The rise and rise of the literary festival in African cities

On June 1, 1962, black writers and other intellectuals from all over the world converged on Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda for the Conference of African Writers of English Expression. They were there to discuss the legacy of colonialism and what African literature should look like in a continent that was rapidly getting independent. The conference led to a schism in African letters with those from former English colonies at odds with the Francophone delegates who espoused the Negritude movement. The Anglophone writers didn’t feel that this movement went far enough for newly independent nations.

Since then, there have been many literary gatherings with a mixed bag of results for readers and writers across the continent. Perhaps as a result of the fallout from that event in 1962 and more practical communication purposes, the gatherings have tended to host writers from the same European language group and, at best, a token writer or two from the others.

“The book fair became a window open to the world where young people have access to world literature.”

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