African arts, culture + politics

Voices in exile

Razak

(ARISE magazine, issue 12) The concept of ‘home’ can provoke feelings of displacement and guilt in many migrants. The Last Gift, a new book by Zanzibar-born author Abdulrazak Gurnah, explores this issue through the tale of Abbas, a migrant father struggling to hide his past from his English-born children.

Migration, post-colonialism and identity are recurring themes in Gurnah’s books. They’re also matters of personal interest; Gurnah was forced to flee Zanzibar, aged 18, after a bloody revolution in 1964. It was 17 years before Gurnah was able to return, following an amnesty. “Being away has a guilt to it: you’re out of touch, you can’t help people. Going back was terrific because you are able to renew things.”

Gurnah, professor of English at the University of Kent, now visits Zanzibar regularly. But his past is never far from his mind – or books. “I often have characters thinking back to other times. Many people who live this migrant life live both in reality and in their imagination.”

The Last Gift [Bloomsbury], out May

African arts, culture + politics

Out of this world

sansa

(ARISE magazine, issue 12) It’s one small step for man, but for South Africa the launch of its own space agency is a giant leap, uniting the country’s fragmented space organisations that have been surveying the universe for 50 years.
The new South African Space Agency (SANSA) is not the first of its kind in Africa – there are others in Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria – yet its ambitions are just as stellar.
At the official launch in December, the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, declared: “Our medium-term goal is for our country to have a fully operational space programme within the next five years, and to be globally positioned within ten.”
The new space agency, set to start operations on April 1, will bring together existing space bodies such
as the prominent Satellite Applications Centre in Hartebeeshoek, and focus its expertise into six key areas: earth observation, space operations, space science, space engineering, human capital development and science advancement.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic as Pandor, with critics objecting to its estimated first-year budget of R400-500m, which they argue would be better spent on alleviating South Africa’s continued healthcare and poverty concerns. However supporters argue the space agency will help do both. At the launch, Pandor declared: “Our efforts in enhancing space science and technology will also assist in addressing the persistent challenges of healthcare provision, water resources, agricultural mapping, urban planning and communications.”

As well as launching SANSA, South Africa is vying with Australia to host the world’s most powerful radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array. And with a number of key space projects already under its belt, such as the microsatellite SumbandilaSat, South Africa has a good chance of success.

http://www.sansa.org.za

African arts, culture + politics

The Write Stuff: Kwani Trust

kwani

(ARISE magazine, issue 9) Nairobi’s literary scene is buzzing, and much of the excitement can be attributed to Kwani Trust – a local, literary network and publisher.

Kwani Trust began as an informal group for local writers who had returned to Kenya after years abroad and were looking for a platform to showcase their work. “We returned from Canada, the US and South Africa to find the same African Writers Series books we’d grown up reading [still] on the shelves,” recalls author and Kwani Trust managing editor Billy Kahora.
Determined to move beyond post-independence issues, the group set about championing writing that
dealt with modern issues, such as changing generations, insecurity and HIV/Aids. Their project gradually gathered steam and, in 2003, was officially launched as Kwani Trust.
Since then, the group has published journals and books, mostly by Kenyan writers. About half of the contributions are local, the rest come from across Africa and the diaspora. The Trust also holds poetry readings and a book festival. Later this month they’ll publish three books – a reissue of The Stone Hills Of Maragoli by Stanley Gazemba, Tale of Kasaya: Let Us Now Praise A Famous Woman by Eva Kasaya with Jackie Lebo and Cock Thief by Parselelo Kantai – as well as a poetry anthology. And later this year they will publish Kwani 6, a short-fiction anthology of young African writers, as well as a graphic novel and a visual, collaborative narrative of Nairobi. South Africa and Nigeria may have spearheaded the continent’s literary revolution, but in Kenya the writing’s on the page – not the wall.

www.kwani.org