30 June 2016

Africa Can Write

Africa Writes 2016

I remember back when I was about 15 or 16. I'd spend my free evenings reading and writing stories on Wattpad dreaming of the day someone would read them. Although I did not complete any of my stories nor did anyone read my inconsistent chapters, I appreciated the platform. I noticed, however, that most YA contemporary stories both on wattpad and those that have been published, were quite monotonous. 

It was the same American high school setting. The backbone being boy meets girl that conveniently lives down the street and they magically fall in love. As I was becoming bored of this, it dawned on me that I have never read a story that I truly resonate with. Contrary to popular belief, I didn't go to an American high school where we had a canteen and lockers and no uniform. Where were the stories of kids like me?

I'll admit that it was not until I was older that I really started taking interest in African literature. I've always viewed myself as not only a person of the African diaspora, but also, an ambassador for my country and my people. It's my responsibility, and the responsibility of other young Africans to ensure that our heritage is represented in a way that makes us proud of where we come from. I was thinking of ways that I could get more involved and learn more about this continent that I, for some reason, love so much. Then it hit me. I could combine my love for reading and writing with my love for African culture. I frantically searched the Internet for anything related to African literature in London. To my surprise, I came across a number of events, namely Afrkult's #WordsThatTravel and of course, the Royal African Society's annual Africa Writes Festival.

I have never attended this festival before despite the fact that it's been running for a number of years now. Upon receiving the programme for Africa Writes, I was surprised at the jam-packed weekend. You'd expect the programme to be a line up of authors speaking about their work in hopes of persuading a few members of the audience to purchase a copy. I think it's needless to say that that's far from the truth. The festival contains talks from the big names and Caine prize winners, workshops for the budding writers and activities to get young kids involved, just to name a few.

 Now, we can all come up with a number of reasons why African literature isn't "up there" with the rest of the world's authors. For instance, people taking more interest in westernised culture as a result of an increasinly golbalised world, or the economic issues in some African nations that act as a barrier for authors trying to get their work published.

Whatever the reasons may be, it will take some time to get many African stories placed in book stores beside the likes of John Green and Stephen King. But instead of pointing fingers at who's resonsible for what, let's celebrate how far we've come. Having an event like Africa Writes where we acknowledge talented African writers, is a step in the right direction.

I'm excited to attend the festival and to increase my knowledge on all things African. I know that all the writers and storytellers appreciate the chance they've been given to showcase their work. African writers shouldn't feel the need to adapt their stories to fit the likes of European readers. They should be able to tell their stories as raw and a true as they come. With the increasing support of organisations like The Royal African Society, we are one step closer to having our pain felt, our joy shared and our voices heard by the whole world.

Will you be attending Africa Writes?

The festival runs from 1-3 July 2016. Learn more about Africs Writes at www.africawrites.org

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