A lot of things happened in 2013. In my quest to be a ‘contemporary culture and art blogger’, I wouldn’t be doing my blogging persona justice if I didnt go out of 2013 with my own contribution to the ‘Top 10..or 20 or 30 ( you get my point) highlights of 2013. So here goes:
Death is an inevitable truth.This year, we lost a number of great men and women in the arts and culture sphere on the African continent and beyond.May their souls rest in peace. I was inspired by many of them in my own life. We lost one of Africa’s greatest literary minds, Nigerian, Chinua Achebe in March 2013. I quote his work a lot in my everyday life and on social media. His stories and their characters were filled with so much wisdom that spoke true to the African narrative and rang close to the kind of society that I could relate to. His most notable works are Things Fall Apart, No longer at ease, Anthills of the Savannah and A man of the people.
We also lost Ghanaian poet and author, Kofi Awoonor. Professor Awoonor lost his life during the September terrorist attack in Nairobi Kenya. I am particularly inspired by his poems in Night of My Blood, in which he explored his roots and outlined the impact of foreign rule in Africa.
Both these men’s work have inspired my writing and literature as well as the importance of telling our own stories in a narrative we understand.They make me see the transformative power of the written and spoken word.
In the same breath I pay tribute to Chiwoniso Maraire, a Zimbabwean mbira songstress who passed away in July 2013. I appreciated her beautiful soul and inclusion of the traditional mbira instrument in her contemporary music . I was fortunate to meet her once at the Harare International Festival of the Arts and i still remember her gentle but confident demeanour and love for the arts.
The continued rise of African literature
I love to read and have taken delight in the rise of African literature this year. 2013 was a great year for African literature produced on the continent and in the diaspora. I read Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi earlier this year and it is one of the best book I have read in a while, combining truth and wit in a flowing story of joys and troubles. I recommend this book to everyone I see. The literary world also saw the emergence of newbies like No Violet Bulawayo with her book, We Need New Names, Taiye Selasi’s ‘Ghana Must Go’, and Tomorrow I’ll be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou.
2013 also saw many authors being recognised and honoured for their works. Nigerian-American Tope Folarin won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story Miracle. (I featured him in an article titled ‘Arty Picks’ that I wrote for AfroElle magazine in November. Link here : Afro Elle November Issue).
The Brunel University African Poetry Prize announced its first ever winner, Somali poet Warsan Shire. Mia Couto from Mozambique won the 2013 Camões Prize for Literature, an international award honouring the work of Portuguese language writers. NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names made it on to the prestigious Man Booker Prize 2013 shortlist. The same book has also been longlisted in the Etisalat Prize for African Literature.
International recognition gives visibility to African literature. Hopefully in the future years we can see some awards coming out of African institutions so these authors can be honoured on home soil too. An organisation that I have seen online promoting African literature is Golden Baobab based in Ghana
Movies and Films
2013 saw a number of films produced.Long Walk to Freedom which starred Idris Elba as Mandela premiered in South Africa on 28 November.. Breakout star from Kenya, Lupita Nyongo starred in 12 Years a Slave which got great reviews world wide.The movie adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun, the best selling epic by the multi award wining Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi-Adiche was released this year.The film featured Hollywood stars Thandie Newton and Chewitel Ejiofor as the lead characters and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival
Art and the Art World
Kenya’s first major auction of East African art was held this year. 47 works from 43 artists coming from 6 East African countries were on auction. The auction was hailed a huge success, with 90% of all pieces sold for a combined Ksh18.5 million ($216,000). East African artists like Michael Soi, Sane Wadu, Fitsum Berhe Woldelibanos all had their pieces up for grabs.
We also got word that South Africa’s first museum of contemporary African Art will be e built in Cape Townat the V&A Waterfront. This is exciting news to have an international cultural institution exhibiting contemporary Art from Africa and the diaspora.
I enjoyed seeing the work of various other artists like Wangechi Mutu and Antonio Olé.
2014 promises to be a great year for arts and culture. Looking forward to it!
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