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How Do We Write About Censorship? Panel Discussion

Festival of Ideas
Mubanga Kalimamukwento, Coco Khan and Ali Said

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Mubanga Kalimamukwento, Coco Khan and Ali Said discuss what it means to be silenced, to be censored and, more importantly, what it means to break free.

Our panellists have all contributed to Aidan Shaw’s Penis, a collection of stories of censorship from around the world. From London, Cape Town, Manchester, USA, Chile, Iran, Zambia and Nigeria the stories reach across age, gender, race, sexuality, nationality, style and tone.

Khan, who helped judge the open call for the collection and wrote the introduction, says: ‘Censorship is not just a matter for artists and agitators, reactionaries and revolutionaries, but for every single person daring to speak, act or indeed exist publicly.’

In ‘Aidan Shaw’s Penis’, the title story of the anthology, Said has written a moving memoir where we meet the officials in the UAE whose job it is to preserve the moral purity of the nation by literally blacking out material they deem inappropriate, woven with vignettes of Said’s own life filled with other censors, including himself as he obscures his own sexuality.

Kalimamukwento’s story is entitled ‘Reflections’ and sees protagonist Twaambo (which translated literally means talk) the centre of conflict between her parents as they talk about their child’s gender identity.

Join our panel as they discuss the stories, interrogate censorship and those who enforce it.

Aidan Shaw’s Penis and Other Stories of Censorship From Around The World is published by Imprint 27. Buy a copy from Waterstones, our bookselling partners.

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Mubanga Kalimamukwento

Mubanga Kalimamukwento is a Zambian writer and lawyer. Her first novel, The Mourning Bird (Jacana), won the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award in 2019. The same year, she won the Kalemba Short Story Prize and was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize. She’s been published in journals in Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, France, the UK and the USA. Mubanga is an alumna of the Hubert H Humphrey Fulbright Fellowship and the Young African Leaders Initiative. An MFA candidate at Hamline University where she received the Writer of Color Merit Scholarship, she lives in Minnesota.

Coco Khan

Coco Khan is a columnist, feature writer and editor at the Guardian. She has contributed to the books The Good Immigrant and It’s Not About the Burqa, and is currently working on her debut book.

Ali Said

Ali Said is a mixed-race, gay writer. Born in Dagenham, he went to school in the UAE and has since lived in places as different as New York and Cairo but is now back in South London. Said’s writing focuses on multicultural interactions, and the many different ways in which we find our own path. His stories have been listed for several prizes.

Democracy and Freedom of Expression

This event is part of our 2021 series on democracy and freedom of expression. We’re committed to looking at solutions to the great challenges that face us – what individuals, leaders, mayors, councils, governments, cities, communities, nations and others can do to support, strengthen and extend democracy and freedom of expression.

The series includes: programmes on the future of democracy, May elections, the monarchy, constitutions, English devolution, House of Lords reform, votes at 16; work exploring freedom of expression through the year; and a focus on democracy and cities in Festival of the Future City (20-21 October).

Our project partners include English PENProspect Magazine, the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath and the Observer. More events will be launched soon. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #FOIDemocracy and #CommonCurrency

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