Zukiswa Wanner wrapped up the eighth and final day of Afrolit Sans Frontières on Instagram and Facebook from Nairobi, Kenya on Monday, March 30, 2020.
Afrolit Sans Frontières is an initiative from writers of African origin curated by Zukiswa Wanner. Sixteen writers from 10 African countries are sharing their work from 15 different cities in English, French, Lingala, and Portuguese to a global virtual audience online over eight days. Since the festival started on Monday, audiences have interacted with Richard Ali Mutu in Kinshasa, DR Congo, Leye Adenle in London, UK, Rémy Ngamije in Windhoek, Namibia, Hawa Jande Golakai in Monrovia, Liberia, Maaza Mengiste in Zurich, Switzerland, Mukoma Wa Ngugi in Ithaca, New York, USA, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele in Johannesburg, South Africa, Yara Monteiro in Alentejo, Portugal, Bisi Adjapon in Accra, Ghana, Mohale Mashigo in Johannesburg, South Africa, Shadreck Chikoti in Lilongwe, Malawi, Chiké Frankie Edozien in Accra, Ghana and Kalaf Epalanga in Berlin, Germany.
Monday, the final day, started with Natasha Omokhodion-Kalulu Banda from Lusaka, Zambia followed by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim in Abuja, Nigeria. The two were followed by festival curator Zukiswa Wanner who wrapped up proceedings from Nairobi, Kenya. Wanner has written the four novels The Madams (2006), Behind Every Successful Man (2008), Men of The South (2010), and London, Cape Town, Joburg (2014) and has three children’s books: Jama Loves Bananas (2011), Refilwe (2014) and A True Book: Africa (2019). Her nonfiction writing is the satirical nonfiction Maid in SA: 30 Ways To Leave Your Madam and the literary travel memoir Hardly Working (2018). She co-edited the African-Asian anthology Behind The Shadows: Contemporary Stories from Africa and Asia (2012) with Rohini Chowdhury, and the African Young Adult anthology Waterbirds On The Lake Shore (2019) published in English, French, and Kiswahili. The founder and curator of the arts’ event Artistic Encounters in Nairobi Kenya was also the curator of the Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival.
The Kenya-based South African started by reading an excerpt from the Margaret Busby edited anthology New Daughters of Africa followed by reading from her award-winning novel London, Cape Town, Joburg. The passage she read in London Cape Town Joburg was a sex scene between the two protagonists of the story. It brought many questions about writing sex scenes which the author believes tend to be written better by women as they know what they want and what would make a good one. This is as opposed to many (heterosexual) men who tend to think that sex is penetration.
Zukiswa Wanner gets her ideas for her novels from observing society and listening to people a lot. She believes that every book needs research but over researching can sometimes kill a good story.
Her novels which are character-driven are vomited out as a first draft over a two or three week period. The process includes drawing a character bible describing who the characters are, where they live, and more. At one point, the characters will also manifest in her as she starts thinking and talking like them. An important aspect of producing a novel for her is the soundtrack as she must have music while writing. For London Cape Town Joburg, she listened to (Kenyan musician) Chris Adwar (check out his YouTube here, start with And They Dance). After finishing her first draft she sends it to trusted readers who give her feedback which she uses for the second draft. She will leave it for a while before writing yet another draft which she then sends to her publisher or agent for comments. When the book comes from the publisher she does another edit. Thus all her books go through four or five drafts.
London Cape Town Joburg took a huge toll on Wanner as after writing the first draft she had to be resting indoors for about two weeks. The novel was her love and hate letter to South Africa as at the time she didn’t like the direction the country was going. It is the one novel that she has never been able to read from beginning to end since she finished it.
A commenter cheekily asked if she had gotten any pushback in Africa due to the “gayism” in her work. She has a gay, lesbian, or bisexual character in each of her novels since 2006 and apart from the odd one or two many readers have been very generous in how they read her.
The idea for the Afrolit Sans Frontieres came up at 2-3 am one morning when she was having a conversation with Abubakar (Adam Ibrahim) that it would be great during this time to have an online litfest. Abubakar said that he was thinking of doing something with his stories so that would be really lovely. She followed up this conversation by sending messages to some of her writer friends and they all agreed to take part.
Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival season 1 focused on sex scenes in African novels. As a curator, Wanner had noted that some people would claim on Social Media that there is “no sex in African literature” or “there is no humour in African literature.” With this topic, she could show that there is sex in African literature; should there be a future edition it would be focused on humour.
Is the festival coming back in 2021? If it is to be done again, it would be done differently with payments to all who are involved; there will even be money to cover the Internet issues which were experienced by some festival delegates.
The festival ended with its curator inviting the day’s DJ Remy Ngamije who shared a playlist he called the “Department of Native Affairs” onto the stream. The songs included Mory Kante Yeke Yeke, Angelique Kidjo’s Agolo, Lucky Dube’s Different Colours, Brenda Fassie’s Vulindlela, Wes’s Alane, and Magic system’s Premier Gaou.
You can watch video of Zukiswa Wanner doing her session from Facebook below.