17 March 2016
We joined partners Huza Press and Jalada Africa in Rwanda for the Kigali leg of the Jalada Mobile Literary and Arts Festival, supported by British Council #EastAfricaArts. The festival tours 5 countries in 28 days, and represents a kind of ‘cross-pollination’ of literature, ideas and networks throughout the region.
The festival landed in Kigali with a discussion on the top of the Kigali Public Library (a space called Innovation Village) with an incredible view of the cities rolling hills in the distance beyond.
Founder and director of Huza Press, Louise Umutoni, spoke of the challenges of writing and publishing in Rwanda. Most publishing initiatives that have preceded Huza Press have focussed on the education sector, producing text books for schools. Fiction writing and poetry have mostly been overlooked.
The Huza Press Prize for Fiction and mentoring scheme are some of the ways in which the publishing house aims to contribute to the growth of the creative industries in Rwanda. Louise speaks more about how the initiative started in this interview for Africa in Words.
Darla Rudakubana, co-winner of the 2015 Huza Press Prize for Fiction (along with Daniel Rafiki) spoke of the abundance of stories in Rwanda that can benefit from initiatives such as the prize and mentoring scheme. There are big opportunities for the reading and writing culture to grow, but there is a lot of hard work and encouragement required.
Peace Kwizera shared the experience of the publication and distribution of her illustrated book, Oh Rwandan Child. Working with Imagine WE, Kwizera engaged children with the work by doing readings in schools, and came up with clever ways to sell the book in unlikely places such as clothing stores.
Exciting voices and engaging stories from Rwanda can be found in the anthology of shortlisted writers for the 2015 Huza Press Prize for Fiction, entitled Versus. Copies will be available at Africa Writes festival this year, and you can expect to hear more from these writers in the future!
The 2015 winners Darla Rudakubana and Daniel Rafiki are soon to attend the Caine Prize for their annual workshop in Tanzania, joining other participants that you may have met at Africa Writes such as include the 2016 Caine Prize winner, Lidudumalingani (South Africa), as well as previously shortlisted writers Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya), Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) and Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe), Cheryl Ntumy (Botswana/Ghana), Agazit Abate (Ethiopia), Esther Karin Mngodo (Tanzania), Lydia Kasese (Tanzania), and Zakariwa Riwa (Tanzania). Keep an eye out for the anthology that will be co-published in 16 African countries.