6 Apr 2021

An Exhibition of African Women Writers at Maynooth University Library

Guest Post by Edel King (MLIS from UCD, 2015). She currently works as a Library Assistant in the Engagement and Information Services Department in Maynooth University Library.

Image by Elaine Bean

The Why?

World Book Day took place this year on Thursday, March 4th. It is a celebration of writers and books from around the world. Myself and two of my colleagues were tasked with creating an online exhibition of African Women Writers to celebrate World Book Day at Maynooth University Library. 

One of the six themes of  Maynooth University Library’s Strategic Plan 2020-2023 is Equality, Diversity & Interculturalism. A task under this theme is to,“ensure a diverse range of Library exhibitions and events that reflect both our increasingly diverse university community and national developments”. Organising this exhibit for World Book Day contributed to the action under this task. 

The theme of African Women Writers was chosen for a variety of reasons. The University offers Post-Colonial Studies as part of its English Degree programme. There are also quite a number of African authors in the library collection due to a 2020 initiative with the lecturer of the aforementioned programme to identify and acquire a larger selection of novels by African writers. That initiative was also part of our Library Strategic Plan, where one of the key themes is Collections and a task under that theme is,“we will work with the campus community to ensure our collections are inclusive”.

One of the Writers included in the Exhibition

The How?

I work in the Engagement and Information Services (EIS) department of Maynooth University Library and my two colleagues on the project, David Rinehart and Adam Staunton, both work in the Special Collections and Archives department. Working on this project gave me an opportunity to get to know them as, like everyone, the majority of us in the library have been working from home and the two of them started in the library relatively recently.

Due to social distancing restrictions, we met online only. We met at least once a week via Microsoft Teams.  

Image by Elaine Bean

We chose the writers to include in the exhibition from a list given to us of African Women Writers. We divided the list amongst the three of us and checked holdings in the catalogue. We endeavoured to include writers from as many different countries as possible. We also consulted the Caine prize for African Writing and selected a few writers for inclusion from there. In total we had 15 writers from 13 African countries.

After we had chosen the writers, we divided them between us and wrote 100 word biographies on each. We then sourced images. For each writer we included an image of the writer, a map of Africa with their country highlighted, and book covers of a selection of their writings available in the Maynooth University catalogue. 

We had many discussions over how to source the book covers. We did screenshots from the catalogue but the quality of these images varied and were, for the most part, poor. We also sourced some covers from Amazon and GoodReads. 

Our colleague Elaine Bean created wonderfully creative collages (that you can see in this post) that we were able to include at various points of the exhibition.

Once we had all of that material gathered and prepared, we started using an application called Sway. I had never used the application before, but I am quite proficient with new technology and so a demonstration from one of my colleagues along with some practice time and I was confident enough to use it.


Sway offers a very dynamic way of exhibiting book covers using a feature called Stacks. The covers are layered on top of each other and a click of the mouse allows the user to move through them. 

We had decisions to make regarding vertical vs horizontal layout (we opted for horizontal), font size and type. However, I will say, while it was a great application to work with and gave us what we needed, Sway is limited in its creative scope. 

Then it was just a matter of putting all of the information in, proofreading, moving things around and making further smaller creative decisions.


We worked well together as a team, all of us speaking up and making decisions together that everyone was happy with. 

We launched the exhibition on World Book Day and highlighted it on social media. We were delighted to get a retweet from one of the authors included and a comment from another. 

Below is a list of the authors included with a selection of their titles. To view the exhibition please click here.

Exhibition Bibliography

Leila Aboulela (Egypt)

Bird Summons (2019)

Coloured Lights (2001)

Elsewhere, Home (2018)

The Kindness of Enemies (2015)

Lyrics Alley (2010)

Minaret (2005)

The Translator (1999)

Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana)

Changes: A Love Story (1991)

Our Sister Killjoy (1977)

Mariama Bâ (Senegal)

Scarlet Song (1981)

So Long a Letter (1980)

Doreen Baingana (Uganda)

Tropical Fish (2005)

Lauren Beukes (South Africa)

Afterland (2020) 

Broken Monsters (2015) 

Maverick: Extraordinary Women from South Africa's Past (2004) 

Moxyland (2008) 

The Shining Girls (2013) 

Zoo City (2018) 

Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigeria)

My Sister, the serial killer (2018)

Assia Djebar (Algeria)

Ces voix qui m’assiegent: en marge de ma francophonie (1999)

The Tongue’s Blood does not Run Dry: Algerian Stories (1997)

Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)

Ancestor Stones (2006)

The Devil that Danced on the Water (2002)

The Memory of Love (2010)

Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe)

The Book of Memory (2015) 

An Elegy for Easterly: Stories (2009) 

Out of Darkness: Shining Light (2019)

Rotten Row (2016) 

Meron Hadero (Ethiopia)

A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times (2018)

The Drought That Drowned Us (2020)

Medallion (2020)

Sinkholes (2017)

The Suitcase (2015)

Bessie Head (Botswana)

Maru (1971)

A Question of Power (1973)

Serowe, village of the rain wind (1981)

A Woman Alone: autobiographical writings (2007)

Laila Lalami (Morocco)

Hope and other dangerous pursuits (2005)

The moor’s account (2014)

The Other Americans (2019)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Americanah (2013)

Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)

Purple Hibiscus: A Novel (2003)

Makena Onjerika (Kenya)

Fanta Blackcurrant (2017)

Zoë Wicomb (South Africa)

Boy in a Jute-Sack Hood (2007) 

David’s Story (2000) 

October (2015) 

The One That Got Away (2008) 

Playing in the Light (2006) 

Race, Nation, Translation: South African Essays, 1990-2013 (2018) 

You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town (1987) 


Post a Comment