It Takes a Village

Troy Onyango

Over the past few weeks, I have found myself thinking a lot about community – mainly virtual communities and how they emerge and converge around ideas (or people). In the digital age, especially during these times, it has been a joy to find people whose ideals and goals align with ours and whose dreams make ours seem possible. It’s a beautiful thing to watch these chosen families as they grow and bloom while holding each other’s hands. From these communities, we have seen the emergence of wonderful initiatives, especially for art and artists. What these communities do is remind us that while we, as artists, create in solitude, there is solidarity to be found in people whose visions and aspirations mirror ours. There is comfort in knowing that out there, by some miracle of technology, there is a friend who completely understands what you mean when you talk about your creative process or your work. There is so much power in collaborating across time and space and knowing that the person on the other end “just gets it.”

This, in so many ways, is how Lolwe works. We exist online and we work with people across geographies and timezones, and yet we just know that the other person “just gets it”, in a way that brings together a cohesive project. In creating an issue, we work with people across at least 20 countries and this is made possible by the power of an online community.

For this issue, we were pleased to have the brilliant trio of Mali Kambandu, Willie Lee Kinard III and Yovanka Paquete Perdigão who spent hours and hours reading through hundreds of submissions in our slush pile, selecting the stories, poems and essays that would make it into the issue, and editing them to bring out the best versions of their work. At every stage, they were all skilful and professional, and their collaborative energy was a delight to be around. I feel that it is the best thing ever to work with editors who are generous and patient. Many thanks to Senegalese photographers Alex and Frans Odicky, who allowed us to use their magnificent photograph as the cover image. To Mòje Ikpeme, who provided the illustrations that brought the stories, poems and essays published in this issue to life, thank you!

Always, it is good to remember that the work at Lolwe is a result of many people coming together to create the magic that ends up on the website. I am grateful for the two assistant editors, Moso Sematlane and Michelle Korir, who work tirelessly to ensure that all the stories are read through, polished and up to standard. They are the force that urge me forward, and for that I am grateful.

At the beginning of this year, we started the Lolwe Editorial Scheme, an initiative aimed at getting more people interested in learning the inner workings of a literary magazine. Through this, Lolwe seeks to encourage more young people to get into editing in the hope that we can create a larger pool of editors for the literary space. We have had our first cohort of Priscille B. Fatuma (DRC), Gogontle Mosiakgabo (South Africa), Linda Mchawi (Malawi), Asafor Ndifor Emmanuel (Cameroon), Ziporah Banda (UK) and Kalkidan Fessehaye (Ethiopia). All six have been eager to learn, and we hope that at the end of the scheme, they will be able to understand the entire process from submission to publication.

As Lolwe continues to grow, there is a need for other people to join us and help us steer the ship to its destination. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. For this reason, we are very pleased to unveil our advisory board made up of people within the Pan-African literary landscape who will offer guidance to us and help us steer the magazine to even greater heights. I am grateful to Zukiswa Wanner, Ahmed Aidarus, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, Timothy Ogene, Deshawn McKinney, Kalaf Epalanga and Ashley Hickson-Lovence for coming on board. As we continue to blossom, we will add more people who will be a valuable addition to the masthead as we can lean on them for much-needed advice.

We have always maintained that all artists should be paid for their work. The amount of time and energy that goes into creating art should be compensated (even if it’s by a token). Lolwe has championed this cause and will continue to ensure that the writers we publish get paid, despite the challenges. To everyone who supports our Patreon and makes a donation to us, thank you for sharing in our dream and it is the hope that we will continue to find people who can support the magazine financially until, hopefully, we get the funding needed to stay on course.

To date, Lolwe has published over 150 writers from different backgrounds, some who are established and others who are emerging. To all the writers who send their work to Lolwe, we hope you know that, regardless of the outcome, your work is valued and we do not take for granted the time and energy spent making your art. Always, keep writing. Tell your stories. 

Lastly, to the people who read, engage with and continuously support Lolwe, we appreciate all of it. You make us feel seen. We love our wonderful community of readers and we hope it continues to grow. When you read this issue, we hope you are inspired to share it with your friends and family.

And now, beloved reader, welcome to Issue 5.

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