Africa Writes 2018: The Round-Up

Baindu Kallon & Ralitsa Chorbadzhiyska

This year, Africa Writes took place at the British Library from 29 June – 1 July. The festival brought together African literature lovers, authors and performers to celebrate literature from the continent and the diaspora. Our audience enjoyed 24 events ranging from book launches to panel discussions and workshops focused on themes such as identity, education, spirituality and queer narratives.


We kicked off the festival with the sold-out one man performance of COAT written by poet Yomi Sode. The play focuses on Junior, born in Nigeria, who moves to London at age 9. Whilst cooking up a stew on stage, Sode confronts the difficult realities of growing up in south London, family expectations, immigration, identity and displacement. The performance was a unique blend of lyricism, humour and hard truths.



Day 2 of Africa Writes started with inspiring young voices from our education programme and a discussion on why African literature matters with educators championing diverse reading lists in the UK curriculum.

Saturday was also filled with workshops focusing on different aspects of the African literary world, from the interactive session ‘Meet the Publishers’, an introduction into Cameroonian literature to the Hargeysa International Book Fair. The closing event featured a conversation with the 2018 Caine Prize shortlist winners.

There were exciting launches of new books such as The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah, Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi and The Story of Us by Hanna Ali. Mostly Lit did a live podcast with author and journalist Afua Hirsch. There was also a panel on African literary figures, Phillis Wheatley & A.B.C. Merriman-Labor, in Georgian and Edwardian London.

In between all the interesting discussions and panels, we hosted an international book fair. Check out some of the great finds from the festival.


The headline event on Saturday was the Africa Writes Party, this time held at the Rich Mix and hosted by Octavia Poetry Collective. The Wakanda theme called for a purple dresscode and cocktails! Octavia’s womxn poets of colour performed poems on the themes of belonging, identity and love among others.

Also for the first time at Africa Writes festival the headline event was BSL interpreted, by the brilliant Rebekah Spencer. In the breaks, there was West African food and a photo booth run by Amaal Said to capture the memories of this amazing evening. Our special guest speaker was Bernadine Evaristo who gave a powerful speech on ‘Warrior Womxn Writers’. DJ Tone from gal-dem and DJ Ca$h Era from Chicago took care of the dancefloor, mixing afrobeats, house and hip-hop to keep up the fresh mood!



The programme on Sunday 1 July started with a panel on ‘New Writing from Uganda’ with speakers Nick Makoha and Maria Kakinda, chaired by Madhu Krishnan. The latest Writivism anthology ‘Odokonyero’ was available to purchase at the book fair.


Later on Panashe Chigumadzi, Novuyo Tshuma and Ranka Primorac exchanged views on ‘The Making and Re-making of Zimbabwe’ with the joint book launch of ‘These Bones Will Rise again’ by Chigumadzi and ‘House of Stone’ by Tshuma.



Meanwhile FUNCTION’s Ifeanyi Awachie and Moha Lami Audu and Kugali’s Ziki Nelson conducted an interactive workshop on ‘Progressive Pasts: The Afrofuturist Ideologies of Black Panther in Literature, Art and Fashion’.

Next up was a panel on ‘Small Magazines, Literary Networks & Self-Fashioning in Africa and the Diaspora’ and the highly anticipated launch of two books about queer African womxn, ‘Sista!’ and ‘She Called me Woman’ during ‘Loving Womxn: Deliberate and Afraid of Nothing’.


The final book launch for the festival was Chiké Edozien’s ‘Lives of Great Men’, an award-winning memoir. There was also a round-table discussion taking place on the topic of ‘Books In Your Ears: On Literary Podcasts’. The room was at full capacity!

For those interested in the intricacies of translation, Dr Wangui wa Goro led a masterclass on ‘Africa in Translation’.

The festival’s final event was a panel on ‘African Books to Inspire’, including the authors Novuyo Tshuma, Panashe Chigumadzi, Ayesha Harruna Attah and Akwaeke Emezi. They all shared their favourite titles, the ones which inspired their own writing or the ones they would live to recommend to future generations. After an edifying Q&A session, the Royal African Society expressed its gratitude to its sponsors and the winner of the Africa Writes x AFREADA competition was announced, selected by Warsan Shire. Read the winning story here. Stay tuned as we welcome Warsan herself on the 21 January 2019!

A big thank you to all the guest writers, contributors, volunteers, partners, funders and audience members who made the festival a success! SAVE THE DATE – the next Africa Writes will take place Friday 28 – Sunday 30 June 2019.

Missed out on some panels? Then check out our podcasts of all sessions which will be available soon on our Mixcloud.

Photo by Ivan Gonzalez