A panel at the 2019 Asmara Addis Literary Festival in Exile.

When writing is described as an elitist profession, critics mean that opportunities in the field are determined by access, which is often the preserve of the privileged. The Eritrean-Ethiopian-British novelist Sulaiman Addonia, who was once a refugee, understands this. Days ago, the Silence Is My Mother Tongue author made a tweet offering 40 free tickets to the Asmara Addis Literary Festival in Exile, which he founded, to writers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. The €10 tickets would be to the opening ceremony.

A commenter also offered to fund five of the tickets.

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The inaugural Asmara Addis Literary Festival in Exile was held from 8–10 February 2019, in Brussels, Belgium. It is “a new pan-African literary event with feminist principles at its heart.” Among the guests were Maaza Mengiste, Minna Salami, Nadifa Mohamed, Chike Frankie Edozien, Saleh Addonia, Soheila Mehri, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, Amina Jama, Meron Estefanos, Hazel Thomas, Vanessa Tsehaye, Desta Haile, Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, and Rachida Lamrabet.

Sulaiman Addonia.

The 2020 festival will launch at Théâtre Molière, in Matonge, Brussels, with “an evening blurring the imagined or real boundaries between art and literature.” It will feature acclaimed writers, musicians, poets, artists & an exhibition led by students of La Cambre, Visual School of Arts, including the Congolese Aime Mpane and the Belgian Jean Pierre Muller. The evening will open with a music performance by the Sierra Leonean-German singer-songwriter Mariama.

Among the festival’s offerings is a panel with Mariama, the Angolan writer & musician Kalaf Epalanga, and the publisher, writer and music journalist Magdalene Abraha, moderated by Ouida Books editor Molara Wood. Another will have the Ethiopian-American novelist Maaza Mengiste, the South African Kagiso Lesego Molope, the British-Eritrean Hannah Azieb Pool, and the Italian-Eritrean journalist Vittorio Longhi discuss photography and the writer’s imagination. Attending too are the UK-based Sawti project and its founder Sumia Jama and the poets Amina Jama and Alycia Pimohamed. The festival is supported by Passa Porta, ENSAV La Cambre, and Ixelles Commune.

Recently, Addonia, a finalist for The 2019 Brittle Paper Award for Essays & Think Pieces, wrote an essay on finding his voice to write Silence Is My Mother Tongue.

Get tickets to the Asmara Addis Literary Festival HERE