A small group of visitors waits eagerly at the entrance to a single-storey building in Ghana’s capital Accra, looking to explore the literary treasure inside.
This is the Library of Africa and the African Diaspora -- a passion project launched by Ghanaian-British writer Sylvia Arthur.
Based around Arthur’s personal book collection, the library provides a remarkable opportunity to bring literature from the global black community to a country considered a cradle of African civilisation, and which was once a hub of the transatlantic slave trade.
‘Our work has been neglected, it’s not been showcased, it’s not been respected, it’s not been archived and that’s the purpose of this library,’ Arthur said as she guided her visitors around.
The library was founded in 2017 when Arthur moved to Ghana after working in Europe.
It was renamed and relaunched this year, welcoming its first guests again in July as restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus were eased in the west African nation.
The library boasts around 4,000 books, from almost every country on the African continent.
Many names will be familiar to those who have seen the growing international acclaim for African writers such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ben Okri, Mariama Ba and Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
But this collection is a rarity in Africa.
It not only spans the entire continent, including authors such as Assia Djebar from Algeria and Naguib Mahfouz from Egypt, as well as white authors from southern Africa such Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee -- it also includes black writers from across the world including the US, Caribbean and Europe.
It also has a special collection of rare and out-of-print books, drawing historical links between the works of African and diaspora writers, and offers residences for authors from abroad.
‘We started off in one room and now we are in a whole house,’ Arthur said.
The library’s aims have been made even more relevant by the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the globe and sparked renewed debates on history and equality.
‘I definitely think what we do is very empowering,’ said Arthur.
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