Literature on the continent has grown at an astounding pace since the times of Nigerian greats, Wole Soyinka and, Chinua Achebe who published their work in literary journals. These preeminent writers published their work in black orpheus magazine, with Ulli Beier as editor in 1957. Since the late 1950s, various print and subsequently digital literary magazines have sprung up all over the continent. Digital magazines such as Sooo Many Stories, Afridiaspora, The Kalahari Review, Bakwa Magazine, Brittle Paper, and Jalada have created spaces in which writers from the continent can share their work.
One such literary platform is Saraba Literary Magazine, which was founded in 2008 by two young university undergraduates; Emmanuel Iduma and Dami Ajayi, both students of the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria.
Saraba magazine was a response to rejection letters Iduma and Ajayi had received from foreign publications. Their first publication was in 2009. Since 2009, Saraba has produced 35 publications, which include 18 issues, 12 poetry chapbooks, and 5 special issues. In their first year of digital existence, Saraba published works from reputable writers including Chika Unigwe, Tolu Ogunlesi, Keguro Macharia, Sokari Ekine, Dominique Malaquais, Ayobami Adebayo, Victor Ehikhamenor, Eghosa Imasuen, Jumoke Verissimo, Clifton Gachagua, Ukamaka Olisakwe, Okwiri Oduor, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, and Tade Ipadeola.
Saraba’s emphasis has always been publishingfirst time writers, and giving them a platform. The experience of numerous rejection letters Iduma and Ajayi received as young writers is certainly the reason they have given other writers a platform to publish. Therefore, giving first time writers the opportunity to be publish serves as an encouragement for other budding African writers.
Most of those published by Saraba have excelled in their writing careers, either winning the Nigeria LNG (NLNG) Prize. Literary prize winners include Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Chika Unigwe and Tade Ipadeola, and those nominated for coveted prizes like the Bailey Prize include Ayobami Adebayo shortlisted this year.
After nine years in the digital publishing industry, Saraba has finally gone to print. The print issue titled Transitions will be released on October 2. According to a release by Saraba, “The cover is designed by Ojima Abalaka, the brilliant illustrator whose work has been featured in the New York Times”.
There are poems by Gbenga Adesina; short stories by Suzanne Ushie, Irenosen Okojie, Abiola Oni, Eboka Chukwudi Peter, T J Benson, Amarachi Ekekwe, Hajara Hussaini Ashara, and Ebele Mogo. The issue contains essays by Temitayo Olofinlua, Kola Tubosun, Uche Okonkwo and Yinka Elujoba. The issue also has portfolios of photographs by Ladan Osman and Ayeni Olajide, and an interview of Ayobami Adebayo. The featured writers and visual artists explore the theme of ‘transitions’, through questions of time, movement, and sexual identity.
The launch of the magazine will take place in London, where the event will be chaired by Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed. Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Abiola Oni, Irenosen Okojie, and Emmanuel Iduma will be the guest speakers. The magazine will later be launched in Lagos and Abeokuta in Nigeria, and New York City, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg in the USA.