Yari Yari Ntoaso: Continuing the Dialogue

Mbaasem Foundation hosted an international conference on Literature; Yari Yari Ntoaso: Continuing the dialogue – An International Conference on Literature By Women of African Ancestry.

This conference took place from May 16, 2013- May 19, 2013 at the Ghana’s College of Physicians and surgeons in Accra. and was sponsored by the Organization of Women Writers of Africa (OWWA) and New York University (NYU) with Spanish Fundación Mujeres por África (Women for Africa Foundation).

The Local organizations that participated in this gathering included the Pan-African Writers Association, the Ghana Association of Writers, and the Writers Project of Ghana.

The conference brought together writers, critics, readers and the general public from across Africa, the USA and the Caribbean in dialogue with each other over the issues, current state, future prospects and challenges facing women writers specifically and writers in general.

Yari means “the future” in the Kuranko language of Sierra Leone;   Ntoaso means “understanding” and “agreement” in the Akan language of Ghana. Fifteen years after OWWA’s first major conference, Yari Yari Ntoaso continues the dialogue of previous Yari Yari gatherings, connecting writers, scholars, and readers.

History of Yari Yari

OWWA held the first conference, Yari Yari:  Black Women Writers and the Future in 1997 and the second Yari Yari Pamberi: Black Women Writers & Globalization in 2004.  The conference were the largest events of their kind, putting hundreds of women writers and scholars of African descent in dialogue with thousands of people and resulting in two award-winning documentaries

Why now?

So far, the 21st century has witnessed the creation or reestablishment of women’s and writers’ organizations throughout Africa and its Diaspora. Often these organizations both support and are staffed by emerging writers or those whose writing has yet to receive international recognition. Yari Yari Ntoaso marks this moment and provides an opportunity for these organizations, as well as individual writers and scholars, to share information and to build international networks.

Structure and Highlights of Conference

On this platform, established Ghanaian writers and scholars like Ama Ata Aidoo, Amma Darko, Ruby Goka, Mamle Kabu, Esi Sutherland-Addy and Margare Busby among others spoke about their work on topics ranging from identity, to the craft of writing, to literary activism. These authors were joined by other well-known writers such as: Angela Davis (USA), Tess Onwueme (Nigeria), Natalia Molebatsi (South Africa), Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (Puerto Rico), Sapphire (USA), Veronique Tadjo (Côte d’Ivoire), Evelyne Trouillot (Haiti) among others.

The four-day conference consisted of panels, readings, performances, and workshops, and was devoted to the study, evaluation, and celebration of the creativity and diversity of women writers of African descent. An entire panel was devoted to Ghanaian Literature. There was also a Saturday morning  “Storytime” for children.

Conference attendees included literary experts and scholars, writers, poets, publishers, secondary and tertiary students, teachers, readers and the general public. The conference was streamed online for the benefit of those who for one reason or the other were unable to attend physically.  The streaming channel was available for viewers in Ghana and other parts of the world.

The conference provided the opportunity for the exchange of cultural expression and ideas, a platform for encouragement, support, and promotion of the works of young writers and a showcase and exhibition space for publications among others.

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