Then the third day of the Writivism Festival 2015 rolled through; one filled with activities of interest to those who want to know more about the African writing world.
The highlight of the day had to have been the keynote address given by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and moderated by James Murua. Nansubuga for those who might not know is the author of one of the best books to coming out of the continent in the last few years. The book Kintu (pronounced Chintu) traces a family for generations down several hundred years and is starting to become the poster child for the African historical novel.
Her address was on the historical novel and its role in society. She explained to us what the historical novel was; a novel written two or three generations before its writer was born. She also traced it from the European and Chinese roots and then to the African with a special mention of the Thomas Mofolo who wrote Chaka. This book was a story about the great Zulu king Shaka Zulu.
As she was giving us the story of the history she reminded us that it was not genre specific as we have historical horror, romance and all others. She elicited laughs as she spoke of reading romance novels from the Mills and Boon, Harlequin and Silhouette series’. She then hilariously took us to her “youth” where she was a blond and blue eyed English beauty in the 1880s who is betrothed to some French viscount but who falls in love with a stable hand who eventually turns out to be a Middle Eastern prince. It was a very apt description of the historical novel.
Eventually she explained that the historical novel is used to intervene in history and give an alternative view of that period in the past which is shackled by historians and their singular view. I enjoyed that presentation immensely.
There were a few other events on the day. Michela Wrong and Mathilda Edwards gave a master class on non-fiction as they told us about the Miles Moreland Fellowship Scholarships. This year is third for the new series and the new innovation a new non-fiction category which is even more generous than the one for fiction as it runs for one and a half years. Read more here about it.
The non-fiction part of the master class was illuminating. Michela has written three non-fiction books, In The Shadow of Mr Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo, I Didn’t Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation and It’s Our Turn To Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower. The process she uses to do write her books. She took a year off to write her first book and she never looked back. How do you map out your non-fiction book then? You try and find out if there is a bigger story in the subject that you are considering. Would your publication be a value add? Who is your book for, its audience? You also want to select a topic that you can research safely and where the information is readily available. Whatever time you think you will complete your book triple the time as it is a very time consuming concept. You might be presenting facts but there must be a narrative factor because ultimately, you are telling a story. Have at it if you can.
There was a morning master class on playwriting conducted by Donald Molosi and Angela Emurwo which is very important literature isn’t just prose and poetry. The participants were taken through the way to design their plays. There was a bit of focus on how the language and form of the play as we are in a time where we want to use our own tales to incorporate into our plays.
The panel for the day was Edwige Dro, Rachel Zadok and Moses Kilolo being moderated by Pa Ikhide Ikheloa and theirs was, What is the science in Afro sci-fi? It was a full house but I ultimately left unsatisfied as the time was limited and we started focusing on names and classifications of the topic and less about the content that this genre offered.
The day ended with a cocktail at the Te 88 terrace followed by copious drinking of large volumes of alcohol. Seriously. I am suffering from the wrath of hops in a big way. :’(