Africans Have Always Been Readers

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From 1958, when Chinua Achebe published his book, “Things Fall Apart”, to “Arrow Of God” in 1964 and also, Ngugi Wa Thiongo‘s “Weep Not Child” same year, African literature rose across the continent. With Chinua Achebe‘s “Things Fall Apart” becoming the most widely read book in modern African literature.

Founded in 1962, the African Writers Series, a coalition  of writers published by Heinemann Education Books (HEB) in London and various African cities, created a forum for many post independence writers addressing colonial bias and social issues. The series ensured an international voice for major African writers including Buchi Emecheta, South Africa‘s Nadine Gordimer, T. M Aluko, Ata Aidoo, Flora Nwapa, Beti Mongo, and a host of others. The African Writers Series dished a catalogue of relevant books which included Beti Mongo‘s “Mission To Kala”, Oyono Ferdinand‘s “House Boy”, Flora Nwapa‘s “Efuru”, “Children Of Gebelawi” by Naguib Mahfouz and others. They told the African story from the eyes of a colonial youth and from experiences of the post independence era and surviving war. They spoke about social ills and injustice, using their writing as a tool to tell the world about Africa.

Since then, African literature has boomed and accepted an influx of a new crop of beautifully minded creative writers into the scene. The likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Helon Habila, Chigozie Obioma and a long list of talented budding writers doing their best to scratch the surface and let their voices be heard. These Neo-African writers have given the world a new perspective to what Africa is, writing from the eyes of a modern, contemporary African.

Ainehi Edoro, founder of The Brittle Paper.

Everybody wrote about colonialism. In the ’80s, everybody wrote about failed African nations, and in the ’90s, everybody wrote about child soldiers, but that was because writers really were writing for an American or European audience. The future of African writing is as heterogeneous as Africans and their experiences. – Ainehi Edoro, founder of The Brittle Paper.

Now these writers talk about love, like Aminatta Forna from Sierra Leone did with her book, “The Memory Of Love”, chronicling the events of 1969 Freetown and the present day, leading us to a beautiful love story that unfolds as the book progresses. Also books like Tendai Hachu‘s “The Hair Dresser Of Harare” preaches the relentlessness of the African woman.

This glorious book defies classification with its astute sociopolitical commentary nestling inside the appealing, often comic story of a young woman who will not accept defeat.
The Guardian on “The Hair Dresser Of Harare”

They also talk about personal experiences, the beauty of life and it’s largess in poetry, like Olu Afolabi‘s “The Cartographer Of Memory”, a collection of poems written to “touch in places you’ve never been touched before”.

From themes about broken dreams in Alain Mabankou‘s “Broken Glass” to Noo Saro-Wiwa‘s “Looking For Transwonderland” which talks about her experiences as she travels the nook and cranny of Nigeria. Ayo Sogunro‘s “Everything In Nigeria Is Going To Kill You” talks about how Nigeria is out to “kill you”.
Neo-African writers are giving more light to the issues of contemporary Africa.

With the evolution of African literature, came the involvement of the Internet in the business of creative writing, spreading African literature across the globe like wild fire. Helping millennial writers share their works even without having them published in hard copies and making it easier for their audience to easily access their materials. Thanks to online African literature platforms; The Kalahari Review, Saraba, Afreada, Jalanda, Kwani?, The Brittle Paper, Art And Africa, and online literature book stores like Okada books. These platforms, amongst others are pushing the boundaries to source and share the creative thoughts of young Africans.

Aminatta Forna, author of ‘The Memory Of Love’.

Brittle Paper was founded in order to cater for the literary needs of young Africans, as our interests are no longer invested in Colonialism or abstract political ideas, but in the matters that trouble the young African mind; works that inspire and entertain“. In this quest, Brittle Paper publishes original stories and poetry, providing an opportunity for aspiring, “broke” writers to reach their readers, even from their mobile phones.

Saraba, an online literary journal founded by Dami Ajayi, a Medical student and Emmanuel Iduma, a Law student at the time in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ibadan, was founded in order to tell their stories having been rejected by literary platforms abroad. In 2009, they called for submissions after which the first edition of Saraba was published, edited by Jumoke Verissimo, Nigerian poet and writer.

Afreada, also another literary platform founded in 2015 by Nancy Adimora in London has grown to become a pan African publication attracting writers from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. Adimora‘s Afreada, seeks to have you “travel across Africa in a week. No visa applications, no customs, just awe-inspiring short stories, bringing words and worlds together”.

A lot of African write-ups put on the Internet have gone on to win prizes and recognition. “My Father’s Head”, a short story by Kenyan Okwiri Oduor won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2014 after it was published on Saraba. Also, Nigerian Edwin Madu‘s short story, “Only By Immersion” was long listed for the Awele Creative Trust Award in 2015. In 2017, Elo Osunde‘s “And Now We Have Entered Broken Earth,” a conceptual story exploring familial relationships, intergenerational cycles and the effects of blood and genealogy on individual identities was recognised by the Newyork Times in their Global Voices and Emerging Photographers at Photoville.

Okwiri Oduor, a Kenyan author.

With the crop of social media savvy creative minds in Africa, it is only right that African literature spans the earth. African literature and the Internet is the next best combination of world forces reshaping Africa and the world, one word at a time.

The new wave of literal energy passing through the African millennial fueled by the internet gives an opportunity for more Africans to document their realities while sharing it with the world simultaneously.
This creates a league of writers who’ve grown up in a rough but new age African environment to get creative with their content, it gives them the freedom to write to their hearts will.
African literature has always been swept under the rug but with more conscious driven media and literature platforms founded by African publications we have more havens to pen down true African stories and experiences.

Ujah Godwin Ujah

Creative writer, interested in Photography and Poetry. Monstré.

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