Africa Writes 2019

Friday, 5 July 2019 - 7:00pm to Sunday, 7 July 2019 - 7:00pm


Africa Writes 2019

Dates: Friday 5th July - Sunday 7th July 2019
Venue: British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB

From Friday 5 July to Sunday 7 July 2019 we’ll be bringing together over 60 of the most influential voices in contemporary writing from Africa and its diaspora, for the eighth edition of Africa Writes! This exciting literary weekend features writers from Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, South Africa, UK, USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and highlights themes of cosmology, masculinity, mental health and Africans in Europe amongst others.

Headline events

Man Booker shortlisted author Chigozie Obioma will headline this year’s Africa Writes. Closing the festival on Sunday, 7 July, Obioma will talk about his writing, Igbo cosmology and the blurred lines between myth and reality in his latest novel An Orchestra of Minorities. The event will open with an evocative staged reading of Obioma’s critically acclaimed debut novel, The Fishermen, followed by an in-conversation led by award-winning author and curator Irenosen Okojie.

Chigozie Obioma says: “I’m really excited to be a part of this celebration of the written word and to be in company of a cohort of writers from Africa. I’m certain those three days will be like being at a concert in Lagos while in London.”

Africa Writes 2019 will open on Friday, 5 July, with Our Bodies Speak Poetry, an evening of inter-generational poetry, story-telling and performance exploring the body as a site of power, possibilities and resistance. The event will feature a slate of award-winning poets, writers and activists including Raymond Antrobus, Adesola Akinleye, Caleb Femi, Jessica Horn, Miss Jacqui, Fatimah Kelleher, Nick Makoha, Sitawa Namwalie, Koleka Putuma and Belinda Zhawi. This event will be BSL interpreted.

On Saturday, 6 July, the evening headline event, delivered in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature, will celebrate Margaret Busby’s landmark anthology, New Daughters of Africa. The anthology, which brings together the work of over 200 African women writers, will be brought to life by a panel of contributing authors including Bernardine Evaristo, Nadifa Mohamed, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ and Namwali Serpell.

Africa Writes Young Voices

To kick off the festival, poets and secondary school students will present the creative writing they have produced as part of our education programme, in a free event – the Africa Writes Young Voices Showcase (5 July). There will also be an education surgery for teachers to learn creative teaching ideas in primary and secondary school classrooms with African literature and test resources compiled from Africa Writes Young Voices booklists (6 July).

Young Adults

On Saturday 6 July, we present a carefully curated workshop and event aimed at audiences from 16+. Young people will be inspired to create poetry out of mathematical data in a workshop with Keisha Thompson, and will have a safe space to discuss what it means to be a young Black man in the UK today at SAFE: Black British Men, a session titled after Derek Owusu’s seminal anthology, with Alex Wheatle, Yomi Sode and Okechukwu Nzelu.

Book Launches, Panels & Roundtables

Key topics emerging in this year’s festival programme include cosmology, masculinity and fatherhood, mental health and Africans in Europe. Against the dominant backdrop of Brexit, the festival will shine a light on the diverse experiences of African diaspora communities in the UK, Europe and beyond through a series of book launches and discussions, including Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Manchester Happened, a dazzling collection of stories that re-imagine the journey of Ugandans who chose to make England their home; a double book launch of Johny Pitts’s Afropean: Notes from Black Europe and Emmanuel Iduma’s A Stranger’s Pose; and Sylvia Ofili’s German Calendar No December, a humorous and moving graphic novel on Nigerian-German identity. Through Africa in London, a session in partnership with the Mayor of London’s Office, audiences will join in a collective listening exercise and discussion of African Londoners’ lived experiences.

Africa Writes will spotlight the national politics of Rwanda and Somalia on Sunday 7 July. Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, award-winning author Yolande Mukagasana launches the English translation of La mort ne veut pas de moi (Not My Time To Die). With intimate access into Al Shabaab in Somalia, BBC Africa Editor Mary Harper paints the complex picture of life for ordinary people in the group’s shadow ― stories of tremendous loss, unbearable compromise, and unexpected profit with the launch of Everything You Have Told Me Is True.

Previous Caine Prize winning author Namwali Serpell launches her debut The Old Drift following three generations and begins the epic story of a small African nation, Zambia ­– a playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction (6 July). Divulging the consequences of love and sickle cell, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ is joined in an intimate conversation with author Chibundu Onuzo to discuss her critically acclaimed debut Stay With Me (7 July). Following the successful launch of Half God of Rainfall Inua Ellams joins Sitawa Namwalie for an interactive discussion on the contemporary interpretations of ancient Yoruba and Luhyia gods and myths (6 July).

Critiquing notions of masculinity is the flagship event African Books to Inspire: Makings of Masculinity featuring Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Sulaiman Addonia, Peter Kimani and Kinna Likimani (7 July). Theresa Lola, Keisha ThompsonSitawa Namwalieare joined by Fatimah Kelleher to discuss writing the daughter-father relationship (6 July).

Centring queer writers’ experiences, Koleka PutumaOkechukwu NzeluOlumide PopoolaChelle O.T. and Siana Bangura on how writers capture the grief and joy in choosing oneself, what is lost and gained through the process, and works they’ve read to inspire and encourage them to do so (6 July).

Africa Writes will once again offer a platform for inspiration and discovery of new writing. Audiences at this year’s festival will learn about the latest literary innovations in East Africa featuring Writivism, Storymoja and Huza Press (7 July), and be introduced to Angolan literature with musician and author Kalaf Epalanga and Yovanka Paquete Perdigao (6 July). They will also meet the 2019 Caine Prize shortlisted writers (6 July), as well as other writers through The Reading Salon (7 July).


The programme includes workshops to develop skills and encourage participation: a comic strip translation workshop from Arabic into English presented by Nariman Youssef and Sawad Hussain, emerging writers and illustrators focusing on the Young Adult genre will also have the opportunity to pitch to publishing industry experts at the Meet the Publishers session. Also included is a workshop for book reviewers and critics facilitated by Kinna Likimani (Kinna Reads) and Sarah Ozo-Irabor (Books & Rhymes). There will also be family workshops aimed at ages 2-5 and 6-11 on Saturday 6 July.

Day TicketsWeekend Passes and tickets for headline events are available to book on the British Library website or over the phone on 01937 546546.

Headline Events
Friday 5 July, 19:00 – 20:30
£12 / £8 / £7.20 for RAS Members
An evening of intergenerational poetry and story-telling exploring the body as a site of power, possibilities and resistance. 
What does the body mean to you? Who draws the boundaries of what the body is or what it could potentially be? Join us for an evening of poetry and story-telling exploring the relationship we have with our bodies (poetical, physical, political, fantastical) and the shifting perceptions across generations. Line-up for the night to be confirmed.
Image: Koleka Putuma, photo by Andy Mkosi
Saturday 6 July, 19:00 – 20:30
£15 / £12 / £10 / £9 for RAS Members
Celebrating Black women’s writing in a landmark anthology
Twenty-five years after Margaret Busby’s landmark anthology Daughters of Africa, this new companion volume brings together the work of over 200 writers from across the globe – Antigua to Zimbabwe, Angola to the USA – to celebrate a unifying heritage, illustrate an uplifting sense of sisterhood and showcase the remarkable range of creativity from the African diaspora, particularly in the past 25 years. Comprising a wealth of genres and styles, this anthology speaks to the strong links that endure from generation to generation as well as the common obstacles that women writers of colour continue to face as they negotiate issues of race, gender and class.
In this event, four contributors to the new anthology, Bernardine Evaristo, Nadifa Mohamed, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ and Namwali Serpell, join Margaret Busby in conversation to celebrate the global sweep, diversity and extraordinary literary achievements of Black women writers.
Presented in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature.
Sunday 7 July, 15:30 – 18:30
£20 / £18 / £15 / £12 for RAS Members
A double-bill of mythic Igbo traditions including a staged reading and a conversation with Chigozie Obioma
Man Booker shortlisted novelist Chigozie Obioma discusses his writing, Igbo mythology and stories of the everyday. In a conversation with readings from The Fishermen and An Orchestra of Minorities, we explore blurred lines between myth and reality, thoughts on fatherhood, and reworking ancient Greek classics with Igbo cosmology. The evening opens with evocative staged reading of The Fishermen, adapted by Gbolahan Obisesan.
Chigozie Obioma was born in 1986 in Akure, Nigeria, and currently lives in the United States. He is an assistant professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His debut novel, The Fishermen, is winner of the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer Award for Fiction, the NAACP Image Awards for Debut Literary Work, and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (Los Angeles Times Book Prizes); and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize 2015, as well as for several other prizes in the US and UK. Obioma was named one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015.
The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma, Adapted for the stage by Gbolahan Obisesan.
Based on the Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel by one of Africa’s major new voices, New Perspectives presents a staged reading Chigozie Obioma’s powerful allegory of brotherhood, vengeance and fate in a new adaptation by Fringe First-winning playwright Gbolahan Obisesan.
Tickets include both the play and conversation. Suitable for ages 16+
Image: Chigozie Obioma by Jason Keith

Africa Writes London 2019 is supported by Arts Council England, British Council, Miles Morland Foundation and hosted by the British Library.