The NeMLiA project began in Spring 2010 as a collaborative research initiative by five IU African Studies faculty–Akin Adesokan (Comparative Literature), Beth Buggenhagen (Anthropology), Marion Frank-Wilson (Library Sciences), Maria Grosz-Ngaté (African Studies & Anthropology), and Marissa Moorman (History). It envisions a process of exchanges between scholars, librarians, and curators at Indiana University and publishers, writers, filmmakers, editors, academics, agents, and fair or festival directors in select African countries with the long-term goal of participating in the creation of sustainable institutions through which these cultural forms are disseminated.
Our focus questions include: Who owns the cultural institutions including literary magazines, small publishing houses, book fairs, and film festivals springing up in cities such as Cape Town, Lagos, Nairobi, Luanda, and Dakar? What are the connections between these institutional forms and the legal dimensions of their content as films, books, and magazine articles? What is the status of ownership, access, and fair use when new media and practices of cultural dissemination develop from the peculiar nature of global circulation of ideas and images, which trumps most conventional ideas of intellectual property?
In the past decade, there has been a noticeable growth of literary magazines, publishing houses, book fairs, and film festivals, and other cultural activities in different African countries. The range and quality of these initiatives are impressive. Since 1999, the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA, a group of dedicated cultural enthusiasts in Lagos, has organized the annual Lagos Book & Art Festival, innovatively bringing several publics together through panels, book exhibits, children’s literature workshops, publishers’ discussion cycles, and theme-based discussion of books drawn from Nigeria and other parts of the world.
In 2009, the same group organized a hugely successful Hip-Hop Symposium in Lagos, weeks before a similar but less diverse event took place in New York. Based in Cape Town, Chimurenga is a self-funded bi-annual magazine which has continued to break new ground through its unconventional mix of global politics, cultures of entertainment, and literary avant-garde.
In Nairobi, a group of writers has, since 2002, sustained an influential online literary journal, Kwani?, founded by the award-winning writer Wainana Binyavanga.
Apart from its remarkable history of Portuguese-language publishing, Luanda is now home to practices of experimental filmmaking that are quite popular in the region.
In Nigeria, home to the cinematic phenomenon called “Nollywood” (the second largest film industry in the world), within the past six years, three innovative publishing houses (Farafina Books, Cassava Republic, and Bookcraft) have emerged to dedicate their energies to publishing new writings in different genres, and in Dakar, Wolof-language publishing of newspapers, novellas, and political comics have been flourishing for some time, pointing to ideas of self-understanding that are in keeping with recent changes across the continent.
Since 1990 Dakar has also hosted Dak’art, the Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain featuring artists from across the continent working in various media, including photography, and which has taken place in conjunction with the showing of films produced on the continent.