Elma Shaw

Elma Shaw at Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival Season 2.

Elma Shaw kicked off the second day of Season 2 of the Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. She was hosted by Remy Ngamije.

The Afrolit Sans Frontiers Virtual Literary Festival, a new initiative for writers of African origin, was started in March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic international lockdown. Like its 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 from 13 cities in English, French, and Portuguese over eight days under the festival theme “What I Wish You’d Ask Me.”

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor kicked off proceedings on the first day from Nairobi, Kenya followed by festival co-curator Maaza Mengiste closing out the day from Zurich, Switzerland.

The first writer for Tuesday was Elma Shaw the novelist of the award-winning novel, Redemption Road (2008). The novel was the inspiration for The Road to Redemption a documentary about female fighters who survived the battlefields in Liberia. She has also written for Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings, Liberia Travel & Life Magazine, Pambazuka News, and other publications. Elma was streaming live from Kigali, Rwanda where she has been living for the last seven years.

She started by introducing herself, a Liberian in Rwanda, then did a very polished reading of her novel Redemption Road. The novelist was in Monrovia when she saw a road that she knew as a youngster that had been renamed Redemption Road after a brutal coup to signify redemption. While here, a man who had killed someone she knew was pointed out to her. She was aghast that those who had done terrible crimes were known yet were allowed to walk freely. This inspired her to write first a poem followed by a novel.

Elma Shaw and Remy Ngamije
Elma Shaw and Remy Ngamije

The novel was well received by the Liberian community with it being adopted by some universities. Its writer intends to repackage the book so that it would appeal to more people across the continent. For those who want to get the book in its current form, all recognised digital e-tailers like Amazon stock it.

Elma is currently mentoring the next generation of writers while intending to write her own thoughts in book form at some point in the future.

Apart from writing, she is also interested in producing different forms of art like documentary film making.

The serious writing discussion the segued to lighter matters with Elma sharing what is the best position for one to read a book while on a pole. This was in reference to her being a teacher of pole dancing.

The next session is with Lola Shoneyin who will be streaming from Lagos, Nigeria at 18:00 GMT. You can stream from here then.

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