Five writers from across the continent have produced brilliant thought-provoking creative pieces on the theme: ‘Our Africa, Our Future,’ under the Library of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) project.
The five LOATAD writers were: Nour Kamel, Egyptian poet and editor; Sukoluhle Nyathi, Zimbabwean creative writer, editor and data analyst; Tony Mochama, Kenyan fiction writer and journalist; TJ Benson, Nigerian award-winning novelist; and Musih Tedji Xaviere, Cameroonian writer.
The completed works of the five writers were featured in a behind-the-scenes documentary, which would be published in an anthology as well as exhibited at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the margins of the AU 2023 Summit.
The initiative, dubbed: ‘AU20 Writers Residency Public Showcase’ which forms part of the activities to mark the Africa Union’s 20th anniversary celebration, was held over the weekend in Accra, Ghana.
The AU20 Writers Residency Programme aims to use the voices of Africa’s creative talent to mark a historic moment in the AU’s leadership of the continent’s development, unity and peace through a celebration of Africa’s culture, creativity, art and innovation under the theme: ‘Our Africa, Our Future’.
Founder of LOATAD, Sylvia Arthur, in her remarks at the event, mentioned that writers are the voice of the people, and they play a key role in preserving the past, documenting the present, and imagining the future.
She added that be that as it may, unfortunately, the intellectual production, distribution and consumption of literature – the industry of books – is often underappreciated for its contribution to the creative economy – the jobs it creates and the culture it affirms.
“It’s within this context that LOATAD exists as one of the few writing residencies on the continent, and as we celebrate our fifth year, which coincides with the African Union’s 20th year, we seek to cement our place in this rarefied space, not just for the art but for Africa.
The kind of inter-cultural exchange that happens between residents living and working together in one space over a protracted period of time is both vital and necessary. I’ve seen firsthand the impact it makes, not only on our residents’ development as writers, but on them as people too,” she said.
She mentioned that this year, over 400 applications from 35 countries were received in two weeks for the five places on the AU20 Writers Residency Programme. That means only 1.25 percent of applicants were successful but the interest in the programmes is justifiably high.
“Opportunities for African writers to focus on their craft and hone their skills on the African continent are rare. Almost always, African writers who want to benefit from the time, space, solitude, and community of a residency must travel abroad to Europe or the United States because of the dearth of such institutions in Africa,” she lamented.
Director of W.E.B Dubois Memoria Centre, Rev. Reuben Kwasi Kwadzofio, in his Keynote Address, indicated that the African continent can be said to have experienced rapid economic growth and development, peace, security and governance in the past 20 years. However, the continent is yet to consolidate the aforementioned successes and address the persistent economic instabilities.
He, therefore, commended the writers for giving a better understanding and perception of the continent with their creativity and skills.
The event was attended by representatives from the African Union, the AfCFTA Secretariat, and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture in Ghana.
Notable dignitaries included the British High Commissioner to Ghana, Harriet Thompson; former Member of Parliament and daughter of Ghana’s first Head of State, Samia Nkrumah; and Akoss Ofori-Mensah, Ghana Publishers Association.