On the shoulders of lions


Those in the know are buzzing about an African literary renaissance.

An interesting article that appeared in Vanity Fair in July and has been republished on Kubatana on the literature scene in Africa. “It seems everywhere you go these days – coffee shops, bookstores, all the right parties – those in the know are buzzing about an African Literary Renaissance.

Much like the literary scene of India in the 1970s and early 80s, which spawned writers such as Salman Rushdie and Anita Desai, the cultural climate of Africa, with its rapid urbanization, expanding educational and economic opportunities, and relative artistic freedom, has forged a hotbed of creativity, giving rise to a vibrant new generation of writers demanding to be read.”

The article by Elissa Schappell and Rob Spillman discuss giants of the past as well as the new lions of literature that walk in their footsteps. Just a brief sampling from the article’s detailing of two authors on the rise:

“Cameroon-born journalist Ntone Edjabe is the editor of the uber-cool Cape Town-based magazine Chimurenga, a multilingual journal spinning a funky mix of art, culture, and political writing from and about Africa. Recent themes included “Music as Weapon” and “Futbol, Politricks & Ostentatious Cripples.” Edjabe chose the name Chimurenga not only because it means “struggle for liberation” in the Zimbabwean language of Shona, but also because it is a description of the music that stoked the rebellion against British colonialism and the white-supremacist regime that rose to power in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1970s. Music is clearly Edjabe’s obsession: at present he is at work on a highly anticipated book on the Pan-African influence of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the late, great Nigerian bandleader and father of Afro-beat, while supporting Chimurenga and himself by working as the most righteous D.J. in Cape Town.

A native of war-ravaged Sierra Leone, Aminatta Forna, broadcast journalist and novelist, describes the legacy of 20 years of civil war on one family in her 2006 novel, Ancestor Stones. When she began researching her own family’s past for her memoir, she had no clue what she might dig up. The Devil That Danced on the Water (2003) is her horrifying excavation of the truth behind the execution of her father, a prominent dissident.”

The article is definitely worth a read on a continent that is too often overlooked.