The fifth edition of Kwani? Litfest, a biennial gathering of writers, artists and thinkers from across Africa, takes place from 1st- 6th December 2015. This year’s literary festival, Beyond the Map of English: Writers in conversation on Language hosts readings, performances and discussions that explore issues of language and how this relates to African experiences and writing on the continent. Confirmed participants include Nuruddin Farah, Taiye Selasi, Boris Boubacar Diop, Yvonne Adhiambo Owour, Wu Ming, Prof. Aldin Mutembei, FOKN Bois and Siphiwo Mahala.
The Kwani? Litfest will also launch the East African edition of Nuruddin Farah’s book, Hiding in Plain Sight, a novel set in the wake of a terrorist attack that kills a Kenyan UN worker in Mogadishu, published by Kwani Trust. The festival features public lectures by Mr. Farah, Ghanaian and Nigerian novelist, Taiye Selasi, Senegalese writer, Boris Boubacar Diop and Tanzanian scholar and novelist Prof. Aldin Mutembei.
The latest issues of the Kwani? Journal, Kwani? 08, is also set for release during the festival. A book party featuring the Ghanaian music group Fok Bois will introduce this issue, featuring work on the 2010 Kenya constitution, the 2013 general elections and devolution. Featured writers include Paul Goldsmith, Okwiri Odour, Laura Fish, Jackie Lebo and Ngala Chome.
Over the past few months, Kwani Trust has been working on a collection of narratives from the Coast and Northern Kenya regions. During the course of this work, we have found that issues around the relationship between Western-oriented creative writing, up-country English-language publishing dominance and the use of Kiswahili at the Coast to warrant a special session at the Kwani? Litfest. Therefore, writers from the Coastal region will feature prominently on programming.
Through a partnership with Mabati Rolling Mills, we are also thrilled to host the winners of the inaugural Mabati-Cornell Prize for Kiswahili Literature, who will be announced at the festival. The litfest opens with an African language symposium on Tuesday, 1st December.
The Kwani? Litfest was established in 2006. The literary festival brings together leading writers from across Africa for one week in a high-energy social and creative encounter around one salient subject, explored through the lenses of the continent’s past, present and emerging literatures. The 2006 edition was themed Ideas, Words and Markets. The 2008 edition Telling Truths: Writers in Conflict: Our Role, Our Imperative, Our Impact, took the violence following the 2007 election in Kenya as a starting point for the generation of ideas around the place of the writer in reinventing post-conflict spaces. The 2010 edition brought three generations of African writers together under the banner Tell Us What Happened and featured conversations comparing challenges, socio-political contexts and techniques across 50 years of African writing. The 2012 edition was was titled Conversations With The Horn: Writers, Artists In Exchange and hosted Somali poet Hadraawi, Sudanese-English novelist Jamal Mahjoub & Eritrean writer and historian Alemseged Tesfai to share their work with writers from other parts of the continent. These included Egyptian writer and activist Nawal El Sadaawi & Nigerian and Ghanaian novelists, Helon Habila and Kojo Laing. They were also be joined by writers from Mozambique, Namibia, and Cameroon.