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City of Banjul
Friday, September 18, 2020

A unique new library for The Gambia – The African Poetry Library

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The Gambia is one of only five recipient countries on the continent to host a new African Poetry Library donated by the African Poetry Book Fund, a foundation to promote poetry in Africa, based at the University of Nebraska in the USA.

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The African Poetry Library – a Reading Library in The Gambia is thanks to the efforts of the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), Prairie Schooner, (the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s literary journal), and University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Libraries in conjunction with individuals and organisations in The Gambia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. 

The African Poetry Library Initiative is a collaborative venture to establish accessible and user friendly small poetry libraries on the African continent to support aspiring and established poets by giving them access to contemporary poetry in books and journals, and serving as a resource for poets interested in publication in Africa and around the world. Each library received 300 books, journals and magazines during the summer of 2014 and will receive a further 300 books journals and magazines in 2015 and again in 2016. 

The National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) has partnered on this prestigious project and are hosting the library at the Centre’s Office in Fajara, behind GT Bank. The caretaker organisations of the library are the African Homecomers Collective and SABLE LitMag who have negotiated the discussion with the AFPB to install and receive the Reading library which will be run by their volunteers.

Poet Kadija Sesay, a Sierra Leonean who founded Sable Litmag said:

“We would love people to come to the library and share ideas and suggestions to make the poetry library vibrant, so it can be used by the nation to help us bring more poetry to Gambian people, whether it is read in a book or performed on stage. We also want to develop and train young poets for tomorrow, to write and publish books and win international awards – it is all possible!”

There are plans in the short term to ensure that all published Gambian poets have their books in the library. 

Mr Hassoum Ceesay, NCAC, said: ‘The Poetry Library will build reading and writing skills of Gambians, and will also animate the NCAC offices at Fajara. This is indeed a wonderful development.”

The founder of the African poetry book fund, Professor Kwame Dawes, an award winning Ghanaian/ Jamaican poet said,

“Frankly, I believe every city should have its own poetry library.  The African Poetry Book Fund editors, having had a chance to read over a thousand manuscripts by African poets in our contest and through our submission system, agreed that one of the great needs that was apparent in the work we saw was access to contemporary poetry from around the world and from Africa.”

The key was finding partners in the different countries, partners willing to ‘own’ these libraries and do all the work on the ground to make the libraries work for the community.  Our task was to supply the libraries with the books and with logistical support and library consultation support.  

We expect to see these resource centres for poets as lively and engaging places for poets to be challenged and to strengthen their craft through what they read and what they learn in dialogue with other poets. “

A three-year plan is currently being devised by AHC and Sable LitMag to include a children’s poetry section as well as workshops and readings for youth and adults. A school outreach programme is being devised by the KAI Youth Movement.

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