Afridiaspora.com hosted its first annual literature festival Afrilit 2013 at the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday, November 16, 2013. Over 150 guests came together for a reading, discussion, and a celebration of contemporary African Literature. The panelists at this year’s conference were 2013 Cain Prize Winner Tope Folarin, Chinelo Okparanta, Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and Ayesha Harunna Attah.
Moderated by Afridiaspora.com founder and managing editor, Nana-Ama Kyerematen, the event began with a five minute reading from each of the panelists, followed by a discussion and then a Q & A session with the audience.
After the readings, each of the authors discussed their definition of African Literature and what it meant to them. Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond said “It’s tough to define it. There are lots of elements.” Chinelo Okparanta added that “[African Literature] is whatever we define it as;” while Tope Folarin stated that he “is not concerned with or constrained by its definitions.”
On the topic of religion in African writing, Ayesha Harunna Attah mentioned that growing up in a multi-faith household where her father is a Muslim and her mother is a Christian, led her to ask questions about religion in her writing.
Some of the other topics discussed included the difficulty of getting published, whether the panelists thought about their audience while writing, and the importance of writing about the African Immigrant story. On the topic of the African immigrant story, all the authors agreed that while it was an important narrative, it was also important to move beyond that narrative and tell the other stories. Tope Folarin wondered what the next dominant theme in African Literature will be, and mentioned that it might be “young Africans moving back.”
Winne Kassa, a native of South Sudan said of the event “I attended Afrilit 2013 because it is important to share our stories from our point of view as Africans. It was truly amazing to be among other Africans and hear stories we can all relate to.”
Kelechi Okere, a Nigerian American and editor of thepalmprint.com echoed Winnie’s thoughts and said “What Afilit 2013 did really well and what I liked about the event was that it gave readers the opportunity to connect with these promising new writers on an intellectual, social and personal level. They are telling our stories with such literary force that they and their stories demand our attention.”
The event ended with a moment of silence for Kofi Awoonor, the great Ghanaian poet who was killed in the Westgate attack in Kenya.