In other Words… AiW news and September’s wrap

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 TwitterFacebook 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… 1page-divider1


Click to jump to: Festivals, Fairs, Salons | Books, Mags, Articles, Papers – Readings | Performance, Visuals, & Sounds | Awards & Congrats

And click the images to read September’s top Reviews and Posts – fave AiW pages from #PastAndPresent

Top Review – #Past. Click to read.

Top Review – #Present. Click to read.

Top post – #Past. Click to read.

Top post – #Present. Click to read.


Virtual Festivals, Fairs, Salons

Fairs – Books

Bit of a bumper month in a year of firsts for Book Fairs going virtual – the Nairobi International Book Fair (24-26 Sept), the Nigeria International Book Fair (01-07 Sept), and the South African Book Fair (11-13 Sept) went online this September:
A full stream of all events is available on YouTube, including talks with authors and literary academics, with a keynote speech made by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, and publishers and others in industry and trade.
Nigeria International Book Fair is a platform for interface and networking among the stakeholders within the book and knowledge industry in Nigeria.”
““Historic circumstances gave us an opportunity to reimagine this year’s SA Book Fair,” comments Elitha van der Sandt, CEO of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC). “We worked at curating an accessible and engaging programme that, even in these virtual times, continues to establish the unique role of books, authors and publishers in addressing the most relevant issues of the moment – in both the public and personal arenas.””
See Awards & Congrats and Books & Mags below for further from sessions at the SA Book Fair on literary journals and the winners of the “Battle of the Book Clubs”! The Gaborone Book Festival also went online this September, hosting a lively range of talks and events.
And on September 2nd, Cape Town’s Open Book Festival announced the cancellation of the 2020 edition on what would have been its first day. But on the upside, the Fest will be running a series of conversational Podcasts to ensure the “carefully curated and interesting conversations that are characteristic of the festival” can be shared this year:
“The first episode will be released on 19 October 2020 and the series will run for four weeks. …The series will be released on the Book Lounge’s podcast, A Readers’ Community, as well as on this website. To make sure you don’t miss the series, you can subscribe here.”
September also saw two virtual film festivals screened from South Africa on our radar: See their website and for all the winners and honourable mentions from this, the 9th Jozi Film Festival, and social media feeds for more news, clips and visuals.


Running a range of documentary, short, and feature films from their website – – #DIFF2020 curated a film programme that speaks to the historical injustices and the different ways in which healing and redress is sought through the 21st century lens under the theme “Shifting Paradigms”.

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Books, Mags, Articles, Papers – September Readings

We can’t wait to get our hands on the African Poetry Book Fund and Akashic Books’ New Generation African Poets Chapbook Box Sets – we’ve long been interested in their mentorship and space for the visibility of emergent voices – our series of reviews of previous chapbook sets can be found here and are delighted to see this introduction to the newest set from Kwame Dawes:
Co-sponsored by Archipelago Books, “a not-for-profit press devoted to publishing excellent translations of classic and contemporary world literature”, this Transnational Series event with Scholastique Mukasonga in conversation with Maaza Mengiste about her book, Igifu (trans. from the French by Jordan Stump), caused no shortage of social media love and buzz:
“Scholastique Mukasonga’s autobiographical stories rend a glorious Rwanda from the obliterating force of recent history, conjuring the noble cows of her home or the dew-swollen grass they graze on. In the title story, five-year-old Colomba tells of a merciless overlord, hunger or igifu, gnawing away at her belly. She searches for sap at the bud of a flower, scraps of sweet potato at the foot of her parent’s bed, or a few grains of sorghum in the floor sweepings. Igifu becomes a dizzying hole in her stomach, a plunging abyss into which she falls. In a desperate act of preservation, Colomba’s mother gathers enough sorghum to whip up a nourishing porridge, bringing Colomba back to life. This elixir courses through each story, a balm to soothe the pains of those so ferociously fighting for survival.”

Umuzi (2019) and Archipelago (2020) editions.

Igifu shared an Archipelago publication date with the international (Anglophone) edition of South African writer Ivan Vladislavic’s latest novel The Distance on September 15. For more on Archipelago’s release of The Distance, first published with Umuzi, South Africa in 2019, see our recent Words on the Times Q&A with Vladislavic, where he discusses writing and working, and this latest publication with the measures necessitated by the pandemic. 1page-divider1 In light of #translations, the ever vigorous and generous African Books Collective drew attention to the significance of this interview up on Langaa (physically located in Cameroon) – another resource, well worth checking out for its promotion of original, rigorous African scholarship and creative writing.
Journals and Mags
A number of AiW shout outs to journals, platforms and mags for September’s #Wrap…

#TheDecadeProject @brittlepaper Instagram –

September was the month that we celebrated with online literary platform Brittle Paper for its tenth birthday and the #DecadeProject – a Project that, among its marking of the “boom years” of African literature and culture over the last ten years, profiled like literary platforms and journals. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Brittle Paper, Ainehi Edoro-Glines, was on the SA Book Fair panel, “Giving Books A Pride of Place in Africa”, which particularly caught our eye among the range of panels and talks for its foregrounding of the work of literary journals from the continent. The session was moderated by James Murua, whose blog, podcast and video is a primary go-to resource “Archiving African and Black literature”, with Rémy Ngamije, writer and photographer, and editor-in-chief of Doek!, Namibia’s first literary magazine; Jenifer Malec, editor at the Johannesburg Review of Books; Troy Onyango, writer, editor and lawyer, and founder and editor-in-chief of Lolweand Ainehi Edoro-Glines of Brittle Paper.
On Brittle Paper’s invitation to the #TheBoomYearsOfAfriLit birthday party, we dipped into our archives, bringing together 10 groupings and constellations of blog posts that have resonated most with our readers over the years, one of which such grouping was our long love for literary mags and journals.
This looking back to see forward in light of BP’s anniversary is something shared with Pan-African collective Jalada Africa‘s response to #TheDecadeProject on Twitter – see their full thread there for their top 10 moments from their “vault”:
See our celebs with Brittle Paper’s Decade Project including links to their generous profile of AiW. And thanks, again, BP!

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1page-divider1 Announced with no little excitement on the ever dynamic critical forum of the Cheeky Natives Pod/Vodcast, hosted by Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele and Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane, Koleka Putuma’s award-winning debut poetry collection Collective Amnesia (2017), will be available as an “audio experience” from Oct 7th:
Poetic Sounds
Hear Nii Ayikwei Parkes read with an early peek from his forthcoming collection:
Listen to and watch Bodies Under Siege, a South African production of spoken word poetry and music, aired as part of the first all-virtual 2020 Gothenburg Book Fair – self-billed as “an action-packed book party in digital format” (24-27 Sept). The showcase, which amplifies the voices and the plight of women and the LGBTQI + community, is available on YouTube (broadcast on the “Book Fair Play” platform, available at
The concept will showcase artists who through their work are vocal, and introspective, of the struggles women and the LGBTQI + community face; such as gender based and sexual violence, hate crimes, body shaming, and many other societal issues which affect these individuals. Borrowing voices from women, the LGBTQI + community, as well as men, Bodies Under Siege will hold the conversation to the light with featured poets Vangile Gantsho, Christie “FossilSoul” van Zyl and Solly “Soetry” Ramatswi. They will be accompanied by a live band made up of Phuti Sepuru on keyboard, Concord Nkabinde on bass guitar and David Klassen on percussion.
Pan-African feminist publishing house impepho press, “committed to the sincere telling of intersectional African and international stories”, hosted the Woman of Words Online Poetry Event on the 25th and 26th of September.

The impepho press Woman of Words Poetry Festival, a multilingual online showcase, celebrating black women’s poetry, is an initiative supported by the Department of Arts Sports and Culture taking place on the 25th – 26th September 2020.

This festival will comprise of two live showcases, a masterclass with Makhosazana Xaba, a writing workshop with Vuyelwa Maluleke and Lethokuhle Msimang, a screening of WeAreDyingHere and a workshop on creating the choreopoem hosted by New York based Bridges: A PanAfrikan Arts Movement. #imPRESSivepoets #NoSmokeWithoutAStory
You can watch/listen to poetry and music from the live performance-live showcase of the 25th September (hosted by Athambile Masola) – available on YouTube:

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Awards & Congrats


Longlists were announced for the 2020 African Writers Awards (AWA) and the Wakini Kuria Award for Children’s Literature. See the lists – 15 on each – here. And 24 stories spanning 7 countries from the continent have made it on to the Toyin Falola Prize – see the website announcement.


See our interview with Mengiste earlier in the year, with AiW Guests Korranda Harris & Birhanu Gessese, in discussion about The Shadow King (2019): 
“Narrated by the orphan-turned-soldier Hirut during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia prior to World War II, Mengiste presents a wonderfully layered tale about women at war and the lengths one will go to for freedom…the complex positioning of women in times of war, the competing narratives of history, and her evolving literary voice.”
And in a month that saw award-winning and renowned Zimbabwean author, filmmaker and activist, Tsitsi Dangarembga‘s Booker shortlisting with This Mournable Body, and her appearance in court in Zimbabwe on Sept 18th – facing charges for disturbing the peace and inciting violence following her arrest just days after the Booker longlist announcement at anti-government Harare-based protests in June – there was further news and cause for celebrations of the African literary kind, as the UK’s University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing Programme celebrated their 50th birthday in some style:


Congrats to Namwali Serpell who has won the UK’s top prize for science fiction, the Arthur C Clarke award, for her first novel The Old Drift. Judges described the novel as “stealth sci-fi”, which Serpell described on Twitter on the 23rd September as “possibly my favorite description of The Old Drift so far”. By the 25th Sept – just two days later – Serpell’s social media was lively with the news of her decision to redirect the prize money:
As @lithub tweeted:
… and as the Literary Hub article, linked in their tweet above, goes on to lay out and contextualise in relation to Serpell’s explanatory full thread:
“I received these two pieces of news about being a black woman in 2020 and it felt like a kind of whiplash, but it’s a feeling I’ve grown used to,” she told the BBC. “So I’ve been trying to figure out how to acknowledge both the honor that this award grants to my novel and the feeling that the political revolution I’m describing in the novel is yet to come.” Read the whole thread—it’s a model in redistributing power as much as it’s an indictment of a system that consolidates that power, and the resources it confers, for only a select few. This isn’t the first time Serpell has redirected her prize money; in 2015, she split her Caine Prize winnings (£10,000) among the shortlisted authors in an “act of mutiny” against what she described as the prize’s “race-horse” approach to writers.
Ranka Primorac wrote for us on Serpell’s Caine Prize “act of mutiny” against the ways “this category of literary classification is being regulated by the media (on this occasion, the Guardian), and by the structure of the prize itself”, citing Serpell’s remark then about ‘the grotesque abstraction necessary to consider an entire continent and its literary output as whole entities’  – see the full article, “Acts of Mutiny: the Caine Prize and ‘African Literature'” here And to close – with an acknowledgement of the recognition due to the significance and value of Book Clubs for literary and reading cultures and new critical voices, bookending the amazing range of sessions at the SA Book Fair this year was the “Battle of the Book Clubs”, hosted by “Quiz King” James Murua! And the winner is… (drum roll…) –

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1page-divider1 Thank you all for reading, and for being here with us! As ever, if there’s anything you’d like to see featured on the site, don’t hesitate to get in touch. With all wishes for continuing health and safety, and creative power to you as we head through the remainder of 2020…

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