Kwame Dawes in Oxford

The Poetic Arts of Africa: Creative and Critical Voices, with Kwame Dawes

On 27 November 2018, TORCH visiting professor and prize-winning poet Kwame Dawes spoke with JC Niala, Nana Aforiatta Ayim, and Belinda Zhawi about a number of critical issues in contemporary African poetry and publishing. These include the emergence of the American-influenced spoken word movement; the connection between activism and performance; the international reception of African poetry as compared to African fiction; and the initiatives being taken to advance African Poetry.

Kwame Dawes is Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Glenna Luschei Editor of the literary magazine Prairie Schooner, and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. His many honours include the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, a Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry, the Musgrave Silver Medal for contribution to the Arts in Jamaica, the Poets & Writers Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award, and a Pushcart Prize.

Born in Zimbabwe, poet, sound artist, and educator Belinda Zhawi moved to London aged 12. Her work explores, through her memories of living in rural and urban Zimbabwe, the impact of colonialism across Africa and the immigrant experience in Britain. She was a London Laureate and an Institute of Contemporary Arts Associate Poet, and her pamphlet, Small Inheritances, was published by Ignitionpress in 2018. She is the co-founder of community and performance platform BORN::FREE.

Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a Ghanaian writer, gallerist, filmmaker and art historian. She is director of the ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge, through which she has pioneered a pan-African Cultural Encyclopaedia, reimagining narratives from across and about the continent; and a Mobile Museums project that travels into communities, collects material culture and exhibits them in those communities, creating discourse about narratives, memory and value. Her first novel, The God Child, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2019.

JC Niala is a Storyteller who writes. She performs stories that otherwise hide away in books and draws on inspiration from people’s stories to create plays, films, poems & books. JC’s work has been featured on BBC2, BBC Radio 4, CBS in the US, ABC in Australia among other media outlets. Her live performances are rich and varied, be they as part of a London Parks and Garden’s Trust poetry residency, at the Tate Modern or The Hay Festival.