Finally, the 2009 Cadbury Conference, at the Center of West African Studies, University of Birmingham. This years theme: OHUN TITUN: New Directions in African and Carribean Writing.
The last two days have been a pleasant blur of faces, names, panel discussions, metaphors, sharptongued&sharpedged poetic images, infectious laughter, “quarrellings”, oversized sandwiches, intimidating (dinner) “starters” and so on and so forth.
There were 5 panels at the conference:
Post-war Sierra Leonean Literature: What role for writers? – Jo Skelt (Chair), Oumar Farouk Sesay, Delia Jarrett-Macauley and Syl Cheney-Coker
‘I see these islands and I feel to bawl….’ Caribbean Poetry Now? – Stewart Brown (Chair), Christian Campbell, Ian Dieffenthaller and Vahni Capildeo
Publishers panel: What role for books and publishers in 21st century African and Caribbean Literature – Toby Green(Chair), Becky Ayebia Clarke [Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd – England], Jeremy Poynting [Peepal Tree Press – England], Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, [Cassava Republic Press – Nigeria]
The Internet and new writers from Africa – Shola Adenekan (Chair), Tolu Ogunlesi, Muthoni Garland, Uchenna Izundu, Anietie Isong
Writers from the Dominican Republic: Conversations on Nation, Exile and Diaspora – Conrad James (Chair), Néstor Rodríguez, Norberto James Rawling, Josefina Baez
And a lot of poetry readings showcasing a diverse range of poetic voices and themes and styles. It’s been great fun meeting loads of very interesting people – publishers, writers, academics, (many are combinations of two or more of the above-mentioned), and getting introduced to the work of many writers whose work I might ordinarily not have come across.
Uchenna Izundu read (brilliantly I must say) from her very funny story God No Go Vex (in the anthology Fathers & Daughters, edited by Ato Quayson), narrated in Nigerian/pidgin English. It was my first encounter with her fiction, and I sure will look out for more. And Muthoni Garland‘s poems – about learning English as a school girl in decades-ago Kenya, and about the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS were vivid and by turns sad and hilarious, as well as deeply thought-provoking.
I’m off to the Hay Festival (Hay-on-Wye, Wales) next week… I wonder if they’d do to me what Nigerian churches do to first time congregants…
“If this is your first time at the Hay Festival, kindly rise up on your feet… The Muse bless you as you do so… our ushers will hand out keys to your first-class accommodation, as well as a basket of amazing books… we hope you will come again…”