A new trend is emerging in the cultural field in Africa.
The signs have always been there, visible from Accra to Nairobi. This revolution, like every other revolution before it, will not be televised, to paraphrase the great artist Gil Scott-Heron
The revolution is already happening as collective and friendly effort of the African youth. We are in a period that is characterized by collective efforts, unlimited curiosity, a mastery of technological tools and proudly pan-African emulation.
These four elements, are highly reflected in many scenarios as analyzed by writer and economist, Felwine Sarr, in his recent stirring essay, Afrotopia. In Afrotopia, Sarr states that “African modernity is already here” and he might be right.
Take for example Jalada — a new collective adventure by young African writers.
The adventure started in an almost banal manner in June 2013. In conjunction with the Kenya Literary Week, young writers participating in a writing workshop, without any editorial experience, decided to pool their resources and talents. This collective, called Jalada, now has over 25 members from five English-speaking countries (Zimbabwe , Uganda , South Africa , Kenya and Nigeria, sadly no Ghana).
The original purpose of the group was simple; to assume creation and management of a digital magazine, which would regularly cooperative creatives.
Jalada is driven by principle of parity.
In each issue of Jalada, some twenty young talents from the continent and the diaspora provide content. Do the math, you have at hand a sacred deposit of authors across all literary genres. It would not be unreasonable to argue that Jalada which soon will become a traditional publishing house.
Most importantly, Jalada is driven by principle of parity. The number and quality of its female feathers immediately attracts attention.
The first two issues were around themes of intimacy and exploration of the territories of desire, the third installment showed an exciting odyssey in Afro-futuristic constellations accompanied by intriguing collages from Wangechu Mutu. Wangechi’s art explores the violence and misrepresentation that women. The fourth issue addresses the recurrent question of language. And the last issue is a practical file that follows the examination of the linguistic question.
Bringing Literary Dignity to All Languages
A story by the great Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, “Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ”, written in Kikuyu and translated by the author in English (“The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright”) has given birth to thirty-three translations in African languages, including Amharic, Kamba, Kinyarwanda, Arabic, Luganda, Swahili, Afrikaans, Somali, Hausa, Meru, Lingual, Zulu, Igbo, Ibibio, Ndebele, Tsonga, Sheng (Nairobi slang), Kalenjin, Rukiga, Bambara, Giriama, Shona, Ewe (my mother tongue), Pidgin of Nigeria without forgetting French and English. The last two languages, although of foreign origin, are now African. They have the advantage of serving as gateways to translators who use one or the other. Except in a case where Arabic served as a relay.
Whether they involve a small linguistic basin such as Marakwet and Rukiga (also called chiga) or encompassing millions of speakers such as Swahili or Hausa, whether traditional or exclusively urban such as Sheng and Pidgin, all these languages deserve a literary dignity.
This issue of Jalada gives shape to the fight carried out for decades by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
From this fertile encounter between the languages will emerge the unpublished potentialities of African literature.
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