Launched in 2012, the annual festival organised by the Royal African Society is the most significant contemporary celebration of African literature from across the continent and the diaspora.
Africa Writes is the Royal African Society’s annual literature and book festival in association with the British Library. This year’s festival took place from Friday, July 3rd – Sunday, July 5th. For both established and emerging talent from within the African continent and outside, it has something for anyone who is passionate about reading and sharing African stories.
Each year, one leading voice in African literature, shares their reflection on an apt theme. The cool evening of Saturday, 4th of July saw Okri give his lecture titled “Meditations on Greatness” followed by a live question and answer with editor and critic Ellah Wakatama Allfrey.
Ben Okri is an award winning poet, essayist and author of 10 novels, collections of poetry, essays and short stories. Born in Nigeria and currently living in London, Okri has been awarded numerous international prizes and has had his work translated into 26 languages. His most recent novel ‘The Age of Magic’ was published in 2014.
His opening remarks stated; “Living as we do in troubling times, we sometimes look to writers to reflect on the times that we live in”, he said. “So what does it mean to be great? A people cannot be great or fulfilled without understanding it. A literature cannot be great without it either. The basic prerequisite of literature is freedom”.
Throughout his one hour reading and talk the audience stayed transfixed by his calming and authoritative voice. To speak with such eloquence and delivery as well as one writes is quite an remarkable skill. Needless to say all that came to hear him that evening were blown away and took something uplifting and promising from his words. After the event, crowds clamoured to get glimpse of him, take photos and get their books signed. If you are yet to read him, get hold of The Famished Road (1991) Vintage Books, which comes highly recommended as a strong starting point.
For more information about the festival, please visit www.africawrites.org