Today, Africa Day celebrates the successes of African nations and African people and is marked by African communities around the world on 25 May each year. This year’s theme of Africa Day is “Arts, Culture, And Heritage: Levers for Building The Africa We Want. ”
In a continent as ethnically and culturally diverse as Africa, it comes as no surprise that the literature that has emerged from it be equally diverse and multifaceted. Dealing with a range of social and cultural issues, from women’s rights and slavery to post-war and post-colonial identity, here are some of Africa’s best writers.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o
One of the most important and influential African writers of the post-colonial period, Ngugi wa Thiong’o was born in Kenya in 1938, and served as a professor at a number of prominent American universities, including Yale, New York, and California. He is most known for his celebrated novel ‘A Grain of Wheat‘, in addition to a number of plays. He received the Lotus International Prize for Literature in 1973.
Born in South Africa in 1923, Nadine Gordimer is a prolific writer and novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 1991. She wrote her first work when she was nine years old, influenced by a police raid on her black maid’s home. Her works include: ‘The People of July‘, ‘Guest of Honor‘, and ‘Another Country‘. Most of her works are about racial discrimination, ethnic strife, and oppressive regimes.
The best playwright in Africa and the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, Wole Soyinka was born in Nigeria in 1934, and received his university education in Britain. His theatrical works focused on combating injustice and oppression to which the people of Nigeria were subjected. His most prominent works include: “The Trials of Brother Jero” play, “Death and the King’s Horseman” play, and “The Interpreters” novel.
Nigerian novelist, poet, writer, and one of the most notable literary figures in the world, he was born in 1959 and spent his childhood in England. His works are mainly devoted to the repercussions of the devastation caused by the civil war in the country, particularly the corruption. His novel, ‘The Road to Hunger‘, won the Man Booker prize in 1991, but his other novel, ‘Dangerous Love’, remains his most prominent work.
Born in Nigeria in 1944, and based in the UK since 1962, novelist Buchi Emechet, wrote numerous plays and an autobiography, as well as works for children. She was the author of more than 20 books, including Second Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977), and The Joys of Motherhood (1979). Most of her early novels were published by Allison and Busby, where her editor was Margaret Busby. Emecheta’s themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence, and freedom through education gained recognition from critics and honors. She once described her stories as “stories of the world.”
The Senegalese novelist Mariama Ba, was born in 1929. An advocate for the rights of women in the strongly patriarchal world of Islamic West Africa, she wrote two widely acclaimed novels that explored the psychological damage done to African women’s traditional misogynistic practices. She was considered one of the most important African writers of the twentieth century
Her first and most significant novel, Une Si Longue Lettre (So Long a Letter) was published in 1979. It stands as a landmark of African and Francophone literature which received widespread critical acclaim as well as the Noma Prize for African Literature and has been translated into numerous languages. Her second novel, Scarlet Song, published posthumously in 1986, also received international attention.