Heard of the Africa Reading Challenge?
Running throughout the whole of 2012, the challenge, headed by Kinna Likimani of the literary blog Kinna Reads, pushes participants to discover the joys of reading African Literature by reading five books from African authors.
It is these types of challenges and all things African literature that have made her blog one of the go-to locations online for dialogue on African literature from the perservation of the form to the new works and artists to note.
She shows us how social media has become a tool in the book world and especially that of the African book world. Meet this week’s socialite, Kinna Reads
Real Name: Kinna Likimani Web Name: Kinna Reads
Why did you choose that particular name as your webname: My webname originates from and is linked to my book blog, Kinna Reads.
Best known for: My blog, Kinna Reads; lover of books, reading, African and world literature; my feminism; strident views on Africa and its development; talking ad nauseam about literacy in Ghana, current project on using social media to cover the 2012 elections in Ghana; loud opinions and hopefully, my warmth.
Where are you from/live? I’m from Ghana and I live in Accra.
When and how did you enter the social media game? I started my blog in 2010 and at the time, I was rather clueless about social media. I was very skeptical and initially quite cynical about social media. In other words, I was the typically non-user! But a couple of book bloggers convinced me that Twitter, especially, was good at keeping one connected to other book bloggers. So I joined and, then to my delight, found a vibrant African community. I tend to read more than tweet, to listen more than talk. Though when agitated, I’ve been known to let out a series of rants. I tweet about on books, on women’s issues, on Ghanaian and African politics and issues. I’ve learnt a lot being on Twitter.
How does Kinna Reads play into this? I needed a place to record and talk about literature and the books that I read. So I started the blog. The global book blogosphere is huge but there are relatively few blogs that concentrate on African writing so Kinna Reads quickly morphed into a platform for the promotion of African literature, especially literature by African women writers. Twitter allows me to reach more people. It’s really been fun connecting with other readers and lovers of literary fiction.
What do you mostly tend to use it for? First, I use social media to connect with people are concerned about issues which I care about, chiefly the development of the arts, women’s issues, Africa’s development and its fascinating politics. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I use Twitter to source information that I would not ordinarily obtain from traditional sources. I probably click most tweeted links in my timeline; I’m a link addict!
How has social media helped you grow your brand? I like to think that I don’t have a brand. In fact, I’m quite skeptical and suspicious of all this brand talk. It is the sheer reach of social media that has transformed my world, I think. Last year, I hosted a twitter chat that featured a Ghanaian writer who currently lives in London. We Africans have very limited access to some of our artists, especially our writers, most of whom live outside the continent. Social media can be used for such connections.
What is your brand/message? Well now, I like to think that I have a message or messages. First, we need to preserve and develop our arts. We must also develop an audience (on the continent) to appreciate the arts. What little development that happens in Africa is driven by a Western agenda. And that agenda promotes the notion that arts and culture are a luxury. This is wrong in that one cannot expect another to value our culture more than we Africans do. It’s alarming how many art forms are disappearing. We simply cannot afford this trend.
Second, we need to concern ourselves more with what we think of ourselves than what others think of us. So much conversation on social media is devoted to changing (mostly) Western perceptions of Africa. But what do we think of our fellow citizens, of our present and our future? Is it fear which causes us to look outward instead of inward? The engagement should be within the community, across the Diaspora, across ethnic, class and gender divides. Let’s talk, really talk to each other. Let’s value our ideas and appreciate what each African has to offer.
Ghana, and I’m certain, other African countries, has been unable to bridge the social inequalities that we inherited at our independence. In fact, the divide has widened and deepened. Here is our biggest challenge. This young generation must find a way to bridge this divide. We must make our innovative products and services to those who have been traditionally denied access.
If you could have one person join twitter who would it be? Such a tough questions. I pick the South African writer and academic Njabulo Ndebele for insightful and though-provoking writing.
Who should every African be following right now? @GhanaDecides #GhanaDecides DustAccra @nas009 @KenyanPundit @wanjirukr @MsAfropolitan @blacklooks @tejucole @aminataforna @BinyavangaW
What is the role of social media in the “Africa” conversation? Primarily it allows for certain conversations and connections to happen which would otherwise not occur. I’m encouraged by the number of young Africans who use social media to interrogate and challenge the status quo on a wide variety of issues. But again, the majority of Africans are absent from these conversations. Access is limited to the few who are technologically-privileged. This must change. The challenge is to use the African conversation on social media to broaden the base of people who can participate in the conversation. We must democratize the social media.
Who is benefiting most from the rise of Africans on social media sites? Young(ish), middle class Africans
If you could invent a social networking tool for the future, what would it be? A tool that can be used by workers in the informal sector to strengthen their networks and improve their work environment.
Follow Kinna Reads on twitter
AfriPOP! socialite is a weekly feature that introduces you to the internet’s socially prominent Africans. Not backed by a brand or organization, these are individuals who have used the internet to connect with fellow Africans to spread and discuss fresh ideas and thoughts on all this Africa. There words are their message, their personality is their brand — the AfriPOP! socialite.