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 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 will present blogs, videos and other content from the 14 pilgrims as well as essays from other prominent writers, bloggers and commentators such as Achille Mbembe andGrant 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).