The third edition of Nairobi’s Macondo Literary Festival, titled “Disrupting Home” just ended in Kenya’s capital. For the first time on the continent, it brought together authors from Arab, English, French and Portuguese writing language zones who engage with aspects of Africa’s histories in their writing.
The Macondo Literary Festival was co-founded by Kenyan novelist Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and journalist Anja Bengelstorff. The event offers a literary platform to explore belonging, histories and futures among English, French, Arabic and Portuguese-speaking African authors and audiences. It is also meant to introduce, to Kenyan readers, African writers who are not as well known due to their writing in French, Arabic or Portuguese, but by whom translations of their works are now available.
Running from September 15 to 17, the festival welcomes a host of celebrated authors. They included multi-award winning author Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone/UK), Leila Aboulela (Sudan/ UK), Hemley Boum (Cameroon), Youssef Fadel (Morocco), Kalaf Epalanga (Angola/ Germany), Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda), Masande Ntshanga (South Africa), Kossi Komla-Ebri (Togo/ Italy), Yvvette Edwards (UK) and festival co-founder Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor.
From Brazil, Djamila Ribeiro joined the event, one of the most influential leaders in the Afro-Brazilian women’s rights movement. The works of these guest authors were available in English at the festival’s bookshop.
Forna remarked that she enjoyed the festival immensely, “It was a wonderful experience in all ways – really one of the best festivals I’ve attended.”
The various interpretations of “home” were interrogated throughout the 3-day festival, looking, for example, at “The Home in a Story”. The festival looked at the migration experience of writers or how historical novels write generations, countries and home, authors and audience. There were also discussions on what it means for us to be human in this time, and how, through literature across the boundaries, Africa is inscribing itself into the future.
In a fascinating conversation between South African writer Masande Ntshanga and Brazil’s Djamila Ribeiro, two thinkers and writers who share a home, their countries, with a community that historically dominated or still dominates people of African descent, searched for commonalities in their experiences of inhabiting South Africa and Brazil.
In a storytelling performance titled “100 Years of Samosas: An East African Story”, Kenyan writer and performer Aleya Kassam shared the epic story of one family across generations, re-making home, one samosa (a pastry with a savory filling) at a time.
Another highlight was a panel on graphic novels as a powerful literary form that creates story worlds that colorfully challenge assumptions of what form the African story takes.
These events and more made the 2023 Macondo Literary Festival a resounding success! We cannot wait for next year’s fest.
Check out the photos from this year’s festival below: