The Abantu Book Festival 2020 has been cancelled due to issues with raising funds in an announcement dated November 30, 2020.
The Abantu Book Festival hosted annually in Soweto, South Africa has become one of the most recognisable names on the African literary circuit since its first edition in 2016. In the last four years, it has hosted some of the biggest names in African writing with keynote addresses made by eminent personalities like Mona Eltahawy, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Gcina Mhlophe. It is much loved by the South African public as it is reserved for Black readers making it a safe space for them to commune and share their unique lived experiences.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world earlier in the year, many cultural activities had to adapt to the “new normal.” Some like Hargeysa International Festival and the International Publishers Congress cancelled, others like the Ake Festival and Poetry Africa went completely virtual while others like the Lagos Book and Arts Festival and Pa Gya! Festival adopted a mix of virtual and physical.
The Abantu Festival initially opted a wait-and-see approach hoping that perhaps by the time it ran in its December slot, the worst of Covid-19 would be in the past. This is because the festival, apart from being a healing space for Black South African readers, offers employment to dozens many of them native to Soweto. With a “the-show-must-go-on” mindset, organisers made their annual callout for donations.
It has emerged today that the Abantu Book Festival has been cancelled. The statement by the organisers on their Twitter read in part;
“As you are aware, the rapid escalation of the (Covid-19) pandemic in South Africa and the world has led to several cultural events cancelling, postponing, or adapting to exclusively virtual versions. With the improvement from the hard lockdown in the country, we had hoped to still raise sufficient funding for the successful delivery of the milestone 5th edition on 3-6 December 2020 in Soweto, but these efforts have not yielded the desired results. As such we have had to cancel the event this year.”
The statement goes on;
“Instead, from 3 to 6 Dec, let us keep the spirit of the #AbantuBookFest alive in our homes and on the timeline. We’ll call it the UNCURATED EXPERIENCE. Here you can create a video, take a picture, write something fresh, read an excerpt, or simply reach into our archive and catalyse HEALING through your art with #AbantuBookFest.”
The dates for the post-pandemic edition will be announced in due course.