In the chorus of Legacy, Jay Z, raps, “Legacy, Legacy, Legacy, Legacy / Black excellence baby, you gon’ let ’em see”. Before Jay Z’s song, there was Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi‘s Kintu (2014), which goes 250 years into history to trace an inter-generational family curse. In 2016, Yaa Gyasi published Homegoing, which also goes back centuries to trace the separation of a family, whose descendants we follow in contemporary times. More African writers are publishing historical fiction, from Peter Kimani’s Dance of the Jakaranda, Irenosen Okojie’s Butterfly Fish, Harruna Ayesha Attah’s The Hundred Wells of Salaga, Leila Aboulela’s The Kindness of Enemies, to Fred Khumalo’s Dancing the Death Drill among others.
The excavation of history enables us to see the legacies we have inherited, and to consider what legacies we leave for the future. Is it Jay Z’s “Black excellence”? For Fred Khumalo, “what we call ‘history’ is not a thing, an object of study, but a story we choose to tell.” At the 2018 Writivism Festival, we are exploring legacies. We start with the premise that representations of the past within fiction, non fiction, drama, film, poetry, photography, music, dance, and art are a site of contestation that entails deconstruction and reconstruction of the past.
Over three days of the sixth Annual Writivism Festival, we considered how the past is remembered, negotiated and adapted to inform the present and future through among others, book launches, panel discussions, keynote addresses, poetry and music performances, visual arts and photography exhibitions, poetry and so on.