Kampala to Bid for Designation as UNESCO City of Literature in 2013









Dear Friends of Literature and AWT

African Writers Trust seeks your support as we prepare the application for Kampala City to become one of the UNESCO cities of literature.Currently there are six designated Cities of Literature: Edinburgh (Scotland), Melbourne (Australia), Iowa City (USA), Dublin (Republic of Ireland), Reykjavik (Iceland) and Norwich (England). Ten other cities are bidding for the title but neither of them is from Africa.

UNESCO Cities of Literature are part of the 34 cities which make up the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, which was launched in 2004. The Network is structured around seven themes: Literature, Cinema, Music, Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Media Arts and Gastronomy, and connects cities which want to share experiences, ideas and best practice for cultural, social and economic development. The network also aims to build strong global partnerships by encouraging literary exchanges, creating cross-cultural initiatives and developing local, national and international literary links.

We shall be grateful for your support in any of the following: accepting to be interviewed by one of our researchers in your area of expertise, writing a letter of support or endorsement, participating in consultative meetings or accepting to serve on the steering committee. Kindly send us an email: [gorettikyomuhendo AT yahoo.co.uk] highlighting what kind of support you’d like to give.


The UNESCO Creative Cities titles are permanent and non-competitive designations intended to recognise:

  • Past – a strong cultural heritage
  • Present – vibrant and diverse contemporary cultural scene
  • Future – aspirations and vision to develop cultural potential

The Creative Cities work together, in particular with cities in their own creative area to:

  • Highlight each city’s cultural assets
  • Share knowledge within the network
  • Build local capacity and train local creative participants in business skills
  • Promote diverse cultural products
  • Cultivate innovation through exchange of experience and expertise
  • Make creativity an essential element of economic and social development

Opportunities for Kampala to succeed as a City of Literature

1. Kampala is the only city in Africa that is bidding to become a UNESCO City of Literature, and will therefore aim to represent and harness the continent’s creative capacity

2. Historically, Kampala is essentially the Literary Pride of Africa because of some of these landmarks:

i)      One of the most significant indicators of Kampala’s strong literary tradition was Transition Magazine, launched at Makerere University in 1961. Transition Magazine quickly established itself as first class literary journal, publishing works by eminent writers throughout the continent.

ii)     Immediately after Independence, Makerere University was a focal point for literary activity, convening two major literary conferences in 1962 and 1973: The African Writers Conference of English Expression and the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (ACLALS) respectively.

iii)   The power of writers’ works speaks volumes about the climate in which their imaginative vision is able to take root and flourish. One example of such a powerful, poetic voice that burst on Uganda’s literary scene in 1966 was the publication of Okot p’Bitek’s cultural clarion call – Song of Lawino which, arguably, launched Ugandan literature on the global stage.

3. Today, Ugandan writers, artists and other cultural practitioners in the creative industries have transformed Kampala’s cultural landscape; local and International publishers have competitively expanded their markets beyond the domestic market.

4. Some of Kampala’s cultural landmarks and infrastructure that underscore the city’s rich cultural assets include: Africa’s Bahai Temple, one of only seven in the world, Kasubi Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the adoption of a Cultural Policy in 2006, making Uganda one out of only 15 African countries to have a cultural policy.

Challenges to the Bid

Creating an application for the UNESCO City of Literature title necessitates input and support from different key stakeholders in the arts, culture and private sectors; and an official letter of endorsement from the Mayor of Kampala City.  More critically, the exercise is demanding in time, requires dedication, and concerted effort from all that are involved. The bid document should not only present the city as an ideal candidate, but explain what the city has to offer while showing its intentions to work with other cities.

Conclusion and the way forward

African Writers Trust is dedicated to pursuing and seeing through this application bid. With your support and full encouragement of the other Cities of Literature and the team at UNESCO, we are confident that we shall see this bid to its fruition.

Thank you.


  • Annex 1

Aspiring Cities of Literature

1.     Vancouver, Canada

2.     Prague, Czech Republic

3.     Tartu, Estonia

4.     Lviv, Ukraine

5.     Krakow, Poland

6.     Dunedin, New Zealand

7.     Naples, Italy

8.     Heidelberg, Germany

9.     Tromso, Norway

10.  Ljubljana, Slovenia



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