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…
July’s top posts and pages – #PastAndPresent
There were two more wonderful seasons of Afrolit Sans Frontières in the month of July. Following the fourth edition of the festival, which shone a spotlight on short story writers, the fifth and final season ran from 27 July to 03 August and focused on the theme of journeys.
There have been five seasons of the Afrolit Sans Frontières Festival since March this year. The virtual literary festival was the brainchild of South African author, editor and curator Zukiswa Wanner. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Zukiswa established the festival as a way to stay creative and connected with the literary community while also social distancing.
Video archives of the vibrant – and often highly entertaining – conversations at each season of the festival can be found on James Murua’s blog.
We’ve loved every single season! Thanks a lot to Zukiswa and all of the conveners and participants.
While an online arts festival will never be able to fully replace the physical experience, the virtual National Arts Festival #vNAF2020 hosted from Makhanda, South Africa was hugely successful last month. It was the first time in its 46 years that the Festival was held online. Running from 25 June to 05 July, the Festival truly was ‘11 days of amazing’.
The creative content available was a testament to the fantastic range of artists involved in the Festival this year. There were films to enjoy, such as “The Eye of RRE Mutwa”; jazz and music compilations; dance shows and performances, including The Cosmic Egg; poetry recitals; exhibitions, like Giving Poetry Wings; and, a range of webinar conversations reaching audiences throughout South Africa as well as beyond its national borders.
You can still read all about the range of arts on offer at #vNAF2020 on the Festival’s website. Make sure to follow them on social media platforms too, @artsfestival on Twitter and @nationalartsfestival on Instagram.
And, yet more exciting news came from the National Arts Festival team at the end of July: The Festival platform is transitioning into an ongoing digital home for art makers and their artworks. Check it out here!
Books & Magazines
In the spirit of diversifying the kinds of African literary texts read and widely-known, Soila Kenya, a data journalist from Nairobi, designed and led the African Fantasy and Sci-Fi Readathon last month. The readathon brought the peripheral genres of Sci-Fi and Fantasy from the continent and the diaspora to the fore in July. Soila Kenya’s compilation of books enabled readers to easily locate SFF in various literary forms including novels, short stories, and comic strips. The goal for followers was to read at least one SFF text, sharing screenshots and comments using the hashtag #afrofantasylit on social media platforms.
This exciting initiative was wrapped up on 31 July with a wonderful discussion between Soila and the author of World Breacher: Called by the Blessed, Jali Henry on Instagram Live. The pair discussed Henry’s writing and diversity in African SF and Fantasy. The conversation is still available on IGTV @soilacanread_
On 25 July, Mathabo Tlali and Sihle Nontshokweni, authors of the fantastic Wanda, were hosted by Ethnikids – a specialist children’s bookstore in South Africa – on Instagram Live reading the book in isiXhosa.
We love Jacana and all the wonderful work they do! Please help keep up the momentum and spread the word about the appeal to your friends and colleagues using the hashtag #PressPrint
Performance, Visual Art & Gallery Spaces
On 22 July, Joburg Theatre hosted Artistic Director Makhaola Ndebele on IG Live. Ndebele talked about the status of theatre in Africa before Covid-19 and the effects of the pandemic on theatre in Africa. This conversation was one of a series of webinars running through July and August. Follow Joburg Theatre @joburgtheatre on Instagram and make sure to tune in for the upcoming conversation on 05 and 12 August.
October Gallery showcased ‘Alpha Crucis – African Contemporary Art’ exhibition at Astrup Fearnley Museet, running until 6 September 2020. The photography and mask-like sculptures of Benin’s Romuald Hazoumè are inspired by local Yoruba rituals as well as the history of Benin.
“The series can be viewed as a commentary on how African masks have been collected and exhibited in the Western world as museum objects meant for aesthetic perusal, detached from their original ritual use – objects that served to inspire key modernist artists such as Pablo Picasso.”
This year’s Caine Prize for African Writing was awarded on 27 July. As per, we reviewed all the shortlisted stories through July – which we’ve been doing in the context of the politics of ‘prizing’ of African literature, since the first Caine “blogathon” way back when! – and we also got to talk to the authors ahead of the announcement this year for their Words on the Times, about the experience of all the shortlisting flurry, this year, during the pandemic.
We were also able to go down memory lane with a #PastAndPresent, as we revisited some of our previous coverage of the Africa Writes Festival in London over the first weekend in July, watching their Twitter page light up with memories too, and also revisited their Caine Conversation event from 2017, updating this year’s same event with a Words on the Times from the generous and thoughtful chair, Ifeanyi Awachie.
The Prize is usually announced at a ceremony in early July – for the past two years held at SOAS – but this year’s winner was announced by Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE, the chair of the Caine judging panel, in a specially commissioned documentary film by British-Nigerian filmmaker Joseph Adesunloye.
Irenosen Okojie emerged as the 21st winner of the prize for her wonderful story “Grace Jones”. Many congrats to her!
See Zahra Banday’s review of Okojie’s “Grace Jones” here: ‘Tragedy and Trauma in a Roland Mouret Jacket’.
Our congratulations to Tsitsi Dangarembga and Maaza Mengiste – two fantastic writers we follow and love – for being longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize this month!
Although Covid-19 has been a global, collective experience, different parts of the world encountered and reacted to it in very different ways. At the beginning of May, senior researcher Nicklas Hållén of the African Street Literature Blog sent out a call for “scribbled down thoughts” on, about, or during the pandemic in Africa in order to gather together and publish unique voices and experiences in the moment.
The e-zine “Notes from the Lockdown” was published last month on the blog, collecting together texts by writers from 14 sub-Saharan African countries. And at the end of July, the physical, paper edition of this fabulous Pan-African collection of texts was printed in Nairobi, Kenya. Take a look at the printing process here. Copies of the paper edition will be made available from street vendors in the city and various bookshops and other stores.
Keep your eyes peeled for a second graphics edition – “Drawing from the Lockdown”. Coming soon!
Thank you all for reading, and for being here with us at this time! If there’s anything you’d like to see featured on the site, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We look forward to it, with all wishes for your continuing safety at this time.