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Pilgrimages: 14 African writers to explore the complexities of disparate urban landscapes of 13 African cities and Salvador in Brazil

PILGRIMAGES, a creation of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College and Chimurenga Magazine, will send 14 African writers to 13 African cities and one city in Brazil, for two weeks to explore the complexities of disparate urban landscapes. The writers will create 13 nonfiction travel-writing books - as well as a featured blog - about their trips that will capture each city as South Africa hosts Africa’s first World Cup. 

At a time when the continent will be on display, to itself and to the world, to a greater degree than at any time since independence, the 13 collected books are intended to prompt a shift in the focus of African reportage. They will comprise the “Pilgrimages” book series, to be published simultaneously in Lagos, Nairobi, and Cape Town during the 2012 African Cup of Nations football tournament.
The Pilgrimages website (www.pilgrimages.org.za) presents blogs, videos and other content from the 14 pilgrims as well as essays from other prominent writers, bloggers and commentators such as Achille Mbembe and Grant Farred. The website will also invite contributions—short essays, letters of support, grammar school football tales, travel pieces—from the general public.

Together, the “Pilgrimages” book series and a website will be the most significant single addition to the continent’s archive of literary knowledge since the launch of the Heinemann African Writers Series in 1962.

“These talented writers are about to embark on 14 wholly different and fascinating itineraries, from exploring ancient scrolls in Timbuktu, to the Anglican Church in Uganda, to Somaliland’s elections, to name a few,” says Tom Burke, the Achebe Center program manager. “It is a landmark project, and our partners—large and small—across the continent have lent enthusiasm and support. It’s an exciting time to watch these pilgrimages unfold, and it will be quite something to read these books once their pages are written.”

The 14 writers that will participate in the “Pilgrimages” project and the cities they will visit are:

  • Chris Abani (Johannesburg, South Africa);
  • Doreen Baingana (Hargeisa, Somaliland);
  • Uzodinma Iweala (Timbuktu, Mali);
  • Funmi Iyanda  (Durban, South Africa);
  • Billy Kahora (Luanda, Angola);
  • Kojo Laing (Cape Town, South Africa);
  • Victor LaValle (Kampala, Uganda);
  • Alain Mabanckou (Lagos, Nigeria);
  • Nimco Mahamud Hassan (Khartoum, Sudan);
  • Akenji Ndumu (Abidjan, Ivory Coast);
  • Yvonne Owuor (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo);
  • Nicole Turner (Nairobi, Kenya);
  • Abdourahman A. Waberi (Salvador, Brazil); and
  • Binyavanga Wainaina (Touba, Senegal).

tel: +27 (0) 21 422 4168
cell: +27 (0) 72 239 5945
fax: +27 21 424 1673

postal address: PO Box 15117, Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa
physical address: Room 303, Pan African Market, 76 Long Street, Cape Town, South Africa

The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists was established in 2005 to use the legacy of Chinua Achebe, Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature, to serve the future of global Africana arts. Among its goals are to become a center of excellence for the teaching of African literature; to support a new generation of African writers; and to encourage literary/cultural entrepreneurship. Undergraduate students at Bard may participate in numerous Center projects, including facilitating events featuring visiting writers, artists, and scholars; helping with all aspects of book and chapbook editing and publication; and working with writer/artist residency projects and a new creative writing program.

For more information about the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College and the “Pilgrimages” project, please contact Tom Burke at +27 (0) 765170589 or tburke@bard.edu.


Chimurenga (Cape Town), a non-profit publication of writing, art and politics has been in print since March 2002. The journal is published on the page twice per year, online monthly (www.chimurenga.co.za) and through themed performances called “Chimurenga Sessions”. Other Chimurenga projects include “Chimurenganyana,” a pavement literature project consisting of low cost monographs; “Chimurenga Library” (chimurengalibrary.co.za), an online archiving project that profiles independent pan African paper periodicals from around the world; “African Cities Reader” (africancitiesreader.org.za), an annual compendium of writing and art on African cities; and “Pan African Space Station” (panafricanspacestation.org.za), a music intervention in Cape Town and cyberspace.

Founded and edited by Ntone Edjabe, Chimurenga has featured work by emerging as well as established voices including Njabulo Ndebele, Lesego Rampolokeng, Santu Mofokeng, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Gael Reagon, Binyavanga Wainaina, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Amitav Ghosh, Boubacar Boris Diop, Dominique Malaquais, Goddy Leye, Mahmood Mamdani, Jorge Matine, Akin Adesokan, Greg Tate, and many more.

For more information about Chimurenga Magazine, please visit www.chimurenga.co.za

AfricAvenir provided support for the Pilgrimage to Touba.

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