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10 Young African authors making Africa proud

For more than a century, Africans have employed writing as a means to tell their stories. Be it stories of our daily lives, our societies, or our displeasure with their governments and their policies. Writing particularly took shape and form in Africa during the colonial era. Young African elite found writing to be a great tool in challenging the ideals of colonialism and the subsequent fight for independence.

African Nationalists like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere and Sédar Senghor all fought colonialism through writings and newspaper publications. 

Later colonial and post-colonial era-authors such as Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Kenneth Kaunda, Wole Soyinka, Kofi Awoonor, Chinua Achebe and Ayikwei Ama reinforced literature in telling the African story. With these literary icons setting the pace, African literature took shape and form and has improved immensely over the years.

Let’s take a look at the new generation of African writers that have taken the mantle and are doing it big on the continent and beyond: 

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Biyi Bandele

Bandele is a Nigerian novelist, playwright and filmmaker. He grew up in the Northern part of Nigeria from where he started writing at a tender age. He writes for journals, theatre, television and radio. Bandele‘s works include plays such as Rain; Marching For Fausa, Two Horsemen, Death Catches The Hunter and Me And The Boys. His novels include The Man Who Came In From The Back Of Beyond, The Street, and Burma Boy which was reviewed on The Independent.

Biyi Bandele, Nigerian writer in 2009. Credit: Ulf Andersen / Aurimages.

Bandele’s works are notable for their mixture of surrealism and phantasm. He has won awards like the International Students Playscript Competition (1989), London New Play Festival Award (1994), and the Wingate Scholarship Award (1995) amongst others. 

Maaza Mengiste

Mengiste is an Ethiopian writer whose published works focus on migration, the Ethiopian revolution and the plight of sub-Saharan immigrants in Europe. Her works are inspired by her personal experience. Her family migrated from Ethiopia during the Ethiopian revolution when she was only 4 years old. She completed her childhood in Nigeria, the United States and Kenya.

Her first novel, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze, was named one of the 10 best contemporary African books by The Guardian. Her awards, honours and nominations include the Creative Capital Award for Literary Fiction in 2019. Beneath The Lion’s Gazewas named one of The Best Books of 2010. She was a Puterbaugh Fellow in 2013, received a literature fellowship in 3028 and has been recognized by the National Empowerment for the Arts aside from others.  

Warsan Shire – African author and teacher

Writer Warsan Shire attends Girl Rising and International Rescue Committee’s special screening of Documentary Film “Brave Girl Rising” for International Women’s Day at West Hollywood City Council Chamber on March 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images/AFP

Shire is a Somali writer, poet and teacher. Her poetry centres on journey and trauma. In 2013, Shire won the first Brunei University African Poetry Prize. In the same year, she also won the Young Poet Laureate for London. The American singer, Beyonce employed Shire’s poetry in her film Lemonade produced in 2016.

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Uwem Akpan – author of ‘Say you are one of them’

He became popular after his work ‘Say You Are One Of Them’ won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her 65th book club selection. The book also won the PEN Open Book Award. ‘Say You Are One Of Them’ is a collection of 5 stories which is set in different African countries. The New Yorker has published two of his stories. One was about a family living in Nairobi and the other was “The Communion.” 

Dinaw Mengetsu – novelist and writer from Ethiopia

Dinaw is an Ethiopian writer and novelist. He has written 3 novels and at one time wrote for Rolling Stone on the war in Darfur. He also wrote for Jane Magazine on the conflict in northern Uganda. His works have been published in Harper’s, The Wallstreet Journal and other publications. His first book The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears was published in 2007.

He was selected to be a McArthur Fellow in 2012. His works have won the following awards: New York Times Notable  Book, 2007; Guardian First Book Award, 2007; Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature, 2011; Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2008 and Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, 2012. He has many other awards, honours and nominations to his name. 

Nii Ayikwei Parkies – African author and publisher

Nii Ayikwei Parkies is a Ghanian poet, writer and publisher. Parkies made the list of the 39 writers aged under 40 from sub-Saharan Africa who in April 2014 were named as part of Hay Festival’s Africa39 project. He has performed his poetry works in Ghana, England and America.

He was among the three youngest writers featured in the Poems On The Underground Programme in London. He was featured for his poem Tin Roof. Parkies is loved much in his country for his devotion to helping young writers grow. To this end, he set up a writers’ fund to help promote writing among Ghanian youths.

He has been nominated and won awards both in Ghana and beyond. His awards include the Farrago Best Performance Poetry Award, 2003 in and 2004. He also won Ghana’s National ACRAG Award for Poetry and Literary Advocacy.

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Chimamanda Adichie – World-renowned African author

Adichie is a celebrated Nigerian writer whose works range from novels and short stories to non-fiction. She has written 3 well-received novels: Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. She also has a collection of short stories titled “The Thing Around Your Neck” among other literary works. Adichie has won many awards and received several nominations for her works.

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie poses prior to the start of the Christian Dior Women’s Fall-Winter 2019/2020 Haute Couture collection fashion show in Paris, on July 1, 2019. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

The awards include The Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book (Africa and Overall), 2005; MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, 2008, and the PEN Beyond Margins Award. She has also received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the International Nonino Prize, 2008, the O. Henry Prize in 2003 among others. 

Chika Unigwe – African author of On Black Sisters’ Street

Unigwe is an award-winning Nigerian Writer. She is the author of On Black Sisters’ Street. The novel was first published in Dutch in 2008 with the title Fata Morgana before it was translated to English, Spanish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian and other languages. The highly successful novel tells the stories of African prostitutes living in Belgium.

Writer Chika Unigwe and Abeer Y. Hoque during the Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 at Diggi Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India on 29 Jan 2018. (Photo by Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto)

She has won many awards including the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition and the 2012 NLNG Prize for Literature. In 2012, she was rated by Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian as one of the “top five African writers”. Her short story Happiness won a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. 

Ahmed Alaidy – Scriptwriter, poet and novelist

Portrait Ahmed Alaidy, Egyptian novelist, May 2009 ©Effigie/Leemage

Alaidy is an Egyptian poet, novelist, scriptwriter and editor. He is the author of the novel Being Abbas El Abd. In 2006, the novel was awarded the Sawiris Foundation’s 2nd Prize in Egyptian Literature. He writes as a freelancer for the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. He has also authored a political comic strip. He has written for the Egyptian opposition newspaper al-Dostour.

Mohale Mashigo – African Author and Songwriter

Mashingo is a South African novelist and songwriter. She is the writer of the widely acclaimed novel The Yearning, which is her debut novel. In 2016, The Yearning won the University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Debut Writing. It was also listed for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2016. She recently published a collection of short stories titled Intruders. She also writes comic books and has won awards in songwriting.

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