Get Print Edition of African Writing Home Page
HomeAbout UssNewsinterviewsProfiles of Emergent African WritersFictionPoetryCultureArtReviews

  Femi Osofisan
  Tanure Ojaide
  Brian Chikwava
  Hugh Hodge
  Helon Habila
  Muhammad Jalal A. Hashim
  Ogaga Ifowodo
  Edwin Gaarder
  Harry Garuba
  Toyin Adewale-Gabriel
  Zukiswa Wanner
  Ike Okonta
  Maxim Uzoatu
  George Ngwane
  Ike Anya
  E. E. Sule
  Beverley Nambozo
  Obi Nwakanma
  Matthew Dodwell
  Ikhide Ikheloa
  Afam Akeh
  Femi Oyebode
  Chika Unigwe
  Linda Chase
  Mohamed Bushara
  Wale Okediran
  Niran Ok
  Remi Raji
  Ahmed Maiwada

  Laura King

  Chuma Nwokolo



Fifty African Writers

50 Years after Things fall Apart: The New Inheritors


The List



In just over a week after Chimamanda Adichie’s triumph at the Orange Broadband Prize, winning the £30,000 prize money, Chinua Achebe, the writer she considers her great inspiration, has demonstrated again his superior vintage quality by walking into the Adichie party with the MAN Booker International Literature Prize, its trophy and £60,000 prize money. Now there is double celebration in African Literature. The daughter wins, and the father also wins! It is possible to equally celebrate both prize wins because between Achebe and Adichie, between the old and the new, there is mutual admiration and professional support. There is a sense of continuity. At , we have been thrilled by this auspicious turn of events and have decided to doubly celebrate the double win by offering these pages to a unique photo survey of those who, like Chimamanda Adichie, may be considered the latest inheritors of the Achebe legacy, the new torch-bearers for African literature.

The year 2008 will also be significant in African literature as the fiftieth year of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, still considered by many as the definitive novel of the African (postcolonial) experience, certainly a universally acknowledged pioneering classic on the subject. This was an important reason given for awarding Achebe his Man Booker International Literature Prize. At publication Things Fall Apart, which the author began to write fifty years ago in 1957, became the most inspirational novel of the modern era in African literature, and Achebe a leading indigenous interpreter of this nearly new literary enterprise and the cultural landscapes which provided its material. But Achebe was not a lone voice. There were other significant literary interpreters at that time, some even before Achebe and just as influential, who began to tell the stories and truth of Africa in their informed African voices, in their stories, poems and many plays – writers like his fellow Nigerians Wole Soyinka and Christopher Okigbo, the Ghanaians, Ayi Kwei Armah and Kofi Awoonor, Cameroonians Ferdinand Oyono and Mongo Beti, Ugandan Okot p’Bitek, the Senegalese Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Leopold Senghor and Sembene Ousmane, the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz, the Somalian Nuruddin Farah, the Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the South Africans Eskia Mphalele, Athol Fugard and Dennis Brutus. And there were women among them too, including Efua Sutherland, Zulu Sofola, Bessie Head, Nadine Gordimer, Nawal el Sadaawi, Ama Ata Aidoo and Buchi Emecheta. Among their critics and theorists were Eldred Durosimi Jones, Ato Quayson, Emmanuel Obiechina, Abiola Irele, Isidore Okpewho, Michael Echeruo, Chinweizu, Ali Mazrui, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie and Kwame Appiah.

Writing in Africa, or even the literature of Africa, did not begin with them, but they were pioneers in successfully blending and employing the idioms of Africa’s colonial experience in their work and in the necessary write-back to the colonizing nations, part of the coming-of-age ownership of the African story, and equalization of the discourse, at independence and soon after. However, this was not the only theme of the writers. Among especially the South Africans there was the tendency to explore bi-racial tensions, and the vagaries of personal and corporate damage in the life of Africa, the Africa of their time. Much has happened in African literature since then, and other major literary voices have risen in the continent to consolidate and progress the work of those pioneering writers. Such more recent writers as Femi Osofisan, Odia Ofeimun, Jack Mapanje, Syl Chenney Coker, Niyi Osundare, Njabulo Ndebele, Simon Gikandi and Kofi Anyidoho, writing after the Achebe generation, have themselves become part of the canon of African literature. But most of the subjects of this African Writing gallery display or photo survey are comparatively still newer to the African cultural landscape. They are the latest stars of the African literary firmament, part of what the poet Christopher Okigbo perceptively identified as a starry “going and coming that goes on forever…” Those we consider here were very young children or not even born at the time, in the 1950s and 1960s, when Achebe and others began to publish their epoch-making work. There is no exact or fail-safe science by which we have chosen those represented here. They are merely our informed selection. Part of our great joy in this celebration of progress in African literature is the fact we already know that on the basis of good writing alone there are enough other excellent writers to make our list many times over, especially from significant African literary nations like South Africa and Nigeria.

At , we asked ourselves: Are there any contemporary or recent voices in African literature today, half a century after Things Fall Apart, about whom we could be justly proud as we have been with Achebe and others, writers on whom we can depend to faithfully and excellently interpret the new concerns and experiences of being or living in contemporary Africa? Below are some of the faces and names we found. These are the contemporary African griots, the inheritors and latest interpreters of the proud cultural but blighted political experience post independence Africa has been. Their peculiarly alienating experience of recent African history has made them the first generation of African writers to live and write mostly outside Africa, in many cases with dual nationality, or with multiple national loyalties, sympathies or influences, and sometimes even without the rooted familiarity with Africa earlier generations of African writers took for granted. These are the writers of a disillusioned Africanist enterprise, who are not naïve about international realities but have become more hesitant about blaming outsiders because they have experienced a lot of enemies within. They are often less ideological in their judgements and creative choices than their predecessors. They are a motley crowd, some already established as international literary figures, with extensive bibliographies, but still comparatively less known to and celebrated by the canon of African literature, and others better known in their nations or known as much by their writing as by their roles as critics and facilitators to the literary process.

We started off this survey intent on featuring only the most accomplished of the writers, no matter who they were or where they came from. But the achievement of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is an All-Africa achievement so we realized that as much as our primary interest in excellence would allow it was necessary to cast our net further and include others from as many possible places who may be at the beginning of their careers but already demonstrate the same native ambition and sensitivity to craft, the same confidence in their African abilities that made Things fall Apart possible. Thrown together with those who began publishing their work in the 1980s are the younger but no less important writers who are debutantes of the new century. There are three decades of writing represented here, and also three decades in the age range (from the twenties to the forties). We have excluded writers born before 1960 (because of the epochal relevance of 1960 as a central year for new beginnings in African political history, especially regarding independence from colonial rule). However, this is more than a mere generational statement. It is concerned with engaging the promising work of the most recent literary inheritors of Achebe’s achievement in Things Fall Apart, who significantly operate in a critical terrain and creative environment somewhat different from that associated with the best-known work of the older canonical generations. We are here considering such comparatively recent African writers who may be considered the future of African literature. Those represented here are the writers of the internet age, the age of theory, globalization, exile and its fractured identities. This is the first corpus of African writing to be substantially distanced from Africa by geography and by many psychological and theoretical removes, the first to substantially dialogue with the homeland from these many distances. This is ’s 50, presented here without prejudice and in no preferred order. But there are many interesting others we also found in our search not included here…      continues to The List

The African Writer's Fund

The Travel Commissar

  Go to Top
Copyright © Fonthouse Ltd & respective copyright owners. Enquiries to