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Chinelo Okparanta heads to Bristol

CELEBRATED: Chinelo Okparanta

AFRICA WRITES, the UK’s biggest annual African literature and book festival, comes to Bristol for the first time next month.

Curated with Bristol-based partners, this literary weekend brings together writers from Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Somalia, Uganda, Ghana and across the diaspora for workshops, film screenings, panel discussions, performances and book launches.

For African literature enthusiasts and newcomers alike, the festival presents an engaging programme looking at literary activism, adaptation, the cities we live in, forbidden love, hidden histories and more.

The festival headliner will be Chinelo Okparanta - a writer born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and now living in the USA.

She will speak about her powerful novel Under the Udala Trees (2015) - a story inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and set in the midst of the Biafran War that uses the lifetime of one woman to explore love and truth of personal relationships, in the context of conflict and division.

Okparanta said: “I'm excited to be a part of this very important literary conversation. With Africa in the house, Bristol will surely never be so hip, literature never as sexy”.


Engaging the community across all ages, the festival presents a series of exciting events in partnership with Somali diaspora arts organisation Numbi Arts, including a collaboration with Paper Nations to run zine-making workshops in Bristol schools, a creative writing workshop and the festival closing party on October 7 hosted by celebrated poet Elmi Ali, with Bristol community radio station Ujima and featuring DJs and spoken word performances.

Kinsi Abdulleh, director of Numbi Arts, said: “We are bringing our Numbifest Cross-currents series to Africa Writes Bristol to explore cities and what they mean to us. There is a huge amount of creative activity going on in the Bristol Somali community and we are excited to engage with and showcase this.”

Jowhor Ile will launch his debut novel And After Many Days, winner of the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature. As part of Spike Island’s Novel Writers programme, Jowhor Ile will present his book in conversation with Ivorian writer and literary activist Edwige Dro.

Exploring the relationship between literature and film, Africa Writes Bristol launches on Friday October 6 with an evening of screenings and discussion at The Cube Cinema, in partnership with Bristol-based film festival Afrika Eye, including Biyi Bandele’s film The Half of a Yellow Sun, and a panel discussion looking at the intersection of film and literature about and in Africa.

The University of Bristol in partnership with Kampala-based Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) will run a workshop on Literary Activism and Arts Management for young Bristol-based creatives, and host a panel discussion about a new generation of literary entrepreneurs based on the African continent, featuring Edwidge Dro (Abidjan Lit, based in Cote D’Ivoire), Louise Umutoni (Huza Press, based in Rwanda) and speakers from Writivism festival in Uganda.

Both sessions draw directly from a collaborative research project on literary activism and Africa involving CACE, the University of Bristol and the University of Exeter.

Children 8-12 years old are invited to attend a creative writing and storytelling workshop with Ghanaian British filmmaker and writer Yaba Badoe, who will read from her new book of interwoven tales, The Secret of the Purple Lake.

Africa Writes 2017 Pop-Up: Bristol is brought to you by the Royal African Society in partnership with Numbi Arts, The University of Bristol’s Centre for Black Humanities, Afrika Eye, Ujima Radio, Spike Island, Centre of African Cultural Excellence, Coexist at Hamilton House, The Cube Cinema, Book Kernel and Paper Nations, and is supported by Arts Council England and Sigrid Rausing Trust.

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