How coronavirus has affected literary events across the world

Convener Lola Shoneyin, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, others during the 2018 Ake Arts and Book festival
Convener Lola Shoneyin, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, others during the 2018 Ake Arts and Book festival

As countries across the globe take measures to checkmate the spread of coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, Bookshelf takes a look at how its spread is affecting and may affect literary events.

This week, the 46th African Literature Association (ALA) 2020 Conference, scheduled to hold in Washington D.C. from May 27 to June 1, was cancelled over Coronavirus concerns.

In a release signed by Ann Elizabeth Willey, President, ALA and professor of English, University of Louisville, United States, the association said, given the current crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Executive Council had decided “against anyone’s best interest to try to proceed with a gathering of this size.”

The association further said that any papers and panels that have been accepted for the 2020 conference will automatically be included in the 2021 conference program if the proposer verifies that they wish to be on the 2021 program.

Founded in 1974 by scholars who saw the need for more attention devoted to literary and cultural studies, ALA is an independent organisation of scholars, teachers, and writers from around the world. This year’s theme was ‘Beyond Censorship? Literature, Film, Media and Public Discourse.’

So far, the book fairs of London and Paris, the African Book Fair in Berlin and the Time of the Writer in Durban, South Africa, have been cancelled. The Palestine Book Festival is also not left out as many countries have imposed a ban on large gatherings.

The African Book Festival in Berlin, scheduled to hold from April 17 to 19, announced the cancellation of its opening ceremony before the event was called off.

 A view of guests at the 2019 KABAFEST
A view of guests at the 2019 KABAFEST

Nigeria boasts of a good number of annual literary and art events. These include the Abuja Literary and Arts Festival (ALitFest), Kaduna Book and Arts Festival (KABAFEST), Benue Book and Arts Festival, Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF), Ake Arts and Book Festival, and several more. So far, there isn’t a public announcement by any of the organisers of these events on any move to postpone or cancel.

Program Director of Abuja Literary Society (ALS) which convenes ALitFest, Dike Chukwumerije, said it’s too early to make any decision because the event, scheduled for July 2020, is still far away.

As at March 20, the Nigerian government officially restricted entry into the country for travellers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, U.S, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland. Also, Nigerians arriving from these countries will be subjected to supervised isolation for 14 days. Citizens have been advised to avoid travels to these countries.

If the virus continues to spread beyond the eight persons mark, as reported as at March 18, there is a high possibility literary activities may also be cancelled in Nigeria.

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