Dozens of writers converged on Accra for “Labone Dialogues by NYU Accra,” one of the biggest literary events in Ghana from October 19 – 23, 2023. Here is a snapshot of the symposium.
‘Labone Dialogues by NYU Accra’ was conceived and curated by New York University Accra Director Prof Chiké Frankie Edozien in Accra, Ghana in 2020. They were several events celebrating among others Kofi Ghanaba, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ayesha Haruna Attah, Wanlov The Kubolor, Latif Abubakar, Maaza Mengiste, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Zukiswa Wanner, and Leye Adenle.
In October, the Labone Dialogues team attempted the literary symposium version as opposed to the previous single-artist focus. Invited were some of the biggest names in African letters working today under the theme “Re-claiming The Narrative.” Here are some highlights over three days emceed by Tim Quashigah, Sharon Agbemenya, and Alpha Yahaya Suberu;
The opening ceremony had speeches from NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Chancellor Mariet Westermann, NYU Global Programs Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor Eliot Borenstein, NYU Senior Vice President Lisa Coleman, and NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Provost & Global Network Professor Awam Amkpa. There was also an address by a representative of the World Book Capital Ghana and a rather laborious speech from Edmond Moukala, the new head of the UNESCO Ghana office.
The first event of each day was the Breakfast show which had Socrates Mbamalu and James Murua going over what happened the previous day and what to expect in this one.
There were three keynote events including one with Prof Wole Soyinka moderated by legendary playwright Efua Sutherland on his life and times. There was also Aminatta Forna’s keynote followed by a conversation with Kinna Likimani while Chris Abani’s was followed by a conversation with Wana Udobang.
It’s a literary symposium so panels that were typically shorter, over forty-five minutes (like a football match), with three or two speakers and a moderator were at the centre. Zukiswa Wanner moderated Leye Adenle, Femi Kayode, and Tendai Huchu on the panel dubbed “Crime & Reputation.” “The Anthology: Short and Sweet” had Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond as moderator with Dilman Dila and Remy Ngamije as panellists. Abubakar Adam Ibrahim moderated Ayesha Harruna Attah, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, and Sulaiman Addonia in the session “Which Woman?”
Zukiswa Wanner moderated the panel “Children’s Books As Character Builders” with Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Ondjaki, and Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond. Michael Kelleher moderated Aminatta Forna, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi on the panel “African To The World (The Business).” “The Other Side of African Sexuality on the Page” featured Tendai Huchu and Sulaiman Addonia with moderation by Zukiswa Wanner. “Fantasy Island or Reality Mainland” was a session moderated by Kinna Likimani with Dilman Dila and Martin Egblewogbe. “Translating Us to Us” was moderated again by Zukiswa Wanner with panellists Remy Ngamije, Kalaf Epalanga, and Ondjaki. “Past is Now” on historical fiction featured Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, and Ayesha Harruna Attah. The “From Page to Screen” session moderated by Zukiswa Wanner featured Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, Dilman Dila, and Nicole Amarteifio.
Kalaf Epalanga and Nii Ayikwei Parkes had a conversation entitled “Music and The Novel: Telling Our Story in Verse.” Kinna Likimani was in conversation with Chike Frankie Edozien in the session “Whose Memory is it?” while the “Agent Ready” conversation on the agenting business was between Sharon Bowers and Aminatta Forna.
There were poetry performances on the schedule one of which was the Forward March Poetry session conducted by Sarpong Osei Asamoah alongside Nikitta Adjirakor, Tawiah Mensah, and Jay Tophy. The Connecting Diasporas – Rapid Fire Spoken Word session conducted by Gregory Pardlo, yes that’s the Pulitzer Prize winner, had Sarpong Osei Asamoah, Su’eddie Agema, Fui Can-Tamakloe, Dami Ajayi, and Wana Udobang perform followed by a conversation.
Those who attended the symposium got to get books from session panellists and have them signed at the official event bookstore Vidya Bookstore.
To see the happenings in Accra, please watch the live streams on YouTube by clicking here.