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Uniting the literatures of Lusophone and Anglophone Africa

By Peter Ngila
Monday, November 18th, 2019
Macondo Fest founders Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Anja Bengelstorff during the opening ceremony at the Kenya National Theatre. PD/ PETER NGILA
In summary

Despite producing fantastic works of fiction for many years, literature from  Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) Africa is little known in  the rest of the continent. 

One of the latest efforts to branch that gap is the Macondo Literary Festival, the brainchild of the Macondo Book Society, cofounded by Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and her friend, German journalist Anja Bengelstorff, also based in Kenya.  

The two say they organised the festival to unite English-speaking Africans with their Portuguese counterparts.  “We wanted to do a literary event which would open new frontiers in Nairobi. Lusophone Africa is so far from the rest of the continent in terms of literature, despite its amazing literature. The Lusophones are also curious about the kind of literature emerging from the Anglophone world,” Adhiambo says. 

Writers from the two regions could previously meet outside Africa. Given that all the guest writers invited at the three-day festival themed Re-imagining Africa’s Histories through Literature  write primarily historical fiction, Adhiambo and Anja settled on history as a starting point. 

Macondo is fictional city in Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s famous novel, A Hundred Years of Solitude.  Held at the Kenya National Theatre, the event  comprised conversations and writing workshops on history. History was actually broken as a Cape Verdean writer, Dina Salústio, launched The Madwoman of Serrano in English,  translated from Portuguese by British writer Jethro Soutar.

The Sun on my Head, a short story collection by Brazilian writer Geovanni Martins was also launched at the fete. “Perhaps next year we will include Francophone Africa, and maybe later Asia . It had become embarrassing for me that we only met elsewhere,”  said Adhiambo, author of two novels – Dust and The Dragonfly Sea.