As we move through the changed circumstances, timelines and spaces of now, we catch up on our monthly round-up of ‘other words’ – news on AiW’s radar, collated from across our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Please be in touch with any other ways and means that AiW can best support today’s opportunities and challenges. And with continuing wishes for your health, peace, safety, and solidarity to all…
May’s top posts and pages – #PastAndPresent
(click on headings to jump the page to:)
Visual Art & Gallery Spaces
Awards & Congrats
And also #OnOur(Lockdown)Radar
Bakwa Books, the Cameroonian pop-up bookshop & indie publisher of literary fiction, creative nonfiction & translation, launched their first Bakwa Literary Festival last month.
The virtual festival took place on Instagram Live from May 15-19, and served as a prelude to ‘Bakwa at 10’, a series of events and campaigns which will take place in different cities in 2021, marking Bakwa’s 10th anniversary. You can catch up with the festival via Bakwa’s IGTV here.
Following the success of Seasons #1 and #2 in March and April, Afrolit Sans Frontieres returned for the third time! The festival, described as ‘African Literature social distancing’, was born via South African author and curator Zukiswa Wanner’s attempts to stay creative and connected with the literary community while social distancing. Season #3 ran from May 25-June 1, with the theme “Past. Present. Future.” with curation by Mohale Mashigo and Zukiswa, and featured leading names in African writing including Leila Aboulela, Ayesha Harruna Attah, and Masande Ntshanga.
You can watch sessions from the festival itself on Afrolit Sans Frontiere’s Instagram. We can’t wait for the next editions of the festival to keep coming, bringing lively conversation and creativity during lockdown! For more on every writer’s session, snapshots of each season, and emerging news, see James Murua’s Literature Blog, Afrolit Sans Frontiere’s media partner.
“We are stronger when we work together.” #InclusiveIndies
The pandemic has put many independent businesses in precarious positions, and at AiW we are always on the lookout for indie publishers to support, so we loved Jacaranda’s list of #InclusiveIndies to spread love and appreciation to:
Jacaranda have also set up a crisis funding page to support inclusive publishers at this time, as they write on their fundraiser:
“The presence of inclusive/diverse-led independent publishers are essential to the publishing ecosystem. It is crucial that we survive to continue representing our communities — and that is who we are turning to now, our communities.”
Jacana Media in South Africa ran an initiative this month for readers to help indie booksellers mid-month. Entries from South Africa are still open until 15 June, so take a look!
We loved Blackbird Books‘s celebration of Africa Day on May 25th with their selection of favourite books, including Image in a Mirror by Ijangolet S Ogwang, Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije, Perfect Imperfections by Makanaka Mavengere, and Vagabond by Lerato Mogoatlhe.
Exciting news for Cameroonian literature! Bakwa Books gained the English translation rights for Hemley Boum’s novel, Les Jours Viennent et Passent. Boum expressed her delight at the English language publication of her book by Bakwa, and commented on the importance of translation:
“I have long lamented the isolation that the languages in which we write impose within the African literary space. […] Language—meant to be a link, a bridge between beings—becomes a difficult hurdle to overcome, especially in this context. As such, Bakwa’s project is a magnificent response to this issue. It unlocks paths that should never have been closed and presents an opportunity for a renewed fraternity.”
A treat for film fans! For this year’s edition of the annual cinematic companion to DanceAfrica, FilmAfrica, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is partnering with African Film Festival (AFF) to go virtual and present a selection of modern African cinema classics. All FilmAfrica screenings are available to watch online here, with proceeds supporting AFF and BAMduring their temporary closure. Highlights include Rungano Nyoni’s audacious debut, I Am Not A Witch, Wanuri Kahiu’s coming-of-age film Rafiki, and the animated Aya of Yop City, directed by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie.
Visual Art and Gallery Spaces
Throughout the month, galleries and museums extended their digital initiatives, with new ones cropping up to bring art into our homes, as well as reflect on the impact of COVID-19.
We have been following The Lockdown Collection, a South African initiative where each day, an artist creates and shares a piece that reflects their thoughts, feelings, vision or captured moments of the lockdown experience via their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Initially, The Lockdown Collection ran for 21 days, showcasing a different artist each day, but at the end of May, they launched their Extension Collection, a series of 21 extraordinary artworks aiming to provide further support to vulnerable artists in light of the extended lockdown period – with all proceeds generated to benefit the Vulnerable Visual Artists Fund and the Solidarity Fund which aims to assist Artists and South Africans in this time of need.
The online edition of the contemporary African art fair, 1-54 NYC, kicked-off at the start of the month on Artsy. Drawing reference to the 54 countries that constitute the African continent, the 2020 edition welcomed 25 galleries from all over the world, collectively exhibiting the work of more than 80 artists. Our favourites included the works from 50 Golborne Gallery – Larry Amponsah, Eman Ali, Ranti Bam, and Safaa Erruas.
We wrote in last month’s wrap-up about Afikaris‘s impressive virtual exhibition “Dialogues, techniques mixtes sur papier”. In May, the gallery continued to reproduce immersive virtual gallery experiences through the exhibition “Origines”, featuring the work of African artists whose practice tends to question or inspire their culture, identity and the very notion of borders, and their new solo show of Ghanaian photographer Nana Yaw Oduro, “Some things mysterious boys do”. Both exhibitions can be viewed via their Instagram, and through the 3D viewing rooms on Afikaris.
Awards & Congrats
Our biggest congratulations to:
– AKO Caine Prize 2020 shortlisted writers, Erica Sugo Anyadike, Rémy Ngamije, Chikodili Emelumadu, Jowhor Ile, and Irenosen Okojie. You can read their stories here, and keep your eyes out for AiW’s annual Caine Prize review series. You can read our previous years’ shortlist reviews and coverage of the Prize here.
– Nigerian writer Pemi Aguda who won the UK’s Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award.
– Rabha Ashry, the winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Ashry is now the second Egyptian winner after Nadra Mabrouk won the 2019 prize alongside Jamila Osman.
– The 2020 Nommo Awards Short Lists Nominees for the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS). Have a peak at the full list in the link below:
And also #OnOur(Lockdown)Radar
Writers Project of Ghana (WPG) has been running a series of online events and talks to keep readers and writers connected during lockdown. Their Writers Cafe, which usually meets once a month and is a space for young writers to share and review each other’s work, has turned to the virtual space. The Writers Cafe is open to writers of all kinds, is not restricted to prose and this month, Bisi Adjapon joined them as their guest author via Zoom. Keep your eyes peeled for the June edition via the WPG Instagram.
WPG also continued their Literary Crossroads series with Goethe-Institut Ghana in May, bringing together African writers from the continent and from the diaspora to discuss contemporary trends and themes in literature. Their May event featured a reading and a conversation with Nana Oforiatta Ayim and Ray Ndebi on Instagram Live.
The Cheeky Natives, the Black literature podcast focused on archiving Black stories, have been helping us get through self-isolation with their insightful and charming ‘Lockdown Takeovers’ each day. Starting in April, authors take over the Cheeky Natives Instagram for an hour to read and engage with listeners. Our personal highlights have been Lerato Mogoatlhe discussing her adventures on the continent, and Zukiswa Wanner talking about literary festivals and her Goethe Medal win.
Hargeysa Cultural Centre in Somaliland has sharing personal highlights of the times on their Twitter via their Corona Diaries: Voices from HCC. Read this thread for a lovely insight into the Centre’s lockdown life:
Thank you all for reading, and for being here with us through this! If there’s anything you’d like to see featured on the site, don’t hesitate to be in touch. We look forward to it, with all wishes for your continuing safety at this time.
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