There is a not so silent anymore revolution happening in the production and consumption of African Writing. A lot has so far been said about ‘African writers with an internationalist bent’, the phrase The New York Times used to define books by African writers that talk of the immigrant experiences of Africans, whether in Europe or the United States of America. CNN has also added its voice to the touting of this trend.
Most of the books, if not all, that have been heralded as the new faces of African fiction are published in the West. In more ways than one, they are as American/European as their writers are African. They deserve to be included in the stable of American and European literature. For their straddling of various worlds, maybe World Literature but that is to assume that there are only three continents in the world.
The following writers that I talk to in this first part of the Made in Africa series are not only distinguished but also inspire faith in the production and consumption of quality fiction on the continent. The writers hail from Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. These writers are Achebean in the sense that they write in English and indeed do so many things with English to be said to have created their own Englishes from the Queen’s.
The series are alive to the fact that Africa is way bigger than the four countries included. Neither are these the only writers, even in those very countries. This is just a peek into the granary. In no way do we mean to say that these are the only notable writers writing and being published on the continent. They merely show the promise and extent of quality of fiction being published on the continent today. We hope you enjoy the interviews that follow.
1. Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (The Whispering Trees)
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, born in Jos, Nigeria, writes prose, poetry and drama. He won the BBC African Performance Prize in 2007, the ANA Plateau/Amatu Braide Prize for Prose in 2008, was runner-up for the ANA Plateau Poetry Prize, was a fellow of the British Council Radiophonics creative workshop, attended the Fidelity Bank Creative Writing Workshop, the 2012 and 2013 Caine Prize workshops, and has also been a Gabriel Marquez Fellow. His debut collection of short stories The Whispering Trees, published by Paressia, was longlisted for the 2013 Etisalat Prize for African Literature, and the title story shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing. His was the only story published on the continent to be shortlisted for the Caine Prize that year. He is the arts editor at the Abuja-based Sunday Trust. He was a mentor on the 2013 Writivism programme, facilitated the Abuja Writivism workshop in 2014 and judged the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize. He also facilitated the Caine Short Story surgery at the 2014 Port Harcourt Book Festival.
2. Chika Unigwe (Night Dancer)
Chika Unigwe, born in Enugu, Nigeria, writes fiction in English and Dutch. She was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003 and won the BBC Short Story competition and the Commonwealth Short Story competition in 2004. Her debut novel De Feniks, written in Dutch and published in 2005, was shortlisted for the Vrouw en Kultuur debuutprijs prize. It was later published in Nigeria by Farafina Publishers in 2007 as The Phoenix. In 2009, her novel On Black Sisters’ Street was published by Jonathan Cape and won the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2012. It was originally published in Dutch as Fata Morgana. In 2012, Night Dancer was published by Jonathan Cape. It was later published in Nigeria by Paressia. Chika has been named by the Hay Festival as one of the top 39 writers under the age of 40 that will shape the future of African Literature. She holds a PhD in Literature from the University of Leiden and is the founder of the Awele Creative Trust.
3. Dilman Dila (A Killing in the Sun)
Dilman Dila, born in Tororo, Uganda, writes fiction and makes films. He was longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa prize in 2013 and 2014, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story prize in 2013 for A Killing in the Sun, and nominated for the 2008 Million Writers Awards. He has also been longlisted for the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition for Toilets are for Something Fishy. His film Felista’s Fables has won and been nominated for various awards, from the Uganda Film Festival awards to the Africa Movie Academy Awards and the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards. His short story collection A Killing in the Sun was published in 2014 by Black Letter Media. His novella Cranes Crest at Sunset was published by Storymoja in 2013 and The Terminal Move by Fox and Raven Publishing also in 2013.
4. Emmanuel Sigauke (Mukoma’s Marriage and other stories)
Emmanuel Sigauke, born in Zimbabwe writes fiction and poetry. He teaches English at Cosumnes River College and Creative Writing at University of Carlifornia Davis. His work has appeared in Horizon, The Pedestal, NR Review, African Writing Online, StoryTime, Tsotso, The Rattle Review, and Arts Initiates, among others. He edits Tule Review, Cosumnes River Journal, and Poetry Now and founded Munyori Literary Journal. Mukoma’s Marriage and other stories, published in 2014, is his first collection of short stories.
5. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Kintu)
Jennifer Makumbi, born in Uganda is a novelist and short story writer. She won the inaugural Kwani? Manuscript prize in 2013. Kwani Trust went on to publish the novel Kintu in 2014. In the same year, she won the Commonwealth short story prize with Let us Tell This Story Properly. Her other short fiction has been published by African Writing Online, Granta, Moss Side Stories, among others. She studied at Manchester Metropolitan University and Lancaster University for her Masters and Doctoral degrees respectively.
6. Melissa Kiguwa (Reveries of Longing)
Melissa Kiguwa describes herself as “an artist, a daughter, and a radical feminist.” Her debut collection of poetry, Reveries of Longing, was published in 2014 by African Perspectives. She was long-listed for the 2014 Writivism Short story prize for the story The Wound of Shrinking. She now studies at the London School of Economics.
7. Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (Shadows)
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, born in Zimbabwe, is a fiction writer. Her debut novella and collection of short stories was published by Kwela in 2013. Her stories have appeared in various publications, including the 2010 Caine Prize Anthology and African Roar. She won the 2009 Yvonne Vera Award and the Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Fiction with Shadows. She is currently a Maytag Fellow at the MFA Creative Writing Programme at the University of Iowa and one of the 39 writers named by the Hay Festival as potential influences on future African Literature.
8. Yewande Omotoso (Bom Boy)
Yewande Omotoso, born in Barbados to a Nigerian father and a West Indian mother, is a writer and an architect. Her debut novel Bom Boy, published in 2011 by Modjaji Books, won the 2012 South African Literary Award for First-Time Published Author, was shortlisted for the 2012 Sunday Times Fiction Prize in South Africa as well as the M-Net Literary Awards 2012, and was the runner-up for the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature.
9. Zukiswa Wanner (London Cape Town Joburg)
Zukiswa Wanner, born in Zambia to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother, is a writer. Her debut novel, The Madams, was shortlisted for the K. Sello Duiker Award in 2007. It was followed by Behind Every Successful Man, published by Kwela in 2008, Men of the South, also by the same publisher in 2010. Men of the South was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers Prize. Her latest novel, London Cape Town Joburg, was published by Kwela in 2014. She was named one of the Hay Festival’s Africa39 authors. She sits on the Writivism Board of Trustees and started the ReadSA initiative to encourage South Africans to read African books.