Kenya’s literature collective Jalada comes to London’s Africa Writes festival

Jalada is a pan-African literature collective formed in 2013 by avid writers from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Established with an mission to publish literature by African authors, the collective currently comprises of writers and artists both from the continent and the diaspora.

On the need to found such an initiative, Jalada’s managing editor Moses Kilolo explains: “Jalada started with informal gatherings to refine and enjoy each other’s artistic productions, it then grew into a pan-African interactive space where writers could share their work, edit and critique each other. Key to Jalada is the provision of peer-to-peer guidance on ways to our develop craft, while exchanging opportunities for personal and professional growth.” The lack of reputable publishing spaces for young, talented African writers informed Jalada’s decision to work as a digital publisher. “Our aim is to publish literature by African authors regularly, and thus making it as easy as possible for any member of our collective to publish or execute a literary project as quickly and effectively as they wish,” he adds.

 
 

The topics Jalada covers are diverse, eclectic and engaging. Their first project came out in January 2014 and was an anthology of short stories loosely themed around insanity. Their second, The Sex Anthology, was published soon after and was followed by Jalada 02: Afrofuture(s). In the spirit of forging literary networks, Jalada published a mini-anthology in collaboration with Writivisim, a Ugandan based Literary Initiative organised by the Centre for African Cultural Excellence. The book features fiction by exciting young writers from Jalada’s 2014 mentorship programme, which they carried out across five African cities.

In 2015, Jalada started its Language And Translations project, in which the collective invited writers and translators to contribute literary works that celebrate Africa’s rich linguistic heritage through fiction, essays, poetry and spoken word. The Inaugural Translation Issue, published to popular and critical acclaim, featured a short story by the preeminent Kenyan writer, Ngugi wa Thiongó. Originally written in Gikuyu as Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ and translated by the author into English as The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright. The story has now been translated into 65 languages, making it the single most translated short story in the history of African writing.


“Key to Jalada is the provision of peer-to-peer guidance on ways to our develop craft, while exchanging opportunities for growth”


Their most ambitious collaborative project yet came this year in the form of The Jalada Mobile and Literary Arts Festival. Crossing five countries (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, DRC and Tanzania) and 12 towns in East Africa, the festival covered over 4,500 kilometers and had over 7,000 attendees. It aimed to dynamically strengthen literary ties across the region and featured interactive full-day events from literary readings, to spoken word, to theatrical performances and diversely curated panel discussions. The festival was supported by the British Council’s East Africa Arts programme: an initiative working to forge new connections between East Africa and the UK and allow for new artworks to be created by artists across the two regions.

“Jalada’s festival was the first of its kind in Rwanda. It was a great opportunity to promote and present to Rwandans, especially young Rwandans, what the East African literary world has to offer,” says Rwandese writer Darla Rudakubana. “My favourite experience was the visit to Gashora girls school. The students there were so inspired by what the team of writers and publishers had achieved, they decided to start a blog to promote creative writing projects in their school."

To celebrate the completion of this tour, Jalada will feature the festival’s highlights in the UK at Africa Writes, an annual celebration of contemporary literature from Africa and the diaspora, established by The Royal African Society. Jalada will discuss their forthcoming poetry anthology Songs For Burundi. Available in October 2017, the anthology captures the memories, visions, and imaginations of young Burundian refugees living in Rwanda. The collective will also launch their fifth thematic issue Jalada 05 / Transition 123, which is a collaboration with the critically acclaimed cultural journal Transition Magazine (founded in Uganda in 1961, and currently based at Harvard University). The edition will focus on the pertinent and yet ever relevant global theme of Fear.

Jalada joins Africa Writes at the British Library, London from 30 June to 2 July 2017


Photography Ian Kithinji

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Published on 28/06/2017