Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2021, Abdulrazak Gurnah from Tanzania. (David Gichuru/Standard)

East Africa’s biggest literary festival, the Macondo Literary Festival, is set to make a comeback at the end of the month.

This second edition, dubbed ‘The Future of Memories’, will bring together Brazilian, Anglophone (English-speaking), Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) and Francophone (French-speaking) African writers in conversation across and beyond the limits of language.

The festival is organised by the Macondo Book Society and will feature authors of both fictional and nonfictional works at the Kenya Cultural Centre in Nairobi from September 30 to October 2.

The three-day event will be attended by 11 international guests, including Tanzanian author, Abdulrazak Gurnah, who was the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature winner and celebrated Kenyan author, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Dust, and was the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing winner.

Other celebrated writers who will be in attendance are José Eduardo Agualusa from Angola, Yara Monteiro, a poetry and fiction author, Patrice Nganang, an award-winning Cameroonian author and Nadifa Mohamed, the writer of the renowned novel Black Mamba Boy (2009). 

The impressive list also includes Sylvie Kandé, an award-winning poet and scholar from Senegal, Roberta Estrela D’Alva from Brazil, Mia Couto, Mozambique, Hafsa Zayyan - from the UK, Naivo Patrick from Madagascar, and Abdulai Silá, the author of the first novel ever published in Guinea-Bissau.


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“Separated by official languages, geography and strategic regions, our continent is unknown to itself today more than ever. In the field of literature, we know little of what our neighbours are debating and publishing. African literary festivals can be a way to break this isolation...,” said Mia Couto.

The festival caters to the need of Kenyans for a space to have pertinent conversations, share and grow the love of the written word.

According to the festival’s organisers, the second edition of the Macondo Literary Festival after the inaugural event in 2019 will be a multifaceted event, centred around literature, but will also include other forms of art.

The festival will feature a series of panel discussions, readings, interviews, meet-the-author sessions, and workshops on issues of shared histories - things that unite and or separate based on the authors’ works of historical (non) fiction.

“This is what makes us different from other literary festivals. It is not just a festival that showcases literature, where a few authors meet with their readers and that’s it,” Anja Bengelstorf, director, curator and co-founder of the festival, told the Sunday Standard.

“We also want to offer a platform for Kenyans and other Africans to debate what the issues in our society are, and how we can get from where we are to the future. That is why the festival is called The Future of Memories.”

The first-of-its-kind festival in East Africa will put a special focus on anticipated, predicted, and imagined African futures and how history, home, identity, and belonging expressed in one language can be translated into the world of another, fostering a shared African history and aspirations by authors across the continent.

The presence of Lusophone and Francophone authors in this year’s festival will expand the perception of what African literature is and enable Kenyans to discover their works, engage with them and learn about their history and fictional imagination.