The most influential voices in contemporary writing from Africa and its diaspora are coming to London this weekend, for the seventh year of the Africa Writes literary festival.
At a time when some areas of the publishing industry are desperately attempting to rectify their diversity problem (let’s call it The Good Immigrant effect), this seems the perfect time to recognise talented African writers who are working in the industry against the odds – especially the young people, womxn and queer folk who are being platformed at this particular iteration of the festival.
“Young people from countries with uncertain and shifting political climates such as Zimbabwe, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya are writing some of the most inventive and exciting fiction around at the moment,” said festival programmers Marcelle Mateki Akita and Caitlin Pearson. “In an apparent new era of insularity and hardening borders, we look at both the history and the present of what it means to belong in Britain, and through books, poetry and performance we celebrate Africa and the diaspora in its fullest sense.”
Although headliner Warsan Shire has been taken ill (she’s postponed her appearance to January 2019), attendees can look forward to events including a Wakanda-themed (!!!) Africa Writes Party, hosted by womxn of colour poetry group Octavia (30 June, Rich Mix) and featuring art displays, gal-dem DJs and a line-up of poets such as Amina Jama, Sarah Lasoye, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Hibaq Osman and Rachel Long.
Also on Saturday (30 June, British Library), books and pop-culture podcast Mostly Lit will host a live version of their show with Afua Hirsch, journalist and author of Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging.
Somali literature is in the spotlight at the British Library (30 June) thanks to Numbi Arts, with readings from Hanna Ali’s “biomythographical prose” book Sheekadii Noloshayada (The Story of Us), and a discussion likely centred around the author’s concerns of womanhood, blackness, forced migration, religion and family trauma alongside the current state of contemporary Somali literature.
Meanwhile, on Sunday (1 July), queer womxn are highlighted in an event featuring narratives from Nigeria, the UK, and Equatorial Guinea, on being in love with women. Look out for independent Nigerian publisher Cassava Republic’s Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, UK Black Pride Founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, activist writer Trifonia Melibea Obono and our very own Liv Little (1 July).