South to South?

Commonwealth Writers Conversation – The Untold Story: South to South? Visions of sustainable development through the creative imagination.

Conversation; social change; debate

On 14 June in Kampala, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (Chair of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize) chaired a conversation between Shahidul Alam (Bangladesh), Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka’uta (South Pacific), and Mike van Graan (South Africa) to explore inspiring and realistic visions for sustainable development and respond to the question:  how can artists, writers and arts organisations be more effective in getting “culture” on the political agenda as a driver of sustainable development and social change? What creative ways can the arts be used for development?


Shahidul Alam (Uganda CWC)Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, curator and activist. He set up the award-winning Drik agency and Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute. Director of the Chobi Mela festival and chairman of Majority World agency, his work has been shown in New York, Paris, London and Tehran. Commenting on Shahidul’s recent book My Journey as a Witness, John Morris, picture editor of Life Magazine said, “One of the most important books ever created by a photographer, and it goes far beyond photography.” 


Frances KoyaCresantia Frances Koya Vaka’uta is a lecturer in Education at the University of the South Pacific. Her doctoral thesis explored Pacific understandings of ecologically sustainable development through Samoan and Tongan Heritage Arts. Her research interests include Protest Poetry and Pacific Research and Evaluation. A poet and artist, she is interested in the role that the arts can play in formal and non–formal education with reference to issues of resilience, sustainability and crisis in the Pacific islands.




Commonwealth Writers Conversation; Development; WritersMike van Graan isan award-winning playwright andExecutive Director of the Cape Town based African Arts Institute (AFAI). AFAI’s mission is to develop leadership for Africa’s creative sector and to build regional markets for African artists. He was founding Secretary General of Arterial Network, a pan-African network of artists and cultural activists in the creative sector and its contribution to human rights, democracy and development. He is a Technical Expert on UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Associate Playwright of Artscape in South Africa.




cw-Ellah-Allfrey-judgeEllah Wakatama Allfrey is an independent editor, critic and broadcaster. She was Deputy Editor of Granta magazine and Senior Editor at Jonathan Cape, Random House. She sits on the boards of English PEN and the Writers’ Centre Norwich and is Deputy Chair of the Council of the Caine Prize for African Writing and a patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature. Her journalism has appeared in the Independent, the Guardian, the Telegraph the and the Observer and she is a regular contributor to the book pages of NPR. A Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Allfrey was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to the publishing industry.