Sunday, 1 July 2012

Africa Writes

The inaugural African literature festival, Africa Writes, was held on the weekend of 30 June-1 July 2012. It was organised by the Royal African Service for two main reasons. To celebrate new writing from Africa and to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the famous Heinemann African Writers Series that brought the works of so many African writers and leaders to the wider world. Authors like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo and Buchi Emecheta. Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and Kenneth Kaunda.

You can read more about the festival here: Africa Writes

I was lucky enough to be invited to a dinner for the authors attending Africa Writes, some to launch new books, others to talk about their work. It was held in the British Museum, close to closing time.

After dinner in the Great Court we were given a magical treat. The museum had closed by then, and as night began to fall, we were taken by the curator Chris Spring on a private tour of the Africa Galleries. He held us spellbound, bringing objects to life with his knowledge and passion.

Pot by the Kenyan ceramicist Magdalene Odundo

Africa curator Chris Spring

Tree of Life made from weapons used in Mozambique's civil war

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor

Sheila Ruiz of the Royal African Society

Chris Spring in full swing

The Somali author, Nuruddin Farah who was launching his new novel Crossbones
 After the tour we went back to the restaurant to have pudding and coffee, and to listen to the kora. By then, darkness had fallen completely and we had the museum to ourselves.

Africa Writes began the next day with a feast of talks, book launches, poetry readings and storytelling for children. 

Scupltures by the Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp at the entrance to the festival

Books for sale including How Shall we Kill the Bishop? which was launched by the Kenyan writer Lily Mabura

Lily Mabura and me

Zed Books had a stall at the fair. It was (wo)manned by Anneberth Lux. My book on Somalia was on sale. It is third from the left on the bottom row in the photo below - the one with the blue cover with a white star. 

There was delicious African food for sale
The Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, gave the Africa Writes Lecture

In the evening Granta Books hosted a dinner for the Somali writer, Nuruddin Farah.

Deputy Editor of Granta magazine Ellah Allfrey and South African musician Hugh Masekela

Nuruddin Farah and the Somali author of Black Mamba Boy, Nadifa Mohamed

Nuruddin, Nadifa and me
Hugh Masekela, Scottish journalist Isabel Hilton and Nuruddin Farah

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