Namibia’s first international literary festival a resounding success

The 2022 Doek Literary Festival, Namibia's first international literary festival, took place at the Goethe-Institut in Windhoek from Thursday, 21 until Saturday, 23 April 2022. In partnership with the University of East Anglia's (UEA) International Chair of Creative Writing (ICCW), and sponsored by Bank Windhoek, the three-day celebration of reading and writing brought lovers of literature together to take part in creative writing workshops and panel discussions.

With fiction in short and novel form, the festival was headlined by Tsitsi Dangarembga, an award-winning Zimbabwean author of Nervous Conditions, The Book of Not, and This Mournable Body. Her co-headliner, Zukiswa Wanner, was the first African woman to be awarded the Goethe Medal and the author of award-winning novels such as The Madams, Men of the South, and London Cape Town Joburg. Nigerian writer Femi Kayode, who won the UEA/Little Brown Award for his debut novel Lightseekers, and Jean McNeil, herself an award-winning author and Professor of Creative Writing at UEA, rounded up the festival's international guest list.

Namibian flavours for the festival's line-up were provided by the 2022-2023 Doek Collective, a diverse cohort of emerging Namibian writers whose works have been featured in Doek! Literary Magazine consisting of Charmaine //Gamxamus, Roxane Bayer, Kay-Leigh De Sousa, Ndawedwa Denga Hanghuwo, who won the inaugural fiction prize of the Bank Windhoek Doek Literary Awards in 2021, Katherine Hunter, Filemon Iiyambo, Dalene Kooper, and Ange Mucyo.

“This gathering of literature enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds, the first of its kind in Namibia, was inspiring and encouraging to aspiring and established storytellers from the country's young literary community," said Rémy Ngamije, Doek's founder and chairperson. “With Bank Windhoek's generous support, this exciting but complex festival's planning, organising, and hosting stages were smoothly executed and permitted. Without Bank Windhoek, it would not be possible for Namibia to join countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana, as a country capable of hosting prestigious literary events with national and international attendants and audiences."


Connecting positive change 

Dangarembga remarked that it was encouraging to see Bank Windhoek supporting such an initiative. “The arts are civic in nature and seeing a private institution like Bank Windhoek involved in this important project can only bode well for the country." Wanner added that literary festivals are important cultural events that provide readers and writers with means of encountering each other. “Festivals like Aké, in Lagos, Nigeria, are supported each year by a banking institution. In Namibia, this role has been taken on by Bank Windhoek - we would like to continue seeing this support for this festival becoming a staple of the African literary calendar."

Justice David Smuts, Doek's patron, also commended Bank Windhoek's generous support. “In a country like Namibia where the arts are under-resourced and under-valued, it is crucial that Bank Windhoek's support for the arts is acknowledged and commended. In supporting this festival and the Bank Windhoek Doek Literary Awards, they continue to make it possible for art and artists to flourish, two things that are essential for our young constitutional democracy."

Ngamije said the Doek Literary Festival provided fertile ground for conversations about the desperate need to nurture reading, hone one's writing craft, develop the necessary discipline and determination to pursue careers in the arts, and literary funding in Namibia. “One of the things this festival made clear, through the workshops and panel discussions, was that there is nothing wrong with Namibian literature - the issue lies in funding," said Rémy Ngamije. “Without the financial resources needed to create spaces for ideas and ideals to be exchanged, it is impossible to think about developing a literary culture or community. Bank Windhoek's support for the 2022 Doek Literary Festival permitted a platform for connection and positive change to be made, and its role in Namibia's literary present and future cannot be emphasised enough." The 2022 Doek Literary Festival media gallery will be available at in the coming days.

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