The much-awaited Macondo Literary Festival in Nairobi kick off on Friday and climax on Sunday, with award-winning writers and film artists from nine Portuguese and English speaking African countries as well as Brazil confirming participation.
Themed “Re-imagining African Histories through Literature”, the event at Kenya National Theatre will be one of its kind and great performances have been lined up, including free workshops, book launches, panel discussions, meet-the-author events, storytelling, improvisation performances, exhibitions, film, music, and dance. The Standard is the media partner.
Award-winning writers including Kenya’s Peter Kimani and Yvonne Owuor will feature. Ondjaki (Angola), Geovani Martins (Brazil), Dina Salustio (Cape Verde) and Yovanka Perdigao (Guinea-Bissau) will also be there. Also, Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa (Mozambique), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria), Johny Steinberg (South Africa) and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (Zimbabwe) have confirmed their presence.
Writer and translator Jethro Soutar (Portugal) and filmmaker Joao Viana (Angola/Portugal) will be actively involved in the three-day event. Books will be available for sale at the festival through the partner Prestige Bookshop and attendants will have a chance to have books autographed by the authors.
Macondo is derived from the name of a fictional place in the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Márquez. It is a place where magical things happen.
Attendants will be entertained with electrifying performances including “Because I always feel like running”, a performed narrative by Kenyan storyteller Ogutu Muraya. The performance reflects how running has influenced nation-building and created a unique Kenyan identity.
You will also have the privilege to be entertained by acclaimed Kenyan Nyatiti virtuoso Makadem, who will join Angolan novelist and poet Ondjaki in an improvisation performance titled, “The sky doesn’t know how to dance alone.”
The combination of the performers from different countries will demonstrate the African Union. The artists will improvise their art and let themselves be played by the moment. They will play with improvisations of words, loose sentences, poetry and silences that will be projected on the screen.
Film lovers will not be left out as there will be performances geared towards the genre. Among them is the screening of the 2013 short film The battle of Tabato that will demonstrate the richness of African history, storytelling, literature and de-colonial cinema. The screening will depict the power of a hybrid of magical realism and music’s powerful effect.
Film-maker João Viana will present Filming History without a camera – the history of film and there will also be history for radio that will be conducted by radio journalist Michael Schweres. Kenya’s Kimani will take the attendants through the concepts of writing history, a workshop that will be resourceful to those who take pride in the continent and might be interested in telling narratives.
There will also be a world book launch of the philosophical and magical book The Madwoman of Serrano. The narrative revolves around the setting in the village of Serrano where there is a madwoman. However, the book questions whether the madness is real or perception from society. Author of the book, Cape Verdian Dina Salústio, is the first woman writer to ever publish a book in the West African country and the first novel in the country to be translated into English. By extension, there will be questions on the place of women in the African stories as tellers of historical tales and characters/participants.
At the same time, there will be an African book launch of Brazilian Geovani Martis anthology of The Sun on my Head. The book is a collection of 13 short stories on growing up and consists of elements that are relevant to Africa.
Many sessions on ‘meet-the-author’ have been scheduled and attendants will have the opportunity to have a conversation with the top authors. The conversations will revolve around the history of stories, the danger of a single history or how histories define home and identity among other all discussions based on the works of the attending authors.
In essence, the discussions will look at what countries in Africa have in common, how people’s histories can be told and retold, the question of identity with or without colonial experience and the place of languages in uniting the continent.
Ahead of the festival, organisers have indicated that all was set for the event. The festival partner Prestige Bookshop has already selected all the books by the attending authors ready for display and sale during the three days at the Kenya Cultural Centre.
Anja Bengelstorff, who co-founded the Macondo Book Society with Owuor said there will be keynote speech and panel discussion on the first day on Friday where the public will access the venue without being charged a fee. Events start at 10 o’clock in the morning.
Attending artists have celebrated the festival with Kenya’s Owuor praising the choice of Nairobi as appropriate because it is a Point Zero, a city with diverse energies and people.
“I sense it is a great window for our continent in its widest sense-to employ its imagination to summon a powerful future, to anticipate histories. This cannot happen without creative conversations across the artificial yet seemingly entrenched boundaries and borders which have kept us apart from each other,” said Owuor.
Ondjaki from Angola emailed: “It is great that this festival happens on the African continent. Gathering different languages, backgrounds and styles is a wonderful and important idea.”
Gains and loses
Kimani said the festival will be an opportunity for literature lovers to examine progress made in African literature especially after the 1962 Makerere Conference which was almost similar to Macondo festival.
“It would be interesting to review what has been gained and lost. Despite the change in time, our conditions in the continent have remained the same. We are still fighting poverty, disease and ignorance like our forefathers,” Kimani projected.
On Friday, entry is free of charge but the last two days will attract a fee for those interested in the rest of the festival.
Each day attracts a fee of Sh500, but there is an offer that will allow an attendant to pay Sh800 for the last two days. Students will be required to pay Sh200 after producing their student Identity Cards.
One can purchase the tickets by logging on the Macondo literature Festival website (www.macondolitfest.org) and following the procedure. The payment is cashless and all mobile money payment systems, as well as Visa and MasterCard payment options, will be available, the organisers have said.