In honor of the 2010 World Cup, the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers, based at Bard College in New York, in collaboration with Chimurenga Magazine, Kwani, and Farafina Magazine, has just announced a very (very) cool project. In their own words:

We do not know our own continent yet we continue to benefit from it.

For one month in 2010, nearly a billion eyes will follow the wayward movement of one small ball, bouncing about haphazardly on a lawn—controlled by the feet of 22 men speaking a language billions understand very well.

If there is among Africans, ambivalence, confusion, uncertainty, even outright denial that we belong to a common entity—we will be, for this month, all united in wanting to win the World Cup, to celebrate our common hosting of the event. There is no visa requirement for football, no Berlin Conference stranglehold, no arms race, no communist and capitalist, no language barrier, no need for a colonizer’s language, no rich or poor, no election needed. What exists is a functional continental football system that offers us a platform to see each other as part of a common system with common rules.

The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists has chosen to celebrate Africa’s first world cup by sending 14 African writers to 14 cities for two weeks during the World Cup. Each writer will produce a book of nonfiction prose, Travel Literature, of 30,000 words, for publication in Africa and abroad.

[…] At a moment in time when the whole continent is more visible to its inhabitants and to the rest of the world than at any other since independence, PILGRIMAGES will reintroduce Africans to the literary world in the same form that so many outside writers have employed to create a distorted idea of us to the world.

The 14 writers that will participate in the project and the cities they will visit are: Chris Abani (Johannesburg, South Africa); Doreen Baingana (Hargeisa, Somaliland); Uzodinma Iweala (Timbuktu, Mali); Funmi Iyanda (Durban, South Africa); Billy Kahora (Luanda, Angola); Kojo Laing (Cape Town, South Africa); Victor LaValle (Kampala, Uganda); Alain Mabanckou (Lagos, Nigeria); Nimco Mahamud Hassan (Khartoum, Sudan); Akenji Ndumu (Abidjan, Ivory Coast); Yvonne Owuor (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo); Nicole Turner (Nairobi, Kenya); Abdourahman A. Waberi (Salvador, Brazil); and Binyavanga Wainaina (Touba, Senegal).

The completed works will comprise the “Pilgrimages” book series, to be published simultaneously in Lagos, Nairobi, and Cape Town during the 2012 African Cup of Nations. In the meantime, you can follow the writers along on the Pilgrimages blog and on the project’s website.

I could go on about how huge this is, and how very excited I am for it, but you should just head over to their site. Now.

Further Reading

This is Congo

A long-awaited documentary takes a look at the state of politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and highlights those who are working to build a new future.