An evening with Linton Kwesi Johnson, ‘Mi Revalueshanary Frens’ on Thursday 5th July will see the legendary reggae poet hosting an all-star line-up of some of the world’s most musical and socially conscious poets including Amina and Amiri Baraka founders of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem, Jayne Cortez, Kendel Hippolyte and Lesego Rampolokeng.
On Saturday 7th July, in an event which promises to be one of the festival’s highlights, leading African writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka, will deliver the inaugural Southbank Centre Lecture on the theme of civilisation. Soyinka has played an active role in the political history of his native Nigeria, and was imprisoned there for almost two years during the Civil War over his calls for a cease-fire. Since his voluntary exile from Nigeria in the 1990s, Soyinka has lived and taught in the USA and the UK, and has become one of the world’s most respected poets and playwrights as well as remaining an outspoken critic of oppression and political tyranny.
Nigerian writers will again be the focus when Biyi Bandele and Helen Oyeyemi join Caine Prize-winning author Helon Habila in conversation on Sunday, 8th July. The authors will discuss their personal and political stories, including the depiction of Second World War Burma in Bandele’s Burma Boy, and Oyeyemi’s story of the identity and the search for home in The Opposite House.
The dialogue on African literature will continue with the Southbank Centre Reading Group in association with Foyles bookshop – the London Literature Festival’s official bookseller. This meeting will encourage discussion and debate looking at Helon Habila’s Measuring Time – an award-winning novel on divided loyalties between families on the eve of war.
The Southbank Centre’s Africa-themed day will also offer a unique opportunity to hear from authors shortlisted for the Caine Prize – often referred to as the ‘African Booker’. Henrietta Rose-Innes and Monica Arac de Nyeko will be amongst the authors reading in an event marking the prize which has launched the careers of some of Africa’s leading literary talent.
The Children’s London Literature Festival also celebrates Africa on Sunday 8th July. Ghanaian writer and poet Nii Ayikwei Parkes will retell classic moral tales and proverbs about one of the most important figures in West African storytelling, Ananse the Spider Trickster. Beverley Naidoo launches her new novel Burn My Heart set in Kenya. A story of loyalty and betrayal set in the 1950s where two families – one Kikuyu, one English – are caught up in the Mau Mau struggle for land and freedom.
Martin Colthorpe, Acting Head of Literature and Talks at the Southbank Centre, comments:
“Through the Africa 05 series and our hosting of the Caine Prize Readings last year, Southbank Centre has a great reputation for promoting African literature. We look forward to continuing this tradition at the London Literature Festival through a fantastic range of writers and styles”
African literature and reggae poetry event details:
Thursday 5 July
Linton Kwesi Johnson and Friends
7.30pm Queen Elizabeth Hall, £9
For one night only renowned reggae poet Linton Kwesi Johnson has invited an all-star line-up of some of most musical and socially conscious poets from across the globe: Amina Baraka and Amiri Baraka (US), founders of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem; Jayne Cortez (US); Kendel Hippolyte (St Lucia) and Lesego Rampolokeng (South Africa).
Sunday 8th July
Nii Ayikwei Parkes – Ananse the Spider Trickster
12.30pm Level 5 Function Room, Royal Festival Hall £6 (adults), £4 (children)
Part human, part spider, combining wisdom with cunning Ananse the Spider Trickster is one of the most important figures in West African storytelling. These classic moral tales and proverbs are retold with flair and imagination by Nii Ayikwei Parkes.
Suitable for children aged 6+
Beverley Naidoo – Breaking the Silence
2.30pm Level 5 Function room, Royal Festival Hall £6 (adults), £4 (children)
Beverley Naidoo’s Burn My Heart is a story of loyalty and betrayal set in 1950s Kenya. Two families – one Kikuyu, one English – are caught up in the Mau Mau struggle for land and freedom. Beverly will talk about writing the novel, and answer questions before signing books. Suitable for children aged 9+
Helen Oyeyemi, Helon Habila and Biyi Bandele
4.30pm Purcell Room, £8.50
On this day of the festival celebrating African literature, three Nigerian authors talk about their personal and political stories. Biyi Bandele’s Burma Boy celebrates a boy soldier plucked from home to fight in the Burmese jungle in the Second World War. Caine Prize winner Helon Habila depicts divided loyalties between two brothers on the eve of war in Measuring Time. Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House is about the myth of identity and the search for home.
Southbank Centre Reading Group with Foyles
6.15pm The Soft Space, Queen Elizabeth Hall Admission free
The first Southbank Centre Reading Group in conjunction with Foyles bookshop will discuss Helon Habila’s Measuring Time.
Caine Prize 2007
7.45pm Purcell Room, £8.50
Often referred to as the ‘African Booker’, the Caine Prize is the leading award for African literature written in English. Tonight you can hear the writers shortlisted for this year’s prize. They are Uwem Akpan (Nigeria), Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda), EC Osondu (Nigeria), Henrietta Rose-Innes (South Africa) and Ada Udechukwu (Nigeria). The authors read from and then discuss their work. The chair of the event is Zina Saro-Wiwa, presenter of BBC’s The Culture Show. The prize has launched the careers of many African writers including Helon Habila and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Join us to hear the future of African fiction.