Since March 2020, a cultural place that must be visited has opened its doors in Ghana. The Library of Africa and the African Diaspora is a delight for all the curious and lovers of African literature in Accra and beyond.
For several years now, the Anglo-Ghanaian Sylvia Arthur has been passionate about African literature, collecting new editions and second-hand books from London, Brussels and Barcelona. As the books accumulate and no longer fit on the shelves of her small London studio, she ends up sending them to her mother’s house in Kumasi.
In 2017, after a European career in the field of communication and several writings published by the BBC or The Guardian (among others) Sylvia decides to settle in Accra. The urgency to share her love of reading is growing and she wishes to make her private collection accessible. One year later, Libreria Ghana was born. A room on the 1st floor of a building in the West Legon district will serve as a library. The space was not very large, but she made the best of it: she went to meet schoolchildren, set up reading sessions at the women’s market or at the hairdresser’s, encouraging children to read. She also organized meetings with authors. The success of the library and the impact on the communities is unquestionable. Meanwhile, the collection is growing, thanks to donations. Libreria Ghana is soon too small.
In 2020, the library moved and was re-labeled as the Library of Africa and The African Diaspora.
An elegant, modern and welcoming space now hosts the collection of nearly 4000 books. History, fiction, essays, contemporary readings, illustrated works, manuscripts, limited editions, signed books… It is a little paradise for the readers of the Ghanaian capital. A temple erected in honor of African authors and the diaspora. A refuge for aspiring writers. An ideal playground for the little ones. The place invites to read on the spot and subscription formulas allow to borrow books.
The collection highlights the literary tradition of the whole of Africa and makes the link with the literatures of the diaspora from the 19th century to the present. Books from almost all African countries but also from Europe, America, the Caribbean… African authors are not always known and celebrated at home and access to books is sometimes limited. This library is therefore a necessary place. It invites all the inhabitants to know more about their cultural richness, to celebrate their history, to be interested in their authors. It is also a new opportunity to discover the pleasure of reading, to get lost, to be inspired.
But much more than simply lending books, LOATAD is a real place of living and gathering: book clubs, screenings, book signings, read-aloud sessions, game nights, debates… The library aims to be an independent, decolonized and accessible space. It is dedicated to the preservation, production and dissemination of literature from Africa and the African Diaspora.
With its carved wooden chairs with West African design, masks and framed portraits, the library celebrates not only literature but also African culture. It is a tribute to the continent’s creativity.
In addition, three rooms are set up to accommodate writers in residency.
Finally, more recently, LOATAD has been collaborating with Light Factory Publications and is publishing three chapbooks of poems by Ghanaian and diaspora authors on the topic of migration.
In returning to Ghana with this initiative, Sylvia Arthur stands as the guardian of an abundant heritage. Her love for books and her generosity express themselves through her project. Her library is growing and despite a constraining health situation, its activities are growing and diversifying. Without a doubt, LOATAD is destined to become a cultural institution and holds a precious treasure that will inspire generations.
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