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Writivism 2016: Sussex nurturing Africa's future writers

Dr John Masterson, Lecturer in World Literatures in the School of English, visited Kampala, Uganda for the fourth annual Writivism Festival in August.

Laure Gnagbé Blédou (Cote d’Ivoire), author of ‘Je ne suis pas rentree’, with John MastersonLaure Gnagbé Blédou (Cote d’Ivoire), author of ‘Je ne suis pas rentree’, with John Masterson

The shortlisted writers for the Sussex sponsored short story prize. L-R: Aito Osemegbe Joseph, Acan Innocent Immaculate, Gloria Mwaniga Minage, Laure Gnagbé Blédou and Abu AmirahThe shortlisted writers for the Sussex sponsored short story prize. L-R: Aito Osemegbe Joseph, Acan Innocent Immaculate, Gloria Mwaniga Minage, Laure Gnagbé Blédou and Abu Amirah

Writivism is a pan-African initiative designed to seek out and nurture emerging literary talent across the continent. The School of English, Sussex Africa Centre and International Office at Sussex was an official funding and programme partner for Writivism 2016.

In addition to the sponsorship of the Short Story Prize, Sussex also supports such initiatives as the #WritingGamesNG in partnership with Goal.com to show how writing and sports can promote individual and national development - and the University of Sussex/Uniserv Education Write With Sussex Competition, where students at Kenyan independent high-schools were invited to compose pieces addressing the value of an international education.

During his time in Kampala, Dr Masterson took part in an academic panel at Writivism dedicated to the topic ‘what does it mean to teach African literature?’ alongside scholars from Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Sudan, amongst other African countries, as well as Europe and North America.

He also accompanied a number of the creative writers involved in Writivism, including the shortlisted authors for the Sussex-sponsored prize, in visiting local secondary schools to engage with students and teachers about the importance of reading and writing; and to learn about the particular challenges they face in a context where access to books, let alone further education, can be limited. 

Talking about his time in Uganda, Masterson said: “From students and staff to creative writers and academics, I learned a great deal over the course of my Writivism week. 

"It is heartening to see the University directly engaging with issues and practices around critical and creative literacy on the African continent, and I look forward to continuing work with colleagues in Africa and closer to home on similarly stimulating projects in the future.”

Five writers from across the continent were shortlisted for the Sussex-sponsored Writivism 2016 short story prize: Gloria Mwaniga Minage and Abu Amirah from Kenya, Nigerian author Aito Osemegbe Joseph, Acan Innocent Immaculate of Uganda and Laure Gnagbé Blédou from Cote d’Ivoire.

The prize was won by Innocent Immaculate Acan for ‘SunDown’, a speculative fiction imagining what mid-21st century Uganda might look like. She received a prize of $500 and will take up a one month residency at the University of Stellenbosch.

All five stories have been published by Munyori Literary Journal and are due to appear in the Writivism 2016 anthology. 

While in Kampala, Masterson also met and interviewed the award-winning journalist and novelist Michela Wrong who attended Writivism in her capacity as literary director of the Miles Morland Foundation, which offers funding support to a host of cultural initiatives across the continent. 

Wrong’s debut novel, Borderlines, was published in 2015 and she will be in conversation with Masterson when she visits Sussex on Thursday 29 September, an event co-sponsored by the School of English and the Sussex Africa Centre. 

For more information on the initiative and how to get involved, please visit www.writivism.org or www.writivism.com. If you're interested in finding out more about the University’s activities in Africa please contact Senior International Officer, Tosin Adebisi or Director of the Sussex Africa Centre, JoAnn McGregor.