From Friday 5 July to Sunday 7 July, Africa Writes 2019 brought lovers of African literature to the British Library for a fantastic literary festival! It was a busy summer weekend for London, as tube stations and buses were packed with people travelling to Pride, Black Pride UK, the Wireless Festival, and our very own, Africa Writes. Our festival goers enjoyed a fun-filled programme of events varying from panel discussions, workshops, book launches, and performances, many of which, centred around themes such as African cosmology, the construction of masculinity, and mental health for black and queer writers. Read on for the low down on what went on at Africa Writes 2019.


This year’s festival kicked off with the Africa Writes Young Voices Showcase, a creative writing workshop programme for schools, where students performed their stunning pieces of poetry.

That evening, we held our first headline event, Our Bodies Speak Poetry. Raymond Antrobus, Caleb Femi, Jessica Horn, Miss Jacqui, Fatimah Kelleher, Nick Makoha, Sitawa Namwalie, Koleka Putuma and Belinda Zhawi all performed poetry exploring the relationship we have with our body in all its forms (poetical, physical, political, fantastical). The evening was BSL interpreted by the amazing Anna Kitson and Eze Ani. During the interval, Adesola Akinleye graced us with a beautiful dance piece against a backdrop of recordings discussing dance, agency, and the Black experience. On the night we’re lucky to have music curated by BORN::FREE

Listen to the BORN::FREE playlist.

Check out the twitter thread below for more.



Day 2 of Africa Writes 2019 began with the Young Voices Education Surgery, which explored creative teaching ideas, and panel discussion ‘Our Daughters’ Fathers’, a conversation on daughters’ relationships with their fathers and grandfathers. The day was filled with a wide range of events. You can catch some of the highlights in the tweets below!

Saturday’s headline event was a celebration of Margaret Busby OBE’s latest anthology, ‘New Daughters of Africa‘. Four contributors to the new anthology, Bernardine Evaristo, Nadifa Mohamed, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ and Namwali Serpell, joined Margaret Busby in conversation, including readings from each of their contributions to the anthology. At the end of the evening, Margaret Busby was awarded the inaugural Africa Writes Lifetime Achievement in African Literature. The evening closed with tear-jerking thank you speeches, more books signings, and excitement, as we looked forward to day 3 of Africa Writes.



We started the last day of our 3-day-festival with ‘Love & Sickle Cell in Stay With Me’, ‘Literary Innovation in East Africa’, and ‘Interrogating the Text’. The rest of the day followed with a series of stimulating events engaging with topics ranging from the makings of masculinity and translating Arabic comic strips.

The festival closed with a double-bill staged reading and conversation with Chigozie Obioma. New Perspectives presented a staged reading of Chigozie Obioma’s ‘The Fishermen’ in a new adaptation by playwright Gbolahan Obisesan, starring David Alade and Valentine Olukoga. Following the thrilling performance, Chigozie joined Irenosen Okojie in conversation. More on this below.



On Saturday and Sunday, a number of book launches were held in the auditorium. We got to listen to readings, engage with the authors in conversation, and even had the chance to purchase their book for signing after the event!


Across the festival weekend, we browsed, flicked through, and purchased an array of books, thanks to our international African book fair. Children’s books, historical fiction, African romance, we indulged in all of our literary guilty pleasures!



For the first time ever, Africa Writes had a food court! We were lucky to have mouth-watering dishes from Little Baobab, who served traditional Senegalese cuisine, and Taste Black History, who brought us delicious flavours from across the Caribbean. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us in making #AfricaWrites2019 a success!


Image taken by Ivan Gonzalez.