Africa Writes 2018 Programme

Africa Writes 2018 Programme

Friday 29 June – Sunday 1 July
British Library & Rich Mix, London

Download the Programme

From Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July 2018 we’ll be bringing together over 60 of the most influential voices in contemporary writing from Africa and its diaspora, for the seventh edition of Africa Writes! This exciting literary weekend features writers from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Somaliland, Uganda, South Africa, UK, USA and Zimbabwe, highlights themes of history, memory and spirituality, and presents the writers who are changing the face of African literature.

Headline events

The festival opens on Friday 29 June at the British Library, with Yomi Ṣode’s one-man show COAT exploring themes of identity, migration and displacement. COAT is an honest and emotional story of Junior, a child born in Nigeria who leaves behind a life he loved to move to London at the age of 9. Whilst cooking up a stew on stage, Sode confronts the difficult realities of growing up in south London as a young man, and the expectations of family, blending poetry and drama in a unique performance style rich with lyricism, humour and hard truths.

The womxn of colour poetry group Octavia hosts the Africa Writes 2018 Party on Saturday 30 June at Rich Mix. Octavia present a 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). Award-winning author and long-time advocate for writers of colour Bernardine Evaristo will deliver a speech on ‘Warrior Womxn Writers’.

SOLD OUT: Celebrated Somali-British poet Warsan Shire joins us on the evening of Sunday 1 July, the first writer under 30 to headline the event in the festival’s seven-year history. In her first UK public appearance since her poetry reached millions of people in Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, Shire will be in conversation about her work, process and inspiration, and will speak about her new projects that explore the intersections of art and healing.


Africa Writes Young Voices

To kick off the day on Saturday, poets and secondary school students will present the creative writing they have been working on in a free showcase event as part of our education programme. We are also very excited to launch the Africa Writes Young Voices Anthology, a collection of work produced by young writers in our 2017 workshops (30 June). Following this, everyone is invited to join our roundtable discussion where we’ll be asking: ‘where is Africa in the UK literature curriculum?’ and discussing with educators championing diverse reading lists – Farrah Serroukh, Deirdre Osborne, Zaahida Nabagereka, JC Niala and Joanna Brown.


Book Launches, Panels & Roundtables

Exploring themes of identity, migration and displacement, award-winning writer Leila Aboulela launches her new book Elsewhere, Home at the British Library – a collection of intimate stories of longing and exile set between Sudan and the UK (30 June). Hit books and pop-culture podcast Mostly Lit host a live version of the show with Afua Hirsch, journalist and author of Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (30 June).

Historical fiction and non-fiction is the focus on 30 June: Ayesha Harruna Attah launches her third novel set in 19th century Ghana, The Hundred Wells of Salaga, and we delve into the intriguing history of African literary figures Phillis Wheatley and ABC Merriam-Labour in Georgian and Edwardian London.

As Zimbabwe prepares for national elections in August, and the nation reconfigures following the deposition of Robert Mugabe, young writers Panashe Chigumadzi and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma  launch their new books These Bones Will Rise Again and House of Stone , presenting inventive new ways of telling the nation’s story and discussing its future (1 July). Highlighted in these books are the interactions between the world of spirits and the self, also a feature of Akwaeke Emezi’s highly-anticipated debut Freshwater. The writer presents a pre-launch of her novel that explores the obanje of Ibgo spirituality and religion, and the metaphysics of identity and being (30 June).

Stories of queer womxn are highlighted in an event featuring narratives from Nigeria, the UK, and Equatorial Guinea, and appearances by Cassava Republic publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, UK Black Pride Founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, and gal-dem founder Liv Little (1 July). Writer and activist Trifonia Melibea Obono will join by video link to speak about her book La Bastarda – the first book by an Equatoguinean woman to be translated into English.

There are many chances to explore, discover and be inspired at this year’s festival. You can get an introduction to Cameroonian literature at a conversation between Dzekashu Macviban (Bakwa Magazine) and Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed (bookshy), read new work by young people in Uganda, hear from the festival authors on their favourite pieces of writing in African Books to Inspire, and meet the 2018 Caine Prize shortlisted writers Nonyelum Ekwempu, Stacy Hardy, Olufunke Ogundimu, Makena Onjerika, and Wole Talabi (30 June – 1 July).

Looking at translation and inter-generational interaction, Numbi Arts will host a discussion on contemporary Somali literature with writer Hanna Ali, whose work explores themes of womanhood, blackness, forced migration, religion and family trauma. The Hargeysa International Book Fair of Somaliland is showcased in an event to launch a collection of poetry entitled Hargeysa Breeze with Mpalive Msiska, Martin Orwin, W.N. Herbert and Jama Musse Jama. (30 June).


Workshops & Masterclasses

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved and develop your own interests and skills at the festival – a masterclass in literary translation presented by Wangui wa Goro of SIDENSI, a workshop of Afrofuturist literature art, literature and fashion presented by FUNCTION, and a pitching event for budding writers to meet publishing industry experts. Also included are a workshop on small magazines and African literary networks, and a discussion on podcasts – the publishing industry’s single fastest growing format – with Not Another Book Podcast, BakwaCast, 2 Girls & a Pod, and Africa in Words.

You can also enjoy family storytelling events, a lively atmosphere and an international book fair with classics, recent publications and rare finds!


Day Tickets, Weekend Passes and tickets for headline events are available to book on the British Library website or over the phone on 01937 546546.  Tickets for the Africa Writes 2018 Party presented by Octavia Poetry Collective are available to book on the Rich Mix website or over the phone on 020 7613 7498.