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Kenya: Top African Writers in Town for Kwani Litfest

The fourth edition of Kwani Litfest, the biennial gathering of writers, artists and thinkers from across Africa, takes place between December 9-16.

Conversations With The Horn: Writers, Artists in Exchange hosts readings, performances

and discussions that explore and celebrate literature and its role in our lives.

The week-long packed programme brings together important voices from the Horn and award-winning writers from across the continent, including: Somali poet Hadraawi, Sudanese-British novelist Jamal Mahjoub, Eritrean writer and historian Alemseged Tefsai, Egyptian writer and activist Nawal El Saadawi, Nigerian novelist Helon Habila and Ghanaian novelist Kojo Laing.

Hadraawi is widely recognised as the greatest living Somali poet; he was imprisoned in the 1970s for his writing and awarded with a 2012 Prince Claus Award for his contribution to peace through poetry.

The novels of Jamal Mahjoub have been praised for their insights into the human condition and identities in flux, as well as their explorations of Sudanese history and its links to Africa and Europe.

Alemseged Tesfai is a lawyer turned freedom fighter and Eritrea's most prominent historian; he writes mainly in his native language Tigrinya and his Tigrinya translation of Ngugi I Will Marry When I Want premiered in 2000.

Also present at the festival are Egyptian writer and activist, Nawal El Saadawi and leading West African novelists, Helon Habila and Kojo Laing.

The work of Nawal El Saadawi engages with significant historical moments in her home country, Egypt, while Habila and Laing writing provides literary mirrors to Nigerian and Ghanaian spaces.

At a time when East African contemporary writing is struggling to engage with political developments, these writers and those from the Horn will create a discursive space that reveals how contemporary writing can engage and impact the society it emerges from.

Conceptually, the festival also recognises the Horn as important to East Africa following recent political developments in the region, including Kenya's military involvement in Somalia, the independence of South Sudan and the return of Ethiopia as a continental force in politics and economics.

Alongside the international emergence of contemporary writing from the region that contests dominant political and media narratives of conflict and displacement, this presents an exciting opportunity for exchange and sharing between writers from the Horn and the rest of the continent.

The festival started on Sunday with an event at Kifaru Gardens where Hadraawi held a public conversation alongside performances of his poetry, followed by readings from Helon Habila and Kojo Laing, live music and DJs.

During the week, writers and artists will share and discuss their work and practice, culminating in a lecture by Jamal Mahjoub and the launch of Kwani? 07 on Saturday.

A parallel programme of panel discussions with poetry performances by Warsan Shire and music by Waayaha Cusub runs across the week in Eastleigh.

A further eight writers from Mozambique, Nigeria, Namibia, South Africa, Rwanda and South Sudan will be visiting the festival as part of a Pan African exchange programme initiated by Goethe-Institut.

The 2012 Kwani? Litfest is presented in programming partnership with and financial support from Ford Foundation, Lambent Foundation, Stichting Doen, IGAD, CEWARN, Oxfam, Goethe-Institut, The Dutch Literary Fund, The Swedish Embassy in Nairobi, Kuona Trust, National Museums of Kenya, The Theatre Company, Hotel InterContinental and University of Nairobi.

Kwani Trust hopes this unique showcase of panel discussions, lectures and performances will offer inspiration and entertainment, as well as a space for reflection on the differences, commonalities, and imaginaries between different societies across Africa.

Via social media, these conversations and reflections will reverberate across the continent: we welcome you to the 2012 Kwani? Litfest, and to be part of the exchange.

For programme details visit:

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