of Akwaeke Emezi’s autobiographical novel Freshwater at Africa Writes 2018′ by the ever insightful Sana Goyal; our Comms Editor Joanna Woods also picked their new book released in Europe this summer, The Death of Vivek Oji (Riverhead), as part of our Festive Favourites: Season’s Reading from Africa in Words. Adeyemi’s first in the trilogy & upcoming film, Children of Blood and Bone (2018) features in our Words from…our bedside.

‘JM Coetzee: Scenes from the South’ exhibition, 10 February.
A series of AiW Instagram stories went out over the course of the day celebration of JM Coetzee’s 80th birthday and launch of ‘Scenes from the South’, a long-look archive of a writing life, running at Amazwi, South African Museum of Literature, until it travels to the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas in Austin (where Coetzee completed his PhD). 

– AiW Featured: For further on the exhibition and stories, and with a meditation on archives #PastAndPresent, see ‘Words on… Februarys past and present: digital spaces and archive connections‘. 

Afritondo Short Story Prize Longlist announcement, 28 February.
Afritondo, the media and publishing platform that connects and tells stories of Africans and black minority populations across the globe, released its 21-strong longlist for the Afritondo Short Story Prize in February, its shortlist of 5 stories on March 6, with the news of the winner, hot off the press, on the 27th:



Top posts and pages – #PastAndPresent 


While news in the second half of the month turned out to breaking, seeing us all shifting our courses, in the first half of March our eyes were on other news highlighting International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month:

African and African diaspora writers in TIME’s ‘100 Women of the Year’ celebrating International Women’s Day, Sunday March 8. 
Retrospectively recognising influential women who transcended their time, this March, TIME commissioned artists to design eighty-nine new covers of women omitted from TIME‘s ‘Man of the Year’ and its maintenance of the gendered status quo until 1999, since when only eleven women have graced the cover of the renamed ‘Person of the Year’ issue. Among the ‘new’ covers (#PastAndPresent) are: Zenzile Miriam Makeba (1967), Angela Davis (1974), Nawal El Saadawi (1981), bell hooks (1984), Toni Morrison (1993), Wangari Maathai (2001), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2006), and Michelle Obama (2008). 

– AiW featured: Ellen Addis reviews Saqi Books’ 2020 reprint of Nawal El Saadawi’s The Fall of the Imam (first published in 1987), ‘A Dizzying Tale of Duality’, and El Saadawi’s 1983 novel Two Women in One,An Artist’s Awakening’, both of which featured as part of our #24Books alternative advent in the run up to last year’s seasonal holidays. Toni Morrison’s last publication, Mouth Full of Blood (Virago), a collection of essays and meditations that span decades, features in our team’s ‘Festive Favourites: Season’s Reading from Africa in Words’.

Brittle Paper read the Daughters of Africa marking Women’s History Month.
The African literature blog Brittle Paper launched an Instagram read-along to the seminal anthologies Daughters of Africa (1992) and New Daughters of Africa (2019), bringing to life the ongoing conversation inspired by the collection edited by the formidable Margaret Busby – from Sojourner Truth and Mary Church Terrell, to Zadie Smith, Vangilo Gantsho, and Ntozake Shange

– AiW featured: ‘Q&A: Margaret Busby on New Daughters of Africa’, with AiW Guests Ellen Mitchell and Sophie Kulik (29 June, 2019).

Phenomenal Women – an exhibition of Black British Female Professor Portraits – researched and curated by Dr Nicola Rollock, reader in equity and education at Goldsmiths, University of London and author of “Staying Power: the career experiences and strategies of UK Black female professors“, with photos by Bill Knight…
Phenomenal Women follows a recent study  which found that fewer than 1% of the professors employed at UK universities are black. Due to run from March 18th until the month’s close, the portraits that make up all the Phenomenal Women are available to view via Goldsmiths’ website.

Sitters include Zimbabwean Professor of Law Fareda Banda from SOAS, Ijeoma Uchegbu, who grew up in Hackney and South East Nigeria and is a professor of pharmaceutical nanoscience at UCL, Professor Engobo Emeseh from Nigeria, Head of Law at the University of Bradford, and professor of international documentary film at the University of South Wales, Florence Ayisi, from Cameroon.

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The latter half of March 2020 was dominated by the effects of COVID-19 reaching pandemic level. Affecting the African creative arts world in so many ways, including what our Managing Editor, Kristen Stern, described in her Words from… post of March 30 as the heartbreaking news of cancellations of our communities’ events – for updates, see our social media feeds, esp. Twitter, and other informative blogs – see James Murua‘s, by way of example. We are also extending our solidarity for the “heartening, creative, and agile responses”, with an AiW welcome for ideas and proposals as to how we might best reconnect and reimagine our spaces, help uplift and to share…

And while we may need to slow our content down a little to catch breath in the rapidity of our new moments, we’re still here – on the site and across our social media – write to us at, or message us on Twitter, through Instagram, or at Facebook

Some of the newer news… books & fests online

Supporting Independent Publishers and Bookshops as they support readers!
Always on the lookout to support indy publishers and booksellers, AiW’s eyes have turned online and to initiatives that are providing creative get-rounds and newer spaces for browsing and book loves:

Jacana Books (Johannesburg, South Africa) is running a Solidarity Reads campaign, sharing ebooks from their extensive catalogue at a discounted rate, with some to R0.00! They say: “We will also be offering free ebooks for a limited period in the next 21 days while we are in lockdown, so keep an eye out for those alerts. With Solidarity Reads, we commit to bringing you great ebook offers that span genres from fiction and memoir, to natural history and political biographies.” 

Bird Summons, Leila Aboulela

The Saqi Books (London, UK) team has put together a tremendous ‘Surviving Self-Isolation Literary Care Package’, a weekly newsletter (sign up here) gathering together listicles, playlists and literary snippets inspired by the authors and books they publish, as well as friends in the community. In this edition, the Sudanese author of Bird Summons, Leila Aboulela, recommends 5 self- isolation reads. Next week’s playlist will be inspired by Nobel Prize laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s short story collection The Quarter and the sounds of Cairo’s winding alleyways. You don’t want to miss this one!

– AiW featured: see more of Saqi Books, and Mahfouz’s story collection in our 2019 Alternative Advent, #24Books – Instagram & Stories.

Okada Books (Nigeria), created by Okechukwu Ofili in 2013 to counter the “ridiculously low” number of bookselling outlets and distribution problems, is a digital bookstore with over 27,000 ebooks available to read immediately. Browse their catalogue here, and follow their sunny, interactive Instagram

The Book Lounge (Cape Town, South Africa), a vigorous and joyful independent bookshop, is offering free delivery to people in and around Cape Town, and at a small price if you order from a little further afield. Peruse their bookshelves here, and follow their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for news.

Patabah Books (Nigeria) which was set-up in 1987 to cater to book-lovers, and is offering delivery within Lagos to be made within 2 days, and delivery outside Lagos within 5 working days. Explore their books online and check out their Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for updates. 

Rugano Books (Kenya, previously known as The Magunga Bookstore) – has moved to eBooks in response to current events and are still taking sales on their website here!* Rugano is the brainchild of writer and critically acclaimed blogger Magunga Williams, moving the Kenyan bookstore into a space for those books exclusively written by people of African descent. Follow their Facebook to stay in touch.
*Rugano are currently updating the site and ask for direct contact and your patience in the meantime.

Moving online – countering distance: virtual literary festivals in March
Similarly, our events posts are shifting, now looking to those live events-turned online initiatives able to open their digital doors, streaming their content from rooms all over homes (with a backdrop of bookshelves, pets and other family members, even the bathroom suite occasionally making their own debut literary Fest appearances):


Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ on Afrolit Sans Frontieres’s Instagram live

The Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival ran from March 23 to 30, and was an initiative of African writers to interact with bibliophiles from all over the world. The festival showcased over 16 writers from 10 African countries sharing their work from 15 different cities in English, French, and Portuguese. Writers included Rémy Ngamije, whose novel The Eternal Audience Of One featured in our #24Books calendar at the end of last year, Mohale Mashigo, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, and Nozizwe Cynthia Jele. To read more about the festival and those involved, read this piece by James Murua.

Highlights included an Instagram livestream with scholar and author Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ — which featured guitar playing, book-reading from his new book Unbury Our Dead with Song, and his reactions to being called a mouthpiece for all African writers in America.

Time of the Writer (16-21 March) also turned digital this month, and we have been following their excellent panels and discussions on its Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram so keep your eyes peeled for a future post of AiW about #TOW2020. 



In the words of our Managing Editor, Kristen Stern, we hope that AiW will continue to be one of those spaces where you turn to find content, community, and connection around our common interests in African letters. 

Thank you for reading, commenting, and just being here. Wishing you health and peace.


Categories: AiW Featured - archive highlights, Announcements, News, & Upcoming

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