Swahili Lit Fest 2021: Celebrating Women

From celebrating achievement [2019] to Identity Politics [2020], the 3rd edition of the annual Swahili Literary Festival will explore Woman and her immense role in Swahili Heritage exemplified in traditional and modern practicesThis is a welcome addition to the ongoing conversations and the situated politics of belonging that cannot be concluded in one or two editions of the festival.

Identity is a theme that will continuously come up in future installments as diametrical assumptions from the underlying question- Je, Waswahili ni Nani?- one question with multiple answers. One question that somehow takes the seeker and the sought-after, on a spiraling search that leads to more questions…

Sisi ni na?

Tulitoka wa?

Twenda wa?

This edition primarily seeks to celebrate Woman in the Swahili coast across space and time in classical and contemporary spaces. Woman has been the source of knowledge. Woman has been the propagator of culture. Woman has been the integral sum total of pearls in the necklace holding society together. Above all, Woman has been and will always be the source of life, the single most important bud from which Nation springs from. Woman then, is equal to Nation and the latter is obsolete, non-existent without the former.

We celebrate Woman in her unique strength, Woman in her sacrifice, Woman in her depth of thought, Woman in her state of being forgotten, and from this forgetfulness we celebrate Woman for her selflessness, her intuition, instincts. We celebrate Woman of yester centuries- she, them who took up arms to defend our Pwani, she, her who schooled us before school, Woman of the 21st– she who has cemented her place firmly in society, they who have abolished patriarchal schools of thought. Woman of tomorrow and centuries to come.

Discourses will vary from the role of iconic women in the Swahili coast to the place of Woman in contemporary literature. From conversation with young women in the Swahili coast whose works have received global appreciation to explorative talks on the propulsive nature of women-specific spaces like vugo and their active role in literature.

This edition also travels virtually across borders, largely prompted by the global appreciation of Kiswahili, one language- our language- exhibiting the dynamics of linguistic excellence. We will be engaging in literary translation discourses that will open our work in Kiswahili for further translations and global readership. Na muhimu Zaidi, we are looking at ways the festival can exist and take shape in multiple spaces beyond its birthplace. How can we have the same in Lamu, in Kilwa, Zanzibar, Pemba, other coastal towns? How can we make the festival as inclusive and accommodating as the culture it seeks to celebrate and preserve?



Kilwa, Lamu. Mombasa, Swahili Literary Festival, translations, Zanzibar

Hekaya Initiative

Writing the East African Coast.

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