New Journals and Magazines Shaping Africa’s Literary Scene

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KISUMU, Kenya — Troy Onyango remembers two years ago when he was completing his master’s degree in creative writing in England, complaining with his friends about how little literary publication was devoted to black writers, poets and photographers.

For Onyango, “How can we find a space where we can all gather?” Said it was about.

That question prompted lolweis an online literary magazine launched in 2020 with the aim of publishing Black people in Africa and around the world. Lolwe, which means “endless lake or body of water” and named after the Lake Victoria that surrounds this city in western Kenya, has published dozens of works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and photography from more than 20 countries. .

In June, as the magazine prepared to launch its third issue, it also garnered coveted acclaim: “giving nicknames,A story about students at an elite Namibian private school was shortlisted. AKO Caine Award for African SummerAwarded annually for the best short fiction in English by an African author.

Onyango, 28, was also shortlisted for his story.This is a small piece of light from meWritten from the perspective of a disabled man trying to heal his loneliness with online dating apps. It was published last year in the Namibian-based literary magazine Doek. Founder: Rémy Ngamije, author of The Giver of Nicknames.

“When I got the news, I felt it was a joke,” Onyango said of the crossover candidates. In a phone call from Windhoek, Ngamije said when she heard that both stories and magazines had been nominated, “it calmly comforted me because it let me know we were doing the right thing.”

Given how new both publications are, the election “shows that it won because African literary publications are doing the job,” said Onyango. “With the right support, more of this collaboration can help grow our literature.”

Across Africa, literary magazines run by young writers and artists are emerging with the aim of publishing both new and established voices, collaborating across geographies and using the internet and social media to reach their target audiences. They build on precedents such as Transitionshaping post-independence Africa. chimurenga, kwani, celada, fragile paper and Johannesburg Book Reviewhas introduced powerful African storytellers to the global stage over the past two decades.

New games including Lolwe and Doek plus the following Isle Magazinebased in the United States and Imbza Magazine for African Writings, based in South Africa, often provokes reactions just by name.

Lower River Roadfor example, a Kenyan magazine that started last year and takes its name from Meja Mwangi’s 1976 novel “Going Down River Road”. Doek means cloth or headscarf in Afrikaans, but is also a play on behalf of Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. By tying the magazine’s name to something familiar, Ngamije said she wanted to present literature as “something visible and accessible” and to spark curiosity in readers beyond Namibia and South Africa.

“All you heard about Namibia was our dunes, our lions, and our black rhinos,” Ngamije said. But he added that with Doek’s focus on publishing the work of Namibians, he hopes to “not only bring Namibian writing to Africa and the world, but also bring us a little bit of Africa.”

Magazines also provide platforms for art forms beyond writing, and often topics or perspectives that wouldn’t get too prominent in Western publications. Down River Road posted a audio performance As part of the Ritual issue, it includes poems by Chebet Fataba Kakulatombo and music and mixing by Petero Kalulé and Yabework Abebe. In the second issue of Doek photo series on workplace anxiety by South African journalist Rofhiwa Maneta Photo essay by Layla Adjovi The latest issue of Lolwe focuses on women in Senegal, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso whose husbands have emigrated to Europe.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes, a Ghanaian author and trustee of the Caine Prize, said editors and contributors of emerging journals are less constrained by the demands of funders or “the burden of having to shape a real or imagined post-independence.” Identity expressed with dignity for Africa. ”

That’s why they can be “more progressive, more radical, broader, more disruptive,” he said in an email.

Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo OwuorWinner of the 2003 Caine Prize for a story in the Kwani literary magazine, publications sees it draw a new, young group of African writers, artists and readers. “They seem to excite a generation that identifies with them, transcending the global typology where themes, ideas, style and method replace traditional politics and visions,” he said.

But while they try to get the voice of the new generation to be heard, new magazines face the same challenges as their predecessors. Key among these are financial constraints, many of which rely on individual donations or their own money to survive.

Frankline Sunday, co-founder of Down River Road, said that to stay sustainable, outlets like Down River Road are printing copies of their posts in cities like Nairobi in special materials that aren’t online. Lolwe preferred organizing writing workshops with African writers, Doek partner with a local bank for support.

One of the risks of emerging literary organizations is the high staff turnover, where founders are sometimes attracted by more established organizations or better deals.

“They go to a publishing house, they go to a newspaper, they go to the communications department of an organization,” said journalist James Murua. blog It extensively documents the African literary scene. “And that’s usually the end of the magazine.”

But whatever the challenges, Murua believes these next-generation literary journals will pave the way for more publications and encourage young Africans to write the next bestseller.

“It’s just good for the future,” he said. “This is a win-win.”

It is this long-term vision that sustained founders like Ngamije as they sought to put Namibia on the African and global cultural map.

“We’re taking baby steps in this literary marathon,” he said, “and we always have to fight the feeling that we’re late, that we’re in last place.”

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