Visiting Writers

African Writers Festival 2021: Connections and Illuminations

February 26- 27 2021

Virtual Attendance

English AWF

Georgia College and State University’s Creative Writing Program, in partnership with the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for International Studies, is hosting a virtual African Writers Festival. This celebration of creativity from Africa brings diverse African writers and thinkers together for two days of conversations, readings, and performances. 

After the pioneering efforts of African writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta in the 60s and 70s/early 80s, the past two decades have seen an energetic  resurgence of  African writing.  Contemporary African writers are getting great critical notice and are attracting ever increasing readership globally. 

 At a time when the world is shifting, and conversations around “the other” – whatever form that ‘other’ takes- are very often charged, it is important to remind ourselves  of all the ways in which we connect, and the role books and dialogue play in fostering this connection. It is in the spirit of this, and in recognition of how writers help illuminate the world, that the theme of the festival is ‘connections and illumination.’  Effort has been made to have every region of Africa represented. 

This Festival is sponsored by Georgia College and State University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, and co-sponsored by the Dean’s Office/College of Arts and Sciences and International Studies

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Festival Schedule

Readings and Conversations

FRIDAY, February 26, 2021: 

Session 1: Politics and Feminisms, 4-7pm EST 

Zoom opens at 3:50pm

  • 4:00-4:05 EST: Brief Welcome by GCSU MFA Program Coordinator Dr. Kerry Neville followed by a brief introduction of Dr. Chika Unigwe.
  • 4:05-4:45pm EST: Mona Eltahawy, Keynote Address: Politics and Feminism with a Q&A and a brief introduction by Dr. Unigwe

15 Minute Break (4:45-5:00pm EST)

  •  5:00-5:55pm EST: Mona Eltahawy and Maaza Mengiste in conversation with brief introductions by Denechia Powell  

 5 Minute Break (5:55-6:00pm EST)

  •  6:00-6:30pm EST: Poetry performance: Wana Udobang with brief introduction by Avery James
  • 6:30pm-7:30pm EST: Reading by Ukamaka Olisakwe, and Q & A with Dr. Unigwe 

SATURDAY, February 27, 2021:

Session 2: Black Bodies: Writing The Past, The Present and the Future: 11:00am EST-2pm EST

Zoom opens at 10:50am EST

  •  11:00am-11:05am EST: Brief welcome and Introduction by Dr. Unigwe  
  • 11:05-11:55am: Wadza Mhute in conversation with Novuyo Tshuma and Yvonne Owuor  with brief introductions by Dr. Kerry James Evans 
  • 12:00-12:55pm EST: Elnathan John  in conversation with Ukamaka Olisakwe with brief introductions by Dr. Stefanie Sevcik
  • 1:00-1:30pm EST: Poetry performance: Lebo Mashile with brief introduction by Mary Alsobrooks

30 minute BREAK (1:30-2:00 pm EST) 

Session 3: Africanfuturism, Silence , Sexuality and Gender, 2:00-4:45pm EST  

Zoom opens at 2:50pm EST

  • 3:00-3:30pm EST: Reading by Sulaiman Addonia with a brief introduction by Dr.Chika Unigwe 
  • 3:35-4:35 pm EST: Francesca Ekwuyasi  and Tendai (T.L) Huchu  in Conversation with  brief introductions by Timothy Connors
  • 4:35-4:45pm EST: Brief Closing Remarks: Dr. Chika Unigwe 

Festival Participants

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is a Kenyan writer. She won the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing. In 2004, she won the Woman of the year (Arts, Heritage category) for her contributions to the arts in Kenya. In 2015, her novel Dust (Knopf) was not only shortlisted for the Folio Prize, but also won Kenya's pre-eminent literary prize, the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. Her latest novel is The Dragonfly Sea, (Knopf, 2019)

Elnathan John was born in Kaduna, Nigeria. He has been shortlisted twice for the Caine Prize for African Writing (2013, 2015). His debut, Born on a Tuesday (Grove Atlantic, Cassava Rep. 2015) won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature. His graphic novel, On Ajayi Crowther Street (Cassava Rep.) was published in 2019. A 2019 Man Booker International judge, John lives and works in Berlin, Germany

Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia. She is the author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze (W.W. Norton, 2010) and Shadow King (W.W. Norton, 2019,), which was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. She edited and contributed to Addis Ababa Noir, Akashic Books, 2020. She was a 2020 winner of an Arts and Letters Awards in Literature from the American Academy of Arts.

Novuyo Tshuma is a Zimbabwean author. Her novel House of Stone (W.W. Norton, 2018 ) won the 2019 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award, the 2019 Bulawayo Arts Award for Outstanding Fiction and was shortlisted for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the 2020 Balcones Fiction Prize. She is a recipient of a 2020 Lannan award .

Sulaiman Adonnia was born in Eritrea but spent his early life in a refugee camp in Sudan. He is the author of The Consequences of Love ( Chatto & Windus, 2008) and Silence is my Mother Tongue (Indigo Press, 2018, Graywolf Press, 2020). The latter was long-listed for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Addonia currently lives in Brussels where he has launched a creative writing academy for refugees and asylum seekers.

Lebo Mashile is a celebrated South African poet, author, performer, and producer. A sought after speaker and social commentator, Mashile has shared her creative work in 28 countries to date. She’s the author of the play Venus Vs Modernity: The Life of Saartjie Baartman (2019), the Noma Award winning collection In A Ribbon of Rhythm (2006), and Flying Above the Sky (2008). She has also produced the albums  Lebo Mashile Live! (2006) and Moya (2017). Her acting credits include the film Hotel Rwanda, stage adaptations of K. Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams and Pamela Nomvete’s Ngiyadansa, as well as Threads, a fusion of poetry and contemporary dance.

Wana Udobang, also known as Wana Wana, is a Nigerian writer, poet, journalist, filmmaker, and tv personality. Her work has appeared on the BBC, AL Jazeera, Huffington Post, Bella Naija and The Guardian. Her first spoken-word album, released in 2013, was titled Dirty Laundry. In 2017, she released a second album, titled In Memory of Forgetting. Udobang will be a 2021 resident at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.

Wadza Mhute is a Zimbabwean multimedia producer, reporter and author currently working at the New York Times. She holds a masters from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and has previously worked at ABC News Radio, Business Insider, Philadelphia Weekly and the Philadelphia City Paper.

Ukamaka Evelyn Olisakwe is a Nigerian author, short-story writer and screenwriter. In 2014 she was chosen as one of 39 of Africa’s most promising writers under the age of 40. In 2016, she was awarded an honorary fellowship in Writing from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. In 2018, she won the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Emerging Writer Scholarship for the MFA in Writing and Publishing program. Her works have appeared in the New York Times, Longreads, The Rumpus, and more. She is currently pursuing her PhD in English at the University of South Dakota—Vermillion. She is the Founder/ Publisher/ Editor in Chief of Isele Magazine. Her novel, Ogadinma ( Indigo Press) came out in 2020.

Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, artist, and filmmaker from Lagos, Nigeria. Her work explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness and belonging. Her story, “Orun is Heaven” was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Her debut novel, Butter Honey Pig Bread was longlisted for the 2020 Giller Prize. Ekwuyasi lives in Canada

Tendai (T.L) Huchu is a Zimbabwean author, best known for his novels The Hairdresser of Harare and The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician. In 2014, he was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. Huchu's first novel has been translated into German, French, Italian and Spanish. The Library of the Dead, the first book in the Edinburgh Nights series, Huchu’s YA Fantasy series, is out in February 2021. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland

Mona Eltahawy is Egyptian-American. She is a freelance journalist, and social commentator based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and the Miami Herald among others. Newsweek magazine named Eltahawy one of its "150 Fearless Women of 2012", Time magazine featured her along with other activists from around the world as its People of the Year and Arabian Business magazine named her one of the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women. She is acknowledged as one of the people who spearheaded the MosqueMeToo movement through the usage of the hashtag #MosqueMeToo. Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy's first book, was published in May 2015. Her feminist manifesto, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls was published in 2019