Kiswahili was the first language featured at the Afrolit Sans Frontières African Languages Edition on October 26, 2020.
Afrolit Sans Frontières, a virtual literary festival for writers of African origin, was founded by author and publisher Zukiswa Wanner as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic international lockdowns. There have been five editions running since it begun; Season 1 from March 23-30, Season 2 from April 20-27, Season 3 from May 25 – June 1, Season 4 from June 29-July 6, and Season 5 from July 27 to August 3.
A special season of the festival dubbed the “African Languages Edition,” curated by founder Zukiswa Wanner and Mukoma Wa Ngugi with support from the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia Johannesburg is now here. The format is two sessions a day with an artist moderated by a host who also fields questions from audience members simultaneously on the Afrolit Sans Frontières Facebook page, YouTube, and Twitter.
The first day, dubbed “Kiswahili Day” focused on the most widely spoken language in the East African coast of Africa. The first panel was between poets Mohammed Ghassani and Dotto Rangimoto who are both winners of the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize. Zanzibar-born Germany-based Mohammed Ghassani won the poetry section of the Mabati-Cornell Prize For African Literature 2015. Dotto Rangimoto, who was born in Morogoro, Tanzania, and currently based in Dar es Salaam won the Mayor Of Dar es salaam Poetry Prize 2016 and the Mabati-Cornell Prize For African Literature 2017. The two read from their current and future work and then spoke about the place of poetry in the Tanzanian and larger Kiswahili speaking world.
Watch video from the discussion below.
The second session conducted by Moses Kilolo was supposed to start with a video of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o reading an ode to his departed colleague Chinua Achebe in Kikuyu. Due to technical difficulties, the video didn’t play and the event organisers promise those tuned in that it would be posted afterward on the Afrolit Sans Frontières YouTube page. While those tuned in didn’t get to listen to the ode in Kikuyu, they heard it brought to life in isiZulu by Sihle Ntuli, English by Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Ewe by Kofi Akpabli, Lingala by Richard Ali Mutu, Hausa by Mazhun Idris, and Kikamba by Moses Kilolo.
The second part was a discussion between the moderator Moses Kilolo and Anna Samuel. Ms Samuel won the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize in 2015 for her fiction manuscript Penzi la Damu. The Tanzanian read from that book as well as from her children’s title Kakofia Keusi. She spoke about her influences as a writer, the importance of reading to a writer, how she crafts her characters, and the importance of creating in African languages.
You can watch the event in full below.
The second day, today, Ewe Day hosted by Kofi Akpabli is as follows;
12:00 pm/13:00 WAT/14:00 CAT/15:00 EAT: Benedicta Esi Anibri
18:00 pm/19:00 WAT/20:00 CAT/21:00 EAT: Justin Ekor