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Chinua Achebe Center at Bard College and Chimurenga Launch "Pilgrimages" Project to Send 14 Writers to 14 Cities Across Africa

Mark Primoff
Chinua Achebe Center at Bard College and Chimurenga Launch "Pilgrimages" Project to Send 14 Writers to 14 Cities Across Africa

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— “Pilgrimages,” a new project of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College and Chimurenga, 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 the same time, 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 and 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 web site ( 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 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 the 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 participating 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).

“I cannot think of a more exciting literary adventure, a more exciting collection of African writers, a better way to pay homage to these great cities, a better place to be watching the World Cup,” says Binyavanga Wainaina, director of the Achebe Center. “Travel writing about Africa will never be the same again.”

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 in Cape Town or e-mail


The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists was established in 2005 to further the legacy of Chinua Achebe, Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature. Dr. Jesse Shipley was its founding director. The center seeks to create dynamic projects for the most talented of a new generation of writers and artists of African origin, wherever they may be. We are based at Bard College, and operate all over the continent of Africa—all over the world when necessary—always looking for new literary adventures, always creating exciting possibilities, always driven to create new platforms and interactions for exciting writers and artists to collaborate and produce. Pilgrimages is the first major project of the newly reopened Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists. We conceived of the concept, fundraised for it, and built partnerships and collaborations to make it work.


Chimurenga (Cape Town), a nonprofit 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 ( and through themed performances called “Chimurenga Sessions.” Other Chimurenga projects include “Chimurenganyana,” a pavement literature project consisting of low-cost monographs culled from the journal; “Chimurenga Library” (, an online archiving project that profiles independent pan-African paper periodicals from around the world; “African Cities Reader” (, an annual compendium of writing and art on African cities; and “Pan-African Space Station” (, a live music and radio intervention in Cape Town. 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.






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This event was last updated on 06-24-2010