Celebrating the launch of his debut novel, The Dark Lady, Akala joined us for a conversation at the Southbank Centre, delving into the context of his new book and the ideas around which it revolves. Joined by Canadian poet and singer, Mustafa the Poet, this event marked the release of this novel whilst opening up a fundamental conservation about race, identity, class, and society.
The Dark Lady is about a young, black, orphan boy living in the streets of Elizabethan London, who is haunted by dreams of the mysterious Dark Lady. Inspired by Shakespeare, the novel refers to Bard’s Sonnets and attempts to paint a realistic picture of street life in Renaissance England.
In parallel to his first book, Natives, Akala centres this novel around issues of class and race, which are ever-so prominent in both Elizabethan and modern society. Akala discussed how Shakespearean theatre was the only place where the working class and elites would intersect for entertainment. As most period novels and dramas focus on the lives of the royals and elites, he wanted to emphasise this in his novel by experiencing London through the eyes of a character who is largely unrepresented in British and London’s history.
As he described the process of research behind his novel and the scholarship around African presence in London at that time, he talks about the importance of weaving in this history and creating a new conception of London’s history through his novel.
As well as persuading the audience to purchase and read this gripping tale, this event was amazingly inspiring! An evening filled with knowledge and talent, this flowing conversation left me with new perspectives and thoughts to reflect upon. It was a real joy to hear the BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, writer, Akala, share his wisdom and passion, regarding history, issues of division in society, and how we can rise against them.
Tickets are still available for the Akala in conversation livestream, which is available to watch online until Until 6 March – tickets for £8.50.
Look out for more events at the Southbank Centre here: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Reviewed by Ridha Sheikh – Ridha is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. She is a recent History and Politics graduate from Queen Mary – University of London. Ridha is excited to explore and share her strong passion for London’s art scene.