A NEW INTERNATIONAL LITERARY CONFERENCE LAUNCHED.
In the month of July I had the occasion to attend the launch of the Pan African Literary Forum (PALF) in Accra, Ghana, which is a new player in the international literary movement.
PALF was founded in 2006 by a group of writers and educators from the continent and the Diaspora. These writers and educators believed that they could make a difference by starting an international organisation to help African writers and those of African descent worldwide with training resources, publication, marketing and representation. PALF has its aesthetic and philosophical underpinnings in the writings and activism of W.E. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Frantnz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, and the many others who partnered to see that African and Caribbean writers were published, and furthered the struggle for democratic representation for African people worldwide. Also of concern to PALF is the historical under-representation and marginalisation of African and African Diaspora writers in the global literary community. The organisers announced that in the future PALF will host a series of annual conferences, and students will engage with established writers and literary professionals in a series of workshops, seminars and discussions uniquely focussed on both issues of craft (the art of writing well) and literary professionalism (the business of getting published) to provide developing writers with the extra push they need to achieve publication. Conferences will also feature excursions to historical sites, artistic events and informal gatherings, all designed to promote cross cultural dialogue.
The key note address was given by South African Poet Laureate, Professor Willie Kgositsile, who is also the Special Advisor to South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr. Z. Pallo Jordan. In his address, amongst many other issues, he bemoaned the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa against foreigners, and concluded with readings from some of his poetry, which were well received by the audience.
The Executive Director of PALF is Professor Jeffery Renard Allen, who earned a Ph.D in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Illinois, and is currently an instructor in the graduate writing program at the The New School for Social Research in the United States Of America. He is published in both poetry and prose, and has won several awards for his books, amongst which are the Whiting Writer’s Awards, the Chicago Public Library’s Twenty-First Century Award, and the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction.
This is a more than welcome development for writers on the continent because of its general lack of educational resources (such as the Masters if Fine Arts programmes in creative writing found at many USA and European universities) and limited access to important resources like literary journals, agents, publishing companies and grant making foundations, and also of the fact that non-African readers and writers everywhere have been long deprived of the rich variety of voices and viewpoints to be found within the Pan African Literary traditions.