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Africa Writes Festival is UK’s biggest annual African literature and book festival. It is sponsored by the Royal African Society and hosted at the British Library and Rich Mix.

From Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July,  over 60 writers from Africa and the diaspora will convene in London to explore the works of womxn and queer writers who are making an impact in African literature.

In the last few years, there has been a call to expand, refine, and enrich our understanding of gender, identity, and sexuality. The #metoo movement, the global visibility of LGBTQI activism, in addition to debates around transgender representations have all contributed to questioning conventional assumptions about gender and identity. African literature has not been left out of these global conversations. The success of Akwaeke Emez’s bestselling novel Freshwater and Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki —a film based on a Caine Prize short story—shows that readers of African literature are interested in exploring more complex ideas of identity and sexuality and becoming more aware of ways in which prejudice and discrimination persists in existing norms about gender. It is exciting to see Africa Writes shining light on inclusive and progressive notions of the “feminine” experiences.

The program which, was released last week promises a rich offering of events, speakers, masterclasses, discussion panels, etc.. One of the big news items around the festival is the involvement of British Somali poet Warsan Shire, winner of Brunel Poetry Prize and the first Young Poet Laureate for London. She is billed to headline the event. On July 1, she will share deep insights in the intersections of womxn/queer experiences and the creative life.

Africa Writes Festival is known for creating a global experience of African literature. Expect to see poets, speakers, and writers from the continent and the Diaspora. British Nigerian poet Yomi Sode “opens the festival at the British Library with his one-man show, COAT, exploring themes of identity, migration and displacement.”

With the Zimbabwean elections drawing close, it is nice to see Panashe Chigumadzi and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma  launch their new books, These Bones Will Rise Again and House of Stone, at the festival. Their events will, among other things, “explore new ways of telling the nation’s story and discussing its future.” Another book launch to look out for is Cassava Republic’s Ayesha Haruna’s book The Hundred Wells of Salaga, a new historical fiction that explores precolonial slavery.  Sudanese novelist Leila Aboulela will also be launching her new book Elsewhere, Home at the British Library.  Also featured is Trifonia Melibea Obono, the first Equatoguinean woman to be translated into English. Her novel La Bastarda was recently featured here on Brittle Paper.

Attendees will have the chance to see a live version of the hit books and pop-culture podcast Mostly Lit, in addition to The Octavia Collective‘s Wakanda-themed event featuring art displays, gal-dem DJs and a line-up of poets including Sarah Lasoye, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Hibaq Osman, Rachel Long, Belinda Zhawi, Amina Jama, 2018 African Poetry Prize winners Theresa Lola and Momtaza Mehri (the 2018 Young Laureate for London). Bernadine Evaristo, known for the amazing work she’s done with the Brunel Poetry Prize, will give a speech titled “Warrior Womxn Writers.”

The festival features masterclasses and networking opportunities for publishers and writers. There will be workshops on everything from translation to Afrofuturism to podcasts. There will also be a pitching event for aspiring writers to hobnob with publishing industry experts.

The Africa Writes Festival never disappoints. Kudos to the planning team for all they do keep readers of African literature coming back every year.

Order tickets HERE.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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