Africa Writes 2021 Headliners

This October, Africa Writes, the UK’s largest celebration of contemporary African and diaspora literature, explores boyhood, dismantles patriarchy and questions inheritance

4 – 24 October 2021 | 

Africa Writes, the UK’s largest celebration of contemporary African and diaspora literature brought to you by the Royal African Society, returns from 4 – 24 October 2021 with a blended programme of online and in-person events at the British Library and 180 The Strand.

Marking its ninth – and first biennial – edition, this year’s festival will be centred around the themes of Imagination, Pleasure and Activism and features award-winning talent including American-Egyptian journalist, activist and author Mona Eltahawy; South African visual artist and performer Sethembile Msezane; British-Jamaican poet Raymond Antrobus; and Sierra Leonean interdisciplinary artist Julianknxx

Africa Writes Producer, Marcelle Mateki Akita, says “We are excited to bring Africa Writes back to audiences and our programme reflects a multitude of experiences, interests and aesthetics, with stories from the African continent as well as in its diaspora. Today we announce our incredible headline events, with our full online and in-person programme available on 9 September 2021. 

“This year Africa Writes consists of a two-day in-person event at the British Library from 23-24 October, which audiences can also access online via the British Library Player. A series of online events will also take place during October alongside our third in-person headline event, opening the festival, In Praise of Still Boys at 180 The Strand on Monday 4 October.” 

“Be prepared for provocative and illuminating discussions, thought-provoking conversations and enlightening performances with online and in-person events for all ages including a two-week online Young Voices festival in early October. We would like Africa Writes to be accessible so will be British Sign Language (BSL)-interpreting many of our events this year,” says Marcelle.

Two headline events will be hosted by the British Library during the two-day in-person Africa Writes festival. American-Egyptian journalist, activist and author Mona Eltahawy will be in conversation with Dr Leyla Hussein at the British Library on Sunday 24 October, where she will discuss her latest book, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girlsa bold, uncompromising feminist manifesto on how to defy, disrupt and destroy the patriarchy.

On Saturday 23 October, British Library audiences will be treated to a rhythmic evening of poetry, dance and sound exploring names we inherit. Featured is South African visual artist and performer Sethembile Msezane’s short film ISIMO, where an ancestral matriarchal figure feels and holds the pain of the living, and award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus will perform from his latest collection All The Names Given translated into BSL dance, plus more.

On Monday 4 October, we are pleased to be presenting an in conversation on In Praise Of Still Boys at 180 The Strand, a three-screen film that reexamines Julianknxx’s childhood growing up in Sierra Leone. The visual poem explores the relationship between Freetown, the Middle Passage, and the African diaspora, imagining a space in which young Sierra Leoneans can try to write their own stories into global history. Audiences will experience In Praise of Still Boys and listen to Julianknxx in conversation.

Africa Writes is partnering with festival organisers on the African continent to co-curate a series of events as part of the British Council’s Digital Collaboration Fund. African festival partners are Pa Gya! Literary Festival in Ghana, Afro Queer Podcast in Kenya and Kaduna Book and Arts Festival in Nigeria. This year will also see the second edition of the Lifetime Achievement in African literature Award, which will be announced during the course of the festival.

Tickets are now available for the two headline events at the British Library as well as festival day passes which include the headline events. Tickets can also be purchased for In Praise of Still Boys on Africa Writes’ website. The full British Library and wider Africa Writes festival programme will be announced on 9 September at