Welcome to my blog, Halfman Halfbook. I am one of the blogs on the tour promoting the AKE FESTIVAL, is Africa’s leading book festival and it will take place from 24th – 27th October 2019 in Lagos, Nigeria. It is the most important book event on the African continent.
Now in its seventh year, Ake Festival brings together the biggest and brightest names in the world of books from across Africa and the African diaspora. Showcasing the best contemporary fiction, non-fiction, poetry and thinking from Africa, the festival also plays host to film screenings, theatre performances, poetry readings, art exhibitions and dance performances from Africa’s biggest names. Inspiring people to engage with the power of books to inform, enlighten and inspire, Ake festival provides a platform for debates that challenge African norms, attitudes and traditions.
This year’s festival includes some of Africa’s most exciting contemporary authors, including Zimbabwe’s most important writer Tsitsi Dangarembga, Man Booker Prize 2019 shortlisted author Bernadine Evaristo who also founded the African Poetry Prize, the Sunday Times bestselling author of My Sister the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite, award-winning Angolan author Jose Agualusa, and Reni Eddo-Lodge the internationally acclaimed author of Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race.
Other headline authors include Nnedi Okorafor Africa’s leading science fiction and fantasy author whose World Fantasy Award-winning novel Who Fears Death is currently being adapted for an HBO TV series. Ayobami Adebayo is the critically acclaimed author of Stay with Me, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and Guardian Best Book of the Year. Feminist activist Mona Eltahawy is the Egyptian-American author of the brilliant The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls.
The lineup also includes two authors who used their writing to tackle the 2014 mass-kidnapping of schoolgirls by terrorist group Boko Haram, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani author of the award-winning YA novel Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, based on dozens of interviews with women and girls kidnapped by terrorist group and Helon Habila whose short and powerful The Chibok Girls was a Penguin special investigation publication. He will be discussing Travellers, his fantastic new novel
The festival theme this year is: Black Bodies | Grey Matter
Events will explore how our minds and bodies have impacted – and been impacted by the course of history. Colonialism, multiculturalism, internecine violence, organised religion, cultural attitudes and practices have all left their mark. While specific practices such as scarification and tattoos leave physical traces, colourism, stereotyping and gender non-conformity exert their influence on both psyche and soma. The interrogation of these issues will yield fascinating and illuminating insights. This theme, in the hands of Africa’s leading creatives and thinkers, will give rise to discussions and conversations that will enrich our understanding of the African condition.
Sadly I can’t go to this, but it does sound fantastic. I can share an extract from one of the authors, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi from her book, Manchester Happened
An ambitious and assured collection of short stories from the internationally acclaimed author of Kintu
If there’s one thing the characters in Jennifer Makumbi’s stories know, it’s how to field a question.
‘Let me buy you a cup of tea… what are you doing in England?’
‘Do these children of yours speak any Luganda?’
‘Did you know that man Idi Amin?’
But perhaps the most difficult question of all is the one they ask themselves: ‘You mean this is England?’
Told with empathy, humour and compassion, these vibrant, kaleidoscopic stories re-imagine the journey of Ugandans who choose to make England their home. Weaving between Manchester and Kampala, this dazzling, polyphonic collection will captivate anyone who has ever wondered what it means to truly belong.
A clock across on a building claimed 8.30 in the morning but the sun was nowhere. The world’s ceiling was low and grey, the air was smoke-mist, the soil was black. After a silence of disbelief, Abu whispered, ‘Where is the sun?’ Ruwa laughed. ‘No wonder these people are just too eager to leave this place: the sun does not come out?’ ‘Sometimes it does. Mostly it rains.’ ‘All this wealth but no sun?’ ‘That’s why they love it at ours too much. Always taking off their clothes and roasting themselves.’ Abu wanted to stay on the ship until it was repaired but Ruwa, who had been to Manchester several times, held his hand and led him into Salford. Abu, twenty-one years old, gripped Ruwa’s hand like a toddler.
They set off for a seamen’s club, the Merchant Navy Club in Moss Side, where they would know where his friend, Kwei, a Fante from the Gold Coast, lived. Even though he told Abu, ‘Don’t fear; Manchester is alright even to African seamen. It even has African places – Lagos Close, Freetown Close – where Africans stay, I’ll show you’, they walked all the way from Salford to Manchester city centre to Moss Side because Abu would not get on a tram.‘I know how to behave around whites,’ he said. ‘I’ve been to South Africa.’ ‘The British are different, no segregation here.’ ‘Who lied you, Ruwa? Their mother is the same.’ For Abu, being surrounded by a sea of Europeans in their own land brought on such anxiety that for the first time he regretted running away from home. To think that it all began with a picture on a stupid war recruitment poster – OuR AllieS the COlOnieS. At the time, all he wanted was to join the King’s African Rifles and wear that uniform. To his childish eyes the native in the picture looked fearless and regal in a fez with tassels falling down the side of his face and a coat of bright red with a Chinese collar of royal blue edged with gold. That palm tree trinket on the fez with the letters T.K.A.R. – Abbey coveted it. He wanted to hold a gun and hear it bark, then travel beyond the seas and be a part of the warring worlds. He had heard his father talk about the European war with breathless awe. He had wanted it so desperately he could not wait four years until he was eighteen to enlist. In any case, the war might be over by then. Besides, at fourteen, he was taller than most people. And the British were notoriously blind. Often, they could not tell girls from boys. Also, they were desperate for recruits because recently some Kapere had started to ask men who turned up to enlist ‘Sex?’, which the translator turned into
‘Are you a man or a woman?’ The men just walked away: who had time for that? Unfortunately, a friend of his father saw him and pulled him out of the queue. When his father found out, he warmed his backside raw. That was when he swore to enlist in Kenya. After the war, he would come home elegant in his red uniform and fez and he would be made head of the royal army. Then his father would eat his words. With a few friends, Ssuuna had jumped on a train wagon and hidden among sacks of cotton. What he remembered most about that journey was not the incessant jarring and grinding or screeching of rail metal, but the itching of sisal sacks. No one had warned them that Nairobi was frosty in June, especially in the morning. The boys had never known such cold. They thought they would die. And then the British turned them away. Ssuuna was told to come back in two years – the British were blind by two years – and his friends were told to go home to their mamas! That was when his troubles began. Returning home was out of the question. Where would he say he had been? His father wanted him to stay in school, but studying was not for him. He wanted to be a soldier, shoot a gun, throw bombs and blow things up, and win a war. While they waited to grow up, Ssuuna and his friends travelled to Mombasa. Everyone said that there was more life in Mombasa, the gateway to the world.
Thank you Midas PR for the extract and I hope that the festival is a success.
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Find the hashtag #akefestival to follow what is going on