Home OPINIONS Celebrating contemporary literature from every Africa

Celebrating contemporary literature from every Africa


At the very first Africa Writes festival I attended, back in 2013, I remember hearing Ngugi wa’Thiongo speak about how “no language ‘out-languages’ another,” a remark that has long echoed with me.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending many Africa Writes events, and those of its sister biennial festival, Film Africa, and each time have been transported by the breadth and diversity of African stories in so many languages, from so many ‘Africas’- from the continent, from the Caribbean, U.K and U.S, and beyond.

Soft power is, although misleadingly-named, very powerful, and there is nothing like storytelling and connecting socio-culturally that helps transform narratives and shift negative misrepresentations and stereotypes. Contemporary African literature transcends boundaries and decreases the divide between Africa and the diaspora.

The world, via London, and thanks to our partner, The British Library, is invited listen in on the authors’ voices, experiences, and invaluable literary contributions.

Over the years we have had the honour of hosting writers including Nawal El Sadaawi, Liv Little, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Warsan Shire, Yomi Sode, Margaret Busby, Emma Dabiri, Akwaeke Emezi, Afua Hirsch, Caleb Femi, Inua Ellams, Julianknxx, Mona Eltahawy, and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah. The 10th edition of Africa Writes will take place September 29-October 1 2023 and we can’t wait to get together again.

For the first time, we are emulating our Film Africa format by inviting distinguished curators to pull together the programme. We have powerhouses Nancy Adimora and Ainehi Edoro, from Afreada and Brittle Paper, respectively. We have Sulaiman Adonnia, the critically-acclaimed writer and award winning director of Asmara-Addis Literary Festival (In Exile). They are joined by Booker Prize shortlisted writer Maaza Mengiste; Angolan writer and musician, Kalaf Epalanga; and poet Yomi Sode, whose latest work, Manorism, was a Guardian and Financial Times Book of The Year.

Through the lenses of curators, our soon-to-be-announced headliners, and our brilliant array of partners, we are exploring the theme of Intangible Heritage. What elements of our cultural identity define and unite us, indelibly? How can we build on these shared, resilient, yet often unspoken strands of interconnectedness? Over the course of the festival, the conversations, panels, and workshops will foster a deeper understanding of the African heritage written between the lines of these wordsmiths and worldmakers. Readers worldwide will get to explore the nuances of African and diaspora life, cultivating empathy and mutual respect.

African time is polychronic : past and present intertwine daily, the tone of time zones carry context and clues to unlock multiple storylines. Africa Writes is a journey through so many cultures and texts that it leaves us all richer and wiser. Not only as readers, but as writers, who will be able to access expert advice on pitching, editing and more. Poets, publishers and educators will be represented, and tuning in from Lagos, Nairobi, Cape Town and further afield, to create new art and share insights into their history and people. Africa Writes enables us to travel without moving, and also inspires many to follow with real visits. The economic benefits of contemporary African literature can contribute to the broader cultural economy, strengthening literary initiatives within the continent and boosting tourism.

Let us write a more interconnected and inclusive future together, at this 10th edition of Africa Writes. Words need readers, listeners– and vice versa. You will find a universe of stories old and new throughout September and at The British Library over that last weekend, 29 September-October 1.


Desta Haile is the Deputy Director at the Royal African Society. She can be reached on dh35@soas.ac.uk and at @royafrisoc.





Views expressed in this article do not reflect the position of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. 


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