The Asmara-Addis Literary Festival (In Exile) 2019 was hosted in Brussels, Belgium on February 9, 2019. It was hosted as part of the Afropolitan Festival 2019 which happened from February 8-10, 2019.
Since 2017, the Bozar institute in Brussels, Belgium has been hosting the Afropolitan Festival where art forms like music, film, literature from Africans from the continent and the diaspora feature. On February 8-10, 2019, the festival would do its Godly work of showing off the best of the African arts scene.
This year, the literature mantle of that festival would be taken up by the new Asmara-Addis Literary Festival (In Exile) the brainchild of Eritrean-Ethiopian author Sulaiman Addonia. The festival, supported by the Commune of Ixelle and Bib Sans Souci, aims to be a home for ideas that migrate freely and boldly in borderless literary landscapes. The festival would happen in the afternoon and evening of February 9, 2019.
The first session “The Shapes of Love” was inspired by Sulaiman Addonia‘s memories of open compounds in Sudan, where people were welcome to join and gather around Eritrean coffee ceremonies and exchange their personal stories. It featured Saleh Addonia, Chike Frankie Edozien, Meron Estefanos, Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, Astrid Haerens, Desta Haile, Madeleine Kennedy-Macfoy, Soheila Mehri, Hazel Thomas, and Vanessa Tsehaye.
Another session, “I Create. I Am Not Muse. Afrofeminism in Literature.” featured Maaza Mengiste, Minna Salami, Rachida Lamrabet, Amina Jama, and Ellah Wakatama Allfrey. The event was a unique affair with the women reading from their work or giving their own personal experiences with identity and Afrofeminism in literature.
The most illuminating of the contributions for me had to have been by publisher Ellah Wakatama Allfrey who spoke about her experience in publishing starting at Penguin where she found her tribe of people who made books. She would move to Jonathan Cape, Random House where she would bring to life works by people of colour like Biyi Bandele with Burma Boy.
After the presentations, each panellist would ask a question and everyone would give their opinion. That was probably one of the most nurturing panels (barring some Nigerian dude who seemed to be loudly working out his own issues) that I have had the opportunity to witness. Watch the full session here on the Bozar Facebook page.
Here are some images of those who attended the festival courtesy of the organisers.