The idea behind Word from Africa arose from the immense literary talent and number of languages found on the African continent. Africa is home to up to 2,000 languages, many of them also spoken in homes and neighbourhoods across London. Each one of these languages is a door into a different world. Each language unlocks its own state of mind – its own music, literature, rhythms, history, sayings and stories. Yet you don’t need to speak any of these languages to enjoy Word from Africa – everything takes place either in English, or with English translations or commentary.
Throughout the day, there is a chance to see performances with leading African writers – such as Karen King-Aribisala (Guyana/Nigeria), the Commonwealth Book Prize Winner for the Africa region for The Hangman’s Game (2008), Sade Adeniran (Nigeria), the Commonwealth First Book Prize Winner for the Africa region (2008) and Molara Wood (Nigeria), the winner of the inaugural John La Rose short story competition for ‘Written in Stone’ (2008) – as well as musicians, poets, storytellers, translators and thinkers.
Word from Africa will incorporate the launch of a new book, Dreams, Miracles and Jazz – New Adventures in African Fiction, published by Picador Africa in the spring. Edited by award-winning Nigerian novelist Helon Habila and literary activist and SABLE LitMag publisher Kadija Sesay, it is the most contemporary anthology of new African voices this decade. Readings from the book will include two of the contributors visiting from Africa especially for the launch, Tony Adam Mochama (Kenya) and Mamle Kabu (Ghana), touted as two hot new African writers to watch out for. Prize-winning author, Sefi Atta (Nigeria), flies in from New York especially for the launch event to read from her story in the book.
A creative writing workshop will be held in the Sainsbury African Galleries, and there will be a rare opportunity to get inside knowledge and advice from two of Britain’s top people in the business of publishing African writers, Ellah Allfrey, senior editor at Jonathan Cape, and David Godwin, of David Godwin Associates.
The day will also feature discussions (on literary and language), storytelling in Twi (Ghanaian), Ndebele (Zimbabwean), Arabic (Sudanese), French and English, as well as poetry readings. An African market place, in the Clore Center, BP Foyer of the British Museum, will include stalls selling books, artifacts and textiles, and there will be an African arts and crafts workshop in the Great Court, suitable for all ages.
The event will close with an acoustic live music set from sublime guitarist and singer Modeste Hugues from Madagascar. His music, a ‘hypnotic carpet of sound’, is unique to the Betroka region of Madagascar and is influenced by the traditional sounds of the area as well as some softer South African dance rhythms. Modeste plays the acoustic guitar, but his style has been very much influenced by the rhythms and sounds of traditional Malagasy stringed instruments.
Word from Africa promises to be an exciting and inspiring day, not to be missed. So see you at Word from Africa – or should we say Lizwi La Africa (Tonga), or Amazwi aveli Africa (Zulu), or Jambo Kutoka Afrika (Swahili), or Magana a kasan Africa (Hausa), or Eray Kaagia Yimid Afrika (Somali)!