In a generation with greater access to literature than their past counterparts, the African literary circle has, so far, been deservedly dominated by Chimamanda Adichie, Taiye Selasi, Teju Cole, Binyavanga Wainaina, Helon Habila, Dinaw Mengestu, Petina Gappah, NoViolet Bulawayo, Chinelo Okparanta, Yaa Gyasi, Nnedi Okoroafor, Unoma Azuah, Yvonne Owuor, Chigozie Obioma, and others.
The pace and visibility of these African writers have: a) transformed with speed, shattering the marginal aura hovering over the African literary community; b) given African stories the light and the voice it had so longed for and deserves; c) served as motivation for new writers who, as they are producing works that are just as impactful as the works of their predecessors, have come up with unique styles, tones and approach that are real, not conforming to societal expectations and sparking crucial conversation with the themes of their works.
It is on this transformation that we at Woke Africa have, after research, debates and deliberations, picked 21 of the brightest new African writers from a cluster of many who are more likely to take over from the names mentioned above. Here they are:
An alumna of Chimamanda Adichie’s Farafina Workshop, Akwaeke Emezi is a Tamil writer and video artist. Her debut autobiographical novel FRESHWATER (2018) has been reviewed by the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times. It also received starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, and has been recognized on 2018 best/most anticipated books lists by Esquire, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Bustle, OZY, Electric Lit, and Book Riot, among others. Emezi’s first young adult novel, PET, will be published in 2019 by Make Me a World, Christopher Myers’ imprint in partnership with Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Her short story ‘Who Is Like God’ won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. She was photographed by Annie Leibovitz and profiled in the February 2018 issue of Vogue Magazine (Modern Families With A Cause). Her video art series THE UNBLINDING recently premiered at Gavin Brown’s enterprise in Harlem. Born in Umuahia, Nigeria, Emezi holds two degrees, including an MPA from New York University. In 2017, she was awarded a Global Arts Fund grant for the video art in her project The Unblinding, and a Sozopol Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction. She received a 2015 Morland Writing Scholarship to write her second novel, and is a 2016 Kimbilio Fellow. Emezi’s writing has been published by Granta Online, Vogue.com, Brittle Paper, and Commonwealth Writers, among others. Her memoir work was included in The Fader’s ‘Best Culture Writing of 2015’ (‘Who Will Claim You?’) and her experimental short UDUDEAGU won the Audience Award for Best Short Experimental at the 2014 BlackStar Film Festival.
Uzodinma Iweala is an American author and physician of Nigerian descent. His debut novel, “Beasts of No Nation”, is a formation of his thesis work (in creative writing) at Harvard. It depicts a child soldier in an unnamed African country. The book, published in 2005 and adapted as an award-winning film in 2015, was mentioned by Time Magazine, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Times, and Rolling Stone. In 2006, he won the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award. In 2007, he was named as one of Granta magazine’s 20 best young American novelists. His newest book “Speak No Evil” has just been released and is receiving mixed reviews. It has also been listed in a 2018 Indie Next Pick, One of The Millions’ Most Anticipated Books of 2018, One of Bustle’s 35 Most Anticipated Fiction Books Of 2018, One of Paste’s 25 Most Anticipated Books of 2018, One of The Boston Globe’s 25 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018.
Arinze Ifeakandu was born in Kano and is a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he edited the university literary journal The Muse. A 2013 alumnus of Farafina Creative Writing Workshop, he was a finalist for the 2015 BN Poetry Award. His short story, “God’s Children Are Little Broken Things,” won him a 2015 Emerging Writer Fellowship from A Public Space magazine, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Caine Prize and the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Fiction.
Otosirieze O. Nnaemekaram
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and deputy editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review (“Mulumba,” 2016), Transition (“A Tenderer Blessing,” 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted (“You Sing of a Longing,” 2017). His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop facilitated by Giles Foden. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories and is working on a 600-page novel.
Megan Ross is a writer, poet and journalist from the Eastern Cape in South Africa. She is the 2016 Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award winner. Her short story, “Farang,” won the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Fiction and was second runner-up for the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Award. She was runner-up for the National Arts Festival Short.Sharp Award. She has been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship and longlisted for the Writivism Prize. Her writing has been featured in New Contrast, New Coin, The Kalahari Review, Aerodrome, Itch, and Prufrock. She has also written for the Mail and Guardian, Fairlady, Glamour, GQ and O, the Oprah Magazine. Her first book, a collection of poetry called Milk Fever, is forthcoming in 2018 from uHlanga.
Sibongile Fisher is writer and drama facilitator from Johannesburg, South Africa. She holds a BCom degree in Marketing Management and a higher certificate in the Performing Arts and wishes to pursue an MA in Creative Writing. She is the co-founder of The Raising Zion Foundation, an arts organisation that focuses on promoting literature, poetry and the performing arts in high schools. Her short story, “A Door Ajar,” won the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize and was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Fiction. Her short story, “A Sea of Secrets,” written for young adults, was published by Fundza under their mentorship program and it appears in their “it takes two!” volume 2 anthology.
Efemia Chela is a Zambian-Ghanaian writer, literary critic and editor. Her first published story, ‘Chicken’ was nominated for The 2014 Caine Prize For African Writing. Efemia’s subsequent stories and poems have been published in places like Brittle Paper, Short.Sharp.Stories: Adults Only, Wasafiri and PEN Passages: Africa. Efemia recently co-edited the 2016 Short Story Day Africa collection, Migrations. She is currently the Francophone and Contributing Editor for The Johannesburg Review of Books.
Barbara Mhangami–Ruwende is originally from Zimbabwe. Her stories have appeared in the following anthologies: Where to Now (AmaBooks, 2010), Still (Negative Press, 2011); African Roar (2013) Caine Prize Anthology (2014) Gonjon Pin and Other Stories (New Internationalist, 2013), Muse for Women ( 2013) and African Drum (Diaspora, 2013). Her stories have also appeared in the following journals:Storytime, Guernica (2016) and African Writing (issue 12). She was a 2014 Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence and Caine Prize for African Writing workshop 2013 attendee. She is a mentor with the Ugandan “Writivism” program at the center for African excellence (CACE) Foundation.
Pwaangulongii Dauod is the former creative director at Ilmihouse – an art house in Kaduna, Nigeria – and is a 2016 MacDowell Colony fellow. His nonfiction piece, “Africa’s Future Has No Space for Stupid Black Men,” was published in Granta in 2016 and was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Creative Nonfiction and the 2017-18 Gerald Kraak Award. He is currently working on two books, a collection of essays, Africa’s Future Has No Space for Stupid Black Men, and a story collection, The Uses of Unhappiness.
Nick Makoha is the author of Kingdom of Gravity (Peepal Tree Press), which was shortlisted for the 2017 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. He is a joint winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. His poetry manuscript, Resurrection Man, won the 2016 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize. His poem, “Pythagoras Theorem,” was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. A Cave Canem Graduate Fellow and Complete Works Alumni, his poems appeared in The Poetry Review, Rialto, The Triquarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Wasafiri.
Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017). She is a co-winner of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, winner of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her poem, “application for assylum,” was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. She received a BA from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and an MFA in poetry at the New School. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation, and Crescendo Literary and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator. Her work has appeared in several journals and anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me. She has performed at TEDxNewYork, the South African State Theatre, the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, and TV1’s Verses & Flow. She was a founding member of Slam NYU, the 2012 and 2013 national collegiate championship team, and was a three-time member and former coach of the DC Youth Slam Poetry team. Currently a teaching artist with Split This Rock, her work has been translated into Arabic, Japanese, Estonian, and Greek.
JK Anowe’s poem, “Credo to Leave,” won the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. His poems have been nominated for the Best On The Net, longlisted for the BN Poetry Award, and have appeared in Brittle Paper, Elsewhere Lit, Gnarled Oak, Poetry Life & Times, Expound Magazine, African Writer, The Muse journal of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Praxis Magazine Online where he is Associate Poetry Editor. He is the recipient of the Festus Iyayi Award for Excellence (Poetry Category), University of Benin. When he’s not consumed by wanderlust, he lives, teaches French/Literature to a bunch of spoilt high school kids, and writes from somewhere in Nigeria, for now.
Koleka Putuma is a theatre director, writer and performance Poet. Her debut poetry collection, Collective Amnesia, was published last year to acclaim. Her poem, “Water,” was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. She is a resident poet and creative director of the collective Lingua Franca and Co-Founder of a theatre company called The Papercut Collective. Named South Africa’s first national slam champion in 2014, she won the 2016 PEN SA Student Writing Prize. She graduated with a BA in Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town. Her plays include UHM (2014) and Mbuzeni(2015/2016). At the Magnet Theatre Directing Residency in 2015, she created the plays, Ekhaya, for 2-7 year olds, and SCOOP, the first South African play for 2 weeks-12-month old babies. She was nominated for the 2015 Rosalie van der Gucht Prize for Best New Directors at the annual Fleur Du Cap Theatre Awards, has been named one of Africa’s Top 10 Poets by Badilisha, and as one of the young pioneers who took South Africa by storm in 2015 by The Sunday Times. Having headlined at TEDx, SliPnet’s Inzync Poetry Sessions, and Word N Sound, her work has been showcased in Scotland, Germany and around the US.
Gbenga Adesina is a poet and essayist. He jointly won the 2016 Brunel African Poetry Prize. His poem, “How To Paint A Girl,” was selected by Mathew Zapruder for its “clarity of observation and empathetic insight into the suffering of another” for The New York Times in July 2016, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. He was a 2017 Emerging Poet Fellow at the Poets House, New York. Other honors include fellowships and scholarships from the Norman Mailer Center at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California, Fine Arts Work Centre, Provincetown, The Open Society Foundation in Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal, and Callaloo at Oxford. His poetry chapbook, Painter of Water was published by APBF and Akashic Books, New York in a series edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Brittle Paper, Vinyl, Ploughshares and elsewhere. His poetry manuscript, Holy Bodies, was a finalist for the 2017 Sillerman First Book Prize. He is currently a StarWorks Poetry Fellow/MFA candidate at New York University where he’ll also be teaching undergraduate poetry.
Romeo Oriogun’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Brittle Paper, Expound,LAMBDA, Afridiaspora, and African Writer, among others. He is the 2017 winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. His poem, “Metamorphosis,” was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. His chapbook, My Body Is No Miracle, was a finalist for the 2018 Sillerman Prize. He is the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis Magazine Online, and was a Fellow of Ebedi International Writers Residency. His poetry chapbook, The Origin of Butterflies, will be published in 2018 by Akashic Books and African Poetry Book Fund.
Yalie Kamara is a Sierra Leonean-American and native of Oakland, California. She is the author of the poetry collections When The Living Sing (Ledge Mule Press, 2017) and Brief Biography of My Name (Akashic Books, 2018). His poem, “I Ask My Brother to Write About Oakland, and He Describe His Room,” was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. Her poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry and Prose, Puerto del Sol, The Blueshift Journal, Pop-Up Magazine, and Amazon: Day One. She is a Callaloo Fellow, a 2017 National Book Critics Circle Emerging Critics Fellow, and was a finalist for the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.
Kayo Chingonyi is the author of the poetry pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016), and the collection, Kumukanda (Chatto & Windus, 2017). Winner of the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, he has twice been shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, in 2013 and 2017. His poem, “The Colour of James Brown’s Scream,” was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for Poetry. In 2012 he represented Zambia at The Southbank Centre’s Poetry Parnassus. He was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016. He co-edited issue 62 of Magma Poetry and the Autumn 2016 edition of The Poetry Review. A Fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry, he has completed residencies with Kingston University, Cove Park, First Story, The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Royal Holloway University of London in partnership with Counterpoints Arts.
Troy Onyango is a Kenyan writer and lawyer. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals and magazines including Ebedi Review, Brittle Paper, Afridiaspora and Transition Issue 121, for which his short story ‘The Transfiguration’ was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His short story ‘For What Are Butterflies Without Their Wings?’ won the fiction prize for the inaugural Nyanza Literary Festival Prize. His nonfiction piece, “This Is How It Ends,” was shortlisted for the inaugural Brittle Paper Award for Nonfiction. He was shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship. He is a Founding Editor of Enkare Review and the Fiction Editor of the East Africa issue of Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. He has finished a novel and while looking for a publisher, he is working on a collection of short stories.
Kelechi Njoku swings between Lagos and Abuja as a freelance editor and ghost-writer. His story, “By Way of a Life Plot,” is shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He was the West Africa Regional winner of the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize, was shortlisted in Africa Book Club’s Short Reads (2014) and Naija Stories’ Best Short (2013). He has had work published in the Kalahari Review, Nigerians Talk LitMag,and Open Road Review, and has short fiction forthcoming in Litro. He is an editor at the publishing house Kachifo.
Leila Chatti was born in 1990 in Oakland, California. A Tunisian-American dual citizen, she has lived in the United States, Tunisia, and Southern France. She is the author of the chapbooks Ebb (New-Generation African Poets) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editors’ Selection from Bull City Press. She holds a B.A. from the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University and an M.F.A. from North Carolina State University, where she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. She is the recipient of a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and fellowships and scholarships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, The Frost Place Conference on Poetry, the Key West Literary Seminars, and Dickinson House. Her poems have received awards and recognition from Ploughshares,Narrative Magazine, The Georgia Review, North American Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Third Coast, Nimrod, Southword Journal, and Best of the Net, and appear in Best New Poets, Ploughshares, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Georgia Review, New England Review, Kenyon Review Online, Gulf Coast, The Missouri Review, Cincinnati Review, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, West Branch, Pleiades, Narrative, The Rumpus, and other journals and anthologies. She currently serves as the Consulting Poetry Editor at the Raleigh Review and lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is the 2017-2018 Ron Wallace Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and teaches creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Chisom Okafor temporarily lives and writes in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Nigeria. His works, which explore childhood, memory, loss and his own sexuality, appear or are forthcoming in the Indian Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Praire Schooner, EXPOUND, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, TUCK, The PoetryDigest, Praxis, Kalahari Review, the first and second editions of The Art Naija Series on Brittle Paper, and elsewhere. He was runner up in the 2016 Nigerian Students’ Poetry Prize, and won the Dwarts Poetry Prize of 2016. He was the 2017 moderator of PIN Monthly Poetry Challenge, and the pioneer Coordinator of the PIN literary connect centre in Yaba, Lagos. He is presently on the editorial team for 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry. His debut chapbook, In the Cathedral of our Bodies, is set to be published in 2018.