New frontiers: Crime fiction and everything else to expect from African literature

You can probably already tell that we had the best and most enlightening time at this last Ake Arts and Book Festival themed “Beneath this Skin”.

So beneath this skin; beneath the race literature and colonialism stories; beyond the usual, we learnt a few things about what African literature lovers can expect to see more of in the next few years.

From crime fiction to pre-colonial history, here are few new frontiers of African literature according to the authors themselves:


For Helon Habila, journalist,professor and author Measuring Time, Waiting for an Angel, Oil on Water and most recently, a non-fiction based on Nigeria’s worst insurgency, The Chibok Girls, there are any new things dominating the African literary scene but the one to look out for is the shift from local. In this year’s Ake Review, Helon says the shift in Africa from rural to urban will also shift the focus of our literature not just in setting but also in human relations, cultural and ethical values and also from the communal to individual.

Children’s literature

Sarah Ladipo-Manyika, is the author of (In) Dependence a tale heavy with the themes of love and geography. Even though she’s just written Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, a novel whose protagonist is a liveliest and most unexpected seventy-five year old woman you’ll ever meet, Sarah believes children’s literature is the next big thing in African writing.

Crime Fiction

Cassava Republic has just published two riveting crime tales set in Lagos by Toni Kan (A Carnivorous City) and Leye Adenle (Easy Motion Tourist); so that should tell you something. And it appears the readers are more than ready for this too judging from the full attendance that these two authors got during their book chat moderated by Tendai Huchu (The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician) at the festival.

Watch Leye Adenle read an excerpt off Easy Motion Tourist below:

African Languages

Of course this was a major reference at the festival seeing as the man at the frontline of the movement towards incorporating more of African language in our writings headlined this year’s event – Ngugi wa Thiong’o. His newest memoir, Birth of A Dream Weaver has been translated into 55 languages already. At the festival, Kola Tubosun, the Yoruba writer, promised to make it 56 when to our dismay, we realized, there’s yet to be a Yoruba translation.

At the festival’s last major event, an interview of Professor Ngugi by Professor Okey Ndibe, author of the acclaimed Foreign Gods Inc., we were treated to a buffet reading of a passage from Birth of A Dreamweaver in as many languages as the guests could speak. Wife of Kaduna State governor, Hadiza El-Rufai started us off with Hausa and then one after the other we were awed by the music eloquence of the passage in Swahili, Shona, Gikoyo, Igbo, Yoruba, Sheng (the new Kenyan language) and a host of others.

But the veteran is not alone, we discovered a new Nigerian writer who has chosen to only write in Tiv. Can you believe that? We cannot wait to find out how this pans out.

Sex, sexuality and sensuality

It’s hard to call this one new but it goes without saying that we’ve only just started seeing literary works heavy on sexual themes being widely published by known publishers. Chinelo Okparanta was the star of this new frontier at the festival. Fielding off deliberately accusatory comments and questions at her panels gracefully, the award-winning author of Under the Udala Tree was not afraid to air her views on homosexuality and the wrong approach of many ‘western religionists’.

Watch below:


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