Chris Abani wrapped up the sixth day of Season 2 of the Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival from Chicago, USA on Saturday, April 25, 2020. He was hosted by festival curator Maaza Mengiste.
The Afrolit Sans Frontiers Virtual Literary Festival, a new initiative by and for writers of African origin, was started in March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic international lockdown. Like the first edition, Season 2 features some of the leading names in African letters today with curation by Maaza Mengiste and festival founder Zukiswa Wanner. This season sees 16 writers from 14 countries streaming either on Instagram or Facebook from 13 cities in English, French, and Portuguese over eight days under the festival theme “What I Wish You’d Ask Me.”
Since the festival started on April 20, bibliophiles have interacted with Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor from Nairobi, Kenya, Lola Shoneyin from Lagos, Nigeria, Elma Shaw from Kigali, Rwanda, Edwige Renee Dro from Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, Sulaiman Addonia from Brussels, Belgium, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi from Manchester, UK, Napo Masheane from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Mona Eltahawy in Montreal, Canada. There have also been sessions with festival curators Maaza Mengiste alongside Natasha Omokhodion-Kalulu Banda, Remy Ngamije, Bisi Adjapon, and Chike Frankie Edozien and Zukiswa Wanner alongside Chike Frankie Edozien, Kalaf Epalanga, and Leye Adenle.
Chris Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter, and playwright. His fiction includes The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin 2014), Song For Night (2007), The Virgin of Flames (2007), Becoming Abigail (2006), GraceLand (2004), and Masters of the Board (1985). His poetry collections are Sanctificum (2010), There Are No Names for Red (2010), Feed Me The Sun – Collected Long Poems (2010), Hands Washing Water (2006), Dog Woman (2004), Daphne’s Lot (2003) and Kalakuta Republic (2001). His critical and personal essays have been featured in books on art and photography, as well as Witness, Parkett, The New York Times, O Magazine, and Bomb.
For the one hour of the session on Instagram Live, Chris Abani, who also happens to be a babalawo, spoke about loss, growing up in a small village and how it has influenced his current work. He also spoke of the influence of Catholicism in his work, the tattoos he got at 42 in honour of his parents, and a raft of other topics. The discussion was masterfully hosted by Maaza Mengiste.
You can watch the whole session below.