Pen Pen Residency: Kenya, East Africa│Funmi Richards

Pen Pen Africa residents
Cross section of Pen Pen Africa residents

Pen Pen Africa sets sail in Kenya with six residents. The Pen Pen Africa project founded by the African Writers Development Trust began the second half of its two-part residency in Kenya on the 1st of March. The first half of the two-part residency, which held in Abuja, Nigeria boasted 6 residents; one each from The Gambia, Cameroun, Ghana, Cote D’ Ivoire and two from Nigeria to represent the West and Central African Region.

The second half of the residency is focused on the Eastern and Southern Africa regions with residents:  Dismas Okombo – Kenya; Fiske Serah Nyirongo – Zambia; Hassan Kassim – Kenya; Patrick Nzabonimpa – Rwanda; Esther Musembi – Kenya; and Rachael Twinomugisha – Uganda.

The project implemented in partnership with the Writers Guild Kenya is funded by Culture at Work Africa and co-funded by the European Union. The residency in Abuja held a closing ceremony at the end of the first half of its two-part residency. The ceremony had people from quite a few media houses in attendance and allowed the participants to share bits of their journey to writing, the lessons they had learned in residence and what they intend to do in partnership with African Writers Development Trust going forward.

Pen Pen Africa resident
A Pen Pen Africa resident

Interestingly, the African Writers Development Trust began some three or so years ago as a WhatsApp group Writers Space Africa (WSA). At the time, Anthony Onugba, a Nigerian author, poet and founder of the initiative hoped to bring writers of African descent together in one place where they could learn and grow together as a family. The platform which is now three years old hosts about 200 people from Tanzania, Cote D’ Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria and almost all countries in Africa.  It has evolved into one of Africa’s finest, yearly writers residency programs and conference – held in Abuja, 2018; Kenya, 2019 and slated for Tanzania in October this year.

A Pen Pen Africa resident
A Pen Pen Africa resident working on a piece

The Pen Pen Africa is a testament that African literature has come a long way since Amos Tutuola’s Palm Wine Drinkard which critics believe to be Nigeria’s first novel. It has also proven to be the right kind of platform for writers to meet, network, discuss their works and help chant development and growth in the art of literature. 

Lake Adedamola is a poet, writer, and editor with Nantygreens, who's worked with several other literary blogs including Brittle Paper. He has, since 2018, served in various capacities on the Lagos International Poetry Festival, LIPFest, team.

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