International Chair of Creative Writing
Home to the UK’s first Creative Writing MA, UEA has been at the forefront of pioneering excellence in creative writing for the past half a century. To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the MA in 2020, we announced that in 2021-22 internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean novelist, playwright and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga would become our inaugural International Chair of Creative Writing.
Tsitsi Dangarembga’s most recent novel, This Mournable Body, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020, and in 2021 she received the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.
The position also encompasses a new scholarship programme, ‘Global Voices’, that is nurturing the next generation of international talent. The inaugural year has been fully funded by one generous philanthropist who has a passion for championing global voices and supporting emerging new writers.
Supported by UEA colleagues, Tsitsi delivered an ambitious programme of literary events, classes and workshops across the African continent and in the UK during 2021-22. These events were co-curated with Prof Jean McNeil, author and Director of Creative Writing at UEA.
In 2021 she was present at UEA to meet with current creative writing students and discuss her work. Tsitsi met with the MA Prose students to discuss her pathbreaking trilogy of novels, gave a masterclass to the students on the MA Scriptwriting, and spoke with staff and students at all levels of study at an open meeting as part of the Decolonising the Curriculum project in Literature, Drama and Creative Writing.
An interdisciplinary event with Prof Christie Watson took place at The Enterprise Centre, UEA, where both explored how art, stories and drama yield new ways of understanding ourselves, individually and collectively. Prof Watson is an award-winning, bestselling writer. She was a nurse for twenty years and is currently Professor of Medical and Health Humanities at UEA.
Tsitsi also met with the first intake of ‘Global Voices’ scholars who have begun their studies at UEA, as well as with students from East Norfolk Sixth Form College who participated in a nature writing programme at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, and took part in an event with editor, critic and broadcaster Ellah Allfrey at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich.
Workshops and Events Across Africa
Playwright Mentorship Programme
12-13 September 2022, Harare, Zimbabwe
In collaboration with the Zimbabwe Theatre Academy Trust we developed a mentorship programme for 13 new and emerging dramatists, whose work was performed at the REPS Theatre in Harare, Zimbabwe in September 2022. Writers and academics including Prof Jean McNeil and Dr Solá Adeyemi worked with the playwrights in the build up to and after the performances.
The Zimbabwe Theatre Academy Trust has just received the 31st annual Prize of Hope from Aesen Theatre and Dell’Arte International – the prestigious annual prize is awarded to individuals or theatre companies who have worked for the hope of humankind through their work.
Workshops and events at the Gaborone Book Festival
15-17 September 2022, Gaborone, Botswana
Co-directed by Keikantse and Kenanao Phele
UEA partnered with the Gaborone Book Festival, Botswana’s foremost literature festival, to host writing workshops, readings and public events which celebrated and highlighted the work of writers from Botswana. Our activities focused on writing for children, writing history, and workshops that explored how to get work published. In the run up to the Festival we worked with writer Bonty Botumile to deliver a workshop in Maun in northern Botswana and a workshop on writing for children in Gaborone.
The Doek Literary Festival
21-23 April 2022, Windhoek, Namibia
Festival Director: Rémy Ngamije
The Namibian literary and arts organisation Doek worked with UEA to host an exciting new festival of literature in Namibia, in partnership with the Goethe-Institut, Germany’s not-for-profit cultural association. The festival, a celebration of Namibian and African literature connected Namibian readers and writers with their counterparts across the rest of Africa and the African diaspora, with the will to nurture new writing in Namibia, providing a creative and immersive space. The festival consisted of a series of workshops, public readings and cultural events that featured Tsitsi Dangarembga, along with fellow writers including Zukiswa Wanner, Femi Kayode and Troy Onyango.
A Short Story Workshop led by Dr Atuki Turner
2-5 May 2022, Kampala, Uganda
This two-day short story workshop in Kampala gave 20 emerging writers the opportunity to develop their writing technique in the short story form. The workshop nurtured talented writers and their work by facilitating the development ideas for new short stories from inception until the completion of a first draft. Poet, author and activist Dr Atuki Turner was joined by Doreen Baingana, author of the short story collection Tropical Fish, which won the Grace Paley Award for Short Fiction in 2003 and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Africa Region) in 2006.
A Bilingual Short Story Masterclass: English and Kiswahili
4-9 July 2022, Nairobi, Kenya
The International Chair of Creative Writing Nairobi workshop took place at the United Kenya Club and brought together 13 writers selected through a competitive application process. The writers are from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and are writing short stories in Kiswahili and English. The residential workshop was taught by renowned writers and facilitators Zukiswa Wanner (English) and Elias Mutani (Kiswahili). As far as we know creative writing in English and Swahili have never been taught in the same group and event before.
Tsitsi Dangarembga and Jean McNeil also gave masterclasses during the week. The workshop culminated in a sold-out performance based on Dangarembga's important novel Nervous Conditions, held at Cheche Books, a local independent bookshop, that was attended by the general public, journalists and staff from the British Council and the Goethe-Institut. The British Council also hosted a dinner for the facilitators and for local literary figures.
Two anthologies of short stories were produced after the workshop - one in Kiswahili and one in English, with stories written in either language translated into the other.
Solá Adeyemi is a Lecturer in Drama in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, UEA. As a theatre director and playwright, Sola is part of the mentorship programme for Zimbabwe Theatre Academy Trust, led by Prof Jean McNeil, to develop practical playwriting skills for new and emerging playwrights in Zimbabwe.
Elias Mutani is a two-time Burt Award winner for his Young Adult fiction titles: Human Poachers and The Wanderer and the Golden Paper Knife. He is also a translator and has been part of the Swahili-English translation team for the Commonwealth Foundation and the Caine Prize.
He is a member of the selection committee for the Kiswahili chapter of the UN SDG African Book Club and was a juror in the Kalahari short story competition for African writers using Kiswahili, French or English. He was facilitator, editor and translator for the Afro Young Adult project by the Goethe-Institut, which aimed to discover new talents in young adult fiction across Africa. He founded and co-ordinates the Right to Read Initiative, an agency for cultural development through creative writing in Tanzania.
Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and ‘artministrator’ of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia and the editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary journal.
His debut novel The Eternal Audience of One was first published in South Africa by Blackbird Books and is available worldwide from Scout Press; it was honoured with a Special Mention at the inaugural Grand Prix Panafricain de Littérature in 2022. He was the Africa winner of the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and has been shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing and the Afritondo Short Story Prize.
His work has appeared in Granta, One Story, Lolwe, LitHub, The Johannesburg Review of Books, American Chordata, Columbia Journal, New Contrast, Necessary Fiction and Hypertext Magazine amongst others.
Keikantse Phele is a co-founder and Curator of the Gaborone Book Festival - the only existing literature festival in Botswana - which has been running since 2018.
The curators use the platform to also celebrate and highlight the literary works of Batswana authors who are largely unknown and Keikantse is the Programme Coordinator of the Children’s Programme, a flagship strand that promotes reading in public primary schools. She is also a human rights lawyer and a researcher and holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Botswana and a Master of Laws (LLM) in Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa from the University of Pretoria.
Keikantse is a 2018 alumna of the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship. As part of the Fellowship, she was a Legal Fellow at the Brooklyn Defender Services in New York. Her areas of expertise are women’s rights, public interest litigation, HIV and the law, LGBTIQ rights and indigenous rights. She has worked in civil society organizations in Botswana and internationally and is an educator and is a part-time lecturer at a local college.
Kenanao Phele is a co-founder and Curator of the Gaborone Book Festival - the only existing literature festival in Botswana - which has been running since 2018. The curators use the platform to also celebrate and highlight the literary works of Batswana authors who are largely unknown.
Apart from running the book festival, Kenanao is a highly experienced marketing and communications specialist. She is studying for a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship.
Atuki Turner is a women’s rights activist, with a legal background, who has employed her skills and expertise to work to end violence against women and children both nationally and internationally. She is well known for her campaign against Bride Price, which secured a landmark ruling when the Supreme Court of Uganda outlawed Bride Price refunds, which required the refund of the Bride Price on the dissolution of customary marriages.
Her 2015 doctoral study on ‘Bride Price and Literary Activism in Uganda’, demonstrates how storytelling is linked to social and political action. She is the Executive Director of MIFUMI, a Women’s rights and development agency that she co-founded in 1995; and is a published poet, winner of a short story competition in the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. She is currently writing her second novel which explores the issue of Bride Price.
Zukiswa Wanner is the author of four novels, three children’s books and two books of non-fiction. Together with Elias Mutani and Renee Edwige Dro, she administered and edited the Goethe-Institut funded Afro Young Adult project which led to the publication of anthologies in English, French and Kiswahili.
As a publisher, she has published authors including Kenya’s Mukoma wa Ngugi, Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang from South Africa and Angolan Yara Nakahanda Monteiro. She founded and curated the virtual literary festival Afrolit Sans Frontieres and is currently working on Virtually Yours, an online discussion series exploring contemporary African literature. She has facilitated writing Masterclasses for Femrite, Lolwe, Writers’ Inc and the Caine Prize Workshop.
A 2020 Goethe Medalist, she has been a juror for Etisalat Prize for Literature, the Commonwealth Prize and the inaugural Grand Prix Panafricain de Littérature.
The position of International Chair has been created through the power of philanthropy, and with further philanthropic support we hope to invite four more Chairs and 40 more scholarship students from other regions to help shape literature around the world for the next 50 years. Like Tsitsi, each Chair will have a year-long remit to help find, nurture and promote emerging new writers in their region. The ambition is to run the programme over five years, in four more regions - Asia, Australasia, the Americas and the Middle East.