This note comes in a two-part effort to share what 2020 has been for us as an African literary platform. It includes highlights of most of what we consider to be commendable about the space we occupy. Looking through the year, we have come a long way with our projects, and admittedly not achieved all we set out to do. However, we must commend the resilience and creativity that the year has evoked across the literary space.
As the year started, a bit quiet at first, it progressed into several shocking experiences all over Africa and the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic merely served as a constant theme while several other unprecedented events took us on a roller-coaster ride.
James M. Lindsay, writing about some of the most significant events of the year says, “Four years ago stories appeared asking whether 2016 was the worst year ever. Well, 2020 has 2016 beat. You would have to go back to 1968 to find a year filled with as much turmoil. Yes, the past twelve months did bring some good news. Those bright spots, however, hardly made up for the bad news.”
From the failing oil prices that almost drowned economies, to the death of George Floyd, The Black Lives Matter Movement, The Australian forest fires, to the emergence of Joe Biden as the US. President. The year was extraordinary and everyone you speak to would agree.
The Itanile Brand Emergence & Others
Working to advance and advocate the use of storytelling as a tool for social change, cultural cohesion, and collaboration across Africa, Itanile was a needed growth for the Creative Freelance Writerz of Africa, also known as cfwriterz. A lot of our stories, projects, and writing workshops have been designed to promote emerging African literature. We seek to bring stories back home and also to share our home with the world. Itanile, Stories of Home, has had a diverse and colourful year. We have had the opportunity to coordinate and advance some truly amazing writing projects including:
- Chapter 20 Workshops: 3 sessions hosted by our team, for African writers, with speakers from across Africa including Adebayo Kolawole Samuel, Resoketswe Manenzhe, Caleb Somtochukwu, Gloria Minage, Jide Badmus, Richard Henshaw, Jeff Ugochukwu, Sam Osho, Oladeji Jonathan D. These sessions coordinated by Michael Emmanuel, May Ebute, and Amara Ujumadu have been thoroughly delightful. We have had encouraging feedback especially from writers like Timi Sanni, whose poem from the workshop, pillow, went viral on Twitter.
- Our Biannual Magazine: The Collins Elesiro Literary Prize and Freedom Magazine have also seen such tremendous reception with 700+ downloads of our recent Issue, “Passage“.
- The Brand Transition. We re-imagined our web publication and brand. This birthed Itanile which is the new brand expression. We have since connected with, supported, and mentored several African writers. Our team has also received new additions while we said goodbye to some of our older team members.
It’s amazing to see what can come of team spirit, a conscious commitment to volunteerism, and a devotion to providing spaces where African expression can be heard. The Itanile team has had a lot of growth experiences. We have also seen how difficult it is to maintain momentum to build spaces for African authors and writers. Topmost among our challenges are data, connectivity, consistent power supply for devices, and the time required to collaborate, communicate, and work with all stakeholders for projects.
African Literary Projects.
Also all through the year, there were significant additions to the African literary space from Iskanchi Press to Lolwe and the Conscio Magazine by Words Rhymes & Rhythms (WRR). Top 10 on our list of amazing African literary projects we saw includes:
1. Joburg Noir, edited by Niq Mhlongo.
2. Passage (Issue 7 of the Freedom Magazine), published by Itanile.
3. The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing. Visit the shortlist
4. 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. See the regional winner list.
5. A Pandemia Of Poetry, by Words Rhymes & Rhythms,
6. Africa in Dialogue, Second Issue. Read the collection online.
7. Scatterlings by Resoketswe Manenzhe.
8. Minority Africa, founded by Caleb Somtochukwu. Visit their website.
9. Writer’s Guild Kenya, founded by Gabriel Dinda. Check the blog for recent publications.
10. Devil’s Pawn, by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson. Order the book.
In 2021, we hope to collaborate more, to build stronger networks and platforms for African writing. This article does not in any way, do justice to all the amazing literature and stories that have come out of Africa this year. This is only an attempt to spotlight some of the platforms and voices that must be preserved and improved upon if African stories must thrive in the coming years. There’s also the need to speak about financing African stories and supporting them. When considered across platforms, the need to fund African stories and platforms continues to grow. Yet, no one is coming. No chariot or messiah would bring the treasury of unlimited resources to the African literary scene. The African writer needs to see a role to play in preserving the art that we treasure. As ambassadors and custodians of our cultures and experiences, it’s important to put our ink where our paper lies. For now, we must continue to cheer on these beacons of our art.
Thanks for a great year and we hope to find the future even as bright as our stories have described, or more.
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