Discover 5 African writers exploring their heritage through Literature.
Safia is a Sudanese-American poet and writer. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, co-winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize, and winner of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. The January Children, tells the story of the generation born in Sudan under British occupation, where children were assigned birth years by height, all given the birth date January 1st.
The January Children depicts displacement and longing while also questioning accepted truths about geography, history, nationhood, and home. The poems mythologize family histories until they break open, using them to explore aspects of Sudan’s history of colonial occupation, dictatorship, and diaspora.
Several of the poems speak to the late Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafez, who addressed many of his songs to the asmarani—an Arabic term of endearment for a brown-skinned or dark-skinned person. Elhillo explores Arabness and Africanness and the tensions generated by a hyphenated identity in those two worlds.
A Kinshasa born, London raised writer, poet, and educator. JJ Bola published three books of poetry Elevate (2012) and Daughter of the Sun (2014). His third, WORD (2015) is his most comprehensive poetry collection. His debut novel, No Place to Call Home (OWN IT, 2017), is available in all mainstream and independent bookstores, in Hardback and e-Book, nationwide, and internationally.
JJ Bola’s work is centred on a narrative of empowerment, humanisation, healing of trauma as well as discovery of self through art, literature and poetry. Creating the increasingingly popular addage, ‘hype your writers like you do you rappers’, he believes that the true purpose of poetry (art) is to expose the reality of this world and how to, most importantly, survive it.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie is a Nigerian writer part of a new generation of African writers. Her works are primarily character-driven, interweaving the background of her native Nigeria and social and political events into the narrative.
Her latest work Americanah (2013) is an insightful portrayal of Nigerian immigrant life and race relations in America and the western world. It is ostensibly a love story – the tale of childhood sweethearts at school in Nigeria whose lives take different paths when they seek their fortunes in America and England – but it is also a brilliant dissection of modern attitudes to race, spanning three continents and touching on issues of identity, loss and loneliness.
Ben Okri’s childhood was divided between England and his native country Nigeria. His younger experiences greatly influenced his future writing. Flowers and Shadows (1980) and The Landscapes Within (1981) were reflections of the devastation of the Nigerian civil was which Okri himself observed first hand.
He left the country when a grant from the Nigerian government enabled him to read Comparative Literature at Essex University in England. He was poetry editor for West Africa magazine between 1983 and 1986 and broadcast regularly for the BBC World Service between 1983 and 1985.
A collection of poems, An African Elegy, was published in 1992, and an epic poem, Mental Flight, in 1999. A collection of essays, A Way of Being Free, was published in 1997. His reputation as an author was secured when his novel The Famished Road won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1991, making him the youngest ever winner of the prize.
Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow but raised in Sierra Leone and first drew attention for her writing after her memoir The Devil That Danced on Water (2003), a brave account of her family’s experiences living in war-torn Sierra Leone and in particular her father’s tragic fate as a political dissident.
Her work The Memory of Love (2010) portrays personal stories of love and loss within the wider context of the devastation of the Sierra Leone civil war and was nominated for the Orange Prize for fiction.