Trifonia Melibea Obono’s La Bastarda has won universal acclaim for its commentary on the harmful nature of genderised societal norms.
La Bastarda ****
Trifonia Melibea Obono, translated by Lawrence Schimel, Modjaji, R220
Calling a novel brave has become a cliché; but La Bastarda truly is a work of courage. It’s written by Trifonia Melibea Obono, the first Equatorial Guinean woman writer to be translated into English. Yet Africa’s only Spanish-speaking country banned the book.
“This novel was a scandal in my country,” Obono says, via her book’s translator, Lawrence Schimel. “It was forbidden to discuss its homosexual content in the media. It had a great success in Spain and reached Equatorial Guinea on the rebound. Its success was such that even though I have written four novels, nobody forgets La Bastarda. It’s the book of rebellion, they say.”
The story follows teenager Okomo. Defying her maternal grandmother, Okomo attempts to locate her biological father, not considered her dad in Fang tradition. During her search, she meets her gay uncle, who has been cast out of the community.
Through friends and acquaintances, Okomo finds herself questioning traditions in village society and Fang culture. This leads her to revelations about her own sexuality, taboo in her society.
In one of the story’s most heart-wrenching moments, Okomo discovers that while her culture has a word for gay men, there isn’t one for women. The teen laments: “If you don’t have a name, you’re invisible, and if you’re invisible, you can’t claim any rights.”
Obono explains: “In Okomo’s tradition, women are not people but just property of men. A woman’s sexuality is in the service of her ethnicity, of reproduction. Okomo, who represents womanhood, vindicates the right to be visible, to be an activist, and to enjoy a fundamental right: sexuality.”
The story came at huge personal cost to the writer. “I already lived openly,” Obono says. “But a book like La Bastarda in a closed society pulls you out of the closet on an institutional level. Relatives and friends called my mother to tell them her daughter disobeyed tradition and her place as a woman inside it, writing this filth.”
She continues, “I feel alone as a woman who writes about a marginalised group. I feel alone for not being heteronormative. I feel alone because I have lightish skin and don’t fit into the racial categories of my country: black, white, mulatta. I feel alone for not lightening my skin. I feel alone for not putting on make-up or wearing high heels. I feel alone for not belonging to the masculine gender nor the female: I’m a mix of both.
“The moment comes when you decide to be yourself, without complexes or categories. And you’re happy. I have friendships that don’t abandon me, books, writing – by loving them so much I keep myself sane.” @ms_tiahmarie
Exclusive Books, The Market Theatre Foundation and The Coloured Cube have been announced as BASA Award winners for the Sponsorship in Kind Award for The Exclusive Books Pan African Reading Room and Pan African Reading Lounge at the Windybrow Arts Centre.
“We are delighted by this recognition of our efforts in the Pan-African literature space,” said Ben Williams, GM: Marketing for Exclusive Books. “This partnership has firmly established the Windybrow Arts Centre as a hub for the advancement of Pan-African literature and has helped bring African stories and literature to life for a wider audience.”
The 21st Annual BASA Awards, held on 16 September at the Victoria Yards, recognise and honour businesses that invest in an inclusive economy through art. Exclusive Books was one of 11 winners announced at the ceremony.
The Windybrow Arts Centre opened the doors on the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Lounge for adults and The Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room for children on Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July 2017. Over 2000 Pan-African titles are housed in the 121-year old Windybrow Heritage House, courtesy of Exclusive Books.
The Pan-African Reading Initiative, the first of its sort in the world, has also contributed enormously to the success of the advancement of Pan-African literature, Williams adds.
Exclusive Books will continue to add to this initiative, consisting of a “spectacular list of Pan-African titles from around the world”, says Williams. This includes bringing books back into print, supplying Windybrow with 400 Pan-African titles, and an “entire hemisphere” of Pan-African titles which will be added to the soon-to-be-reopened Sandton branch of Exclusive Books, Williams concludes.
The reading rooms have encouraged a reading culture among the more than 120 daily visitors to the Windybrow Arts Centre – most of whom are youths. In addition, the Centre launched a monthly book club programme for children and a series of forums for adults focusing on African authors and on the titles available in the Reading Lounge.
“We warmly congratulate each winner and thank all the finalists for their commitment to supporting and working with creative people,” said BASA Chairman André le Roux.
Heidi Brauer, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Hollard, a BASA sponsor, said, “In beautiful harmony with Hollard’s special partnership model, the BASA Awards really do deliver win-win-win.
“Artists benefit through having their work recognised and celebrated; corporates grow their brand and gain exposure to the creative arts; and broader society is enriched through the conversation, challenge and stimulation provided by art that may not otherwise have seen the light of day. Such partnerships enable a better future for us all.”
The Jozi Book Fair is celebrating its 10th annual festival this year, making it one of the longest running book festivals in South Africa, and the longest running book festival outside the Western Cape. In partnership with the City of Johannesburg the Festival will run from 30 August – 2 September 2018, at Mary Fitzgerald Square, Newtown.
This festival is a celebration of year-long educational programmes, designed to create readers and writers of the working class. Our programmes are directed towards youth, schools, children and working people. Basically, this is a festival for everyone. This is the only fair where the public hosts events, entrance is free of charge and books are sold at discounted prices. The Festival will have specifically designed entertainment by children and youth for children and youth.
The JBF will be opened with the Photography Exhibition, The Cordoned Heart, by Omar Badsha, on 30August, at Museum Africa. First commissioned for the Carnegie Commission on Poverty (1984), this exhibition captures the theme of the JBF, Literature and Working People, and the current context of working people in South Africa.
This year’s theme ‘Literature and Working People’ highlights the literature of the working class, often ignored and disregarded, negating its impact and influence. While the stories that have a lasting literary influence in South Africa (and internationally) are about the working class, ironically, this literature is often not read nor shared by the working class. With this theme, the JBF strives to bridge this gap by mak Festival.
Authors with the likes of Lindsey Collen, Jacklyn Cock, Jolyn Phillips, Luli Callinicos, Motsoko Pheko, Farayi Matondo, Oscar Banda, Brian Unmaki, Hertha Nekwaya, Janet Smith and Rabbie Serumula feature on the programme.
Legends, patrons & internationally acclaimed authors: Lindsey Collen, James Mathews, Wally Serote, Diana Ferrus & Ronnie Govender.
International authors: Lindsey Collen (Mauritius), and four worker poets from Sweden: Emil Boss (supermarket worker), Magnus Gustafson (journalist), Jenny Wrangborg (restaurant worker) and Athena Farrokhzad.
Conversations with authors
Lindsey Collen, author of Getting Rid of it, will be in conversation with Searatoa van Driel (director of “Gibson Kent”, “It’s Too Late”), Jolyn Phillips will be in conversation with Nosipho Mdletshe (JBF Coordinator) on her short stories, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries, Jacklyn Cock will be in conversation with Samson Mokoena (Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance) on her book Writing the Ancestral River and the Black Consciousness Reader authors will discuss their book with Janet Smit, Paballo Thekiso, Rabbie Serumula and Masego Panyane.
The festival boasts over 20 skills workshops which include: Writing (short stories, poetry), Photography, Creativity, Silk-Screening t-shirts, Philosophy for youth and Hockey and Soccer.
Book launches include the 3rd edition of Batjha Kaofela: an anthology of ten short stories by JBF’s Tsohang Batjha; women worker-writers will discuss their lives in Our Lives, Our Communities by Gauteng Community Health Workers. Hidden Voices (Jacana): Worker leaders and Writers by Alfred Qabula & Jabu Ndlovu, will be launched together with veteran cultural activists, Ari Sitas and Nise Malange.
Roundtable discussions include: The Future of Worker Literature in SA (Bheki Peterson, Ali Hlongwane, Wally Serote); The Land Question- Elite project or people’s demand? (with Lindsey Collen, Gwen Ngwenya and the EFF) and Workers Party, a political alternative in 2019 national general elections?
The Focus on Women includes, Beyond Policies: feminizing our organisations and our struggles (with Ruth Ntlokotse, NUMSA) and Assessing the #TotalShutDown march against violence on women and children and feminist struggles in SA (with activists). There is a substantial Focus on Labour & Politics: On the Making of the Working Class in SA (with Luli Callinicos and Isabel Hofmeyer); On Neoliberalism, LRA Amendments and worker responses (with Lynford Dor & Zama Mthunzi); on Marx@200 and colour and class in SA (with Adam Habib and Oupa Lehulere), The Fourth Industrial Revolution and implications for working People (with John Appolis) and Asssessing the The Con Court victory and its implications for the future of casual workers in SA (with Ighsaan Schroeder); and the Fractious relationship between unions and social movements (with Zwelinzima Vavi and Virginia Magwaza).
Exciting Exhibitions: Sculptor exhibition – Imbali Yo Mfazi/ The Legend Of Woman by Mazwi Mdima at Workers Museum.
Music: Jozi Book Fair and Fitzroy Ngcukanawill provide music at designated time. Theatre: Inner City Youth will perform an iconic street play, “It’s to late” by Gibson Kente and special tribute to late SA Poet Laureate and JBF Patron Keorapetse Kgositsile; JBF OPEN MIC Competition with prizes to publish your work and tribute performances by James Matthews, Lindsey Collen, Diana Ferrus, Wally Serote and worker poets.
Bhekumusa Moyo, Zimbabwean protest poet and playwright
What role do you think storytelling – in communities, families or even individually – can have in creating social change?
Storytelling is a powerful communication tool for social cohesion, recording history and development. It can inspire change or incite a people to act on a social issue. Our personal stories are also a source of energy. Each story told has the potential for inspiring the next person. The experiences we go through can be used as a learning tool by those who haven’t experienced those things. I derive my own personal mojo from stories of key pioneers of pan-Africanism.
Tell us a little about your own experience with writing and performing in Zimbabwe.
Writing and performing in Zimbabwe is a life-changing experience. It certainly has its ugly phases – the darkest corners being draconian laws inherited from colonial Rhodesia. The laws that make the lives of critical and protest artists like me hell are the Public Order Security Act and the censorship board. These have curtailed any work which challenges those in power. Minus these challenges of arrest, persecution and banning, though, Zimbabwean audiences are supportive of art that speaks truth to power.
Which of your works are you most proud of having written?
I am proud of 1983-The Dark Years. This is a politically charged play on the Gukurahundi genocide which swept Matabeleland from 1980 through to 1987, leaving a trail of sorrow and deaths numbering around 20 000. The play was banned in 2010 but, with support from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, we managed to stage it in various places. This year, after Mugabe, the play had a week of full houses at Theatre in the Park in Harare. I’m also proud of one of my poems called They Shall All Fall. This poem speaks of how people will dethrone dictators no matter how strong they are. Here’s an extract – “All that flies lands sometime / one by one in no particular order / they shall all fall.”
What language(s) do you use to write and perform in? Do you think choice of language is a political act for artists?
I write in Ndebele and English. Ndebele is my mother language. I will not stray far from it, as it carries rich idioms, proverbs and expressions of my people. Even when I perform, I juggle English and Ndebele. Language is a political act. My English must have deep roots to the imagery of my community so that I don’t struggle. Language, like culture, carries the essence of the peoples’ struggles. Language is the heartbeat of a community and yes, it’s a political tool too for engagement or disengagement.
There are many ways of protesting. Using literature – both written and oral – has a long and powerful tradition in Africa. Who are some of the protest writers who have inspired you?
I am greatly inspired by Athol Fugard, Professor Chinua Achebe, Christopher Mlalazi and the general struggles of my people, especially the women and mothers of my village who always show resilience even in the face of travesty.
Have you ever found it difficult to be a politically active writer in Zimbabwe?
Yes, Zimbabwe has very draconian laws, as I alluded to earlier. The censorship board is the biggest culprit – a club of old men who make it difficult to be politically active as a writer.
Of course, the elections are coming up very soon in Zimbabwe. What role do you think writers – whether they are poets, singers or journalists – play in this important time?
Chinua Achebe says that ‘writers give headaches.’ I feel it is important for artists at this time to inspire debate on the elections and comment strongly on institutions and individuals who can make or break the election. Artists must motivate citizens to vote, inspire peace as well as play the watchdog role and whistleblowers in cases of human rights abuses.
What kinds of opportunities would you like to see for African writers and storytellers in the future?
I am hoping that universities will embrace storytelling as a medium of passing on information. This can be done in formal learning spaces or creating festivals within academic years for African writers to bring their wisdom. I’d also love to see more writing residencies and literature festivals for different language activists. Storytellers must be brought to the table as much as other professionals to educate and speak openly on issues of social change.
Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.
Words lift off the page to animate the body, as Poetica and #cocreateSA again team up to present a phenomenal programme of readings, performances, discussions and workshops using rap, poetry and the spoken word,at #cocreatePOETICA. The event, now in its third year, runs as part of Open Book Festival, brought to you by the Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre. This year it will run from 5 to 9 September, in Cape Town.
“This year’s #cocreatePOETICA celebrates three years of partnership between the Dutch Consulate General and the Open Book Festival Poetica programme. Through our national campaign, #cocreateSA, we have established a successful collaboration. Even though our countries differ, there are many parallels in the public and cultural debates on identity, integration and transformation. By cocreating cultural interventions, we have and continue to build mutual understanding and trust between the Netherlands and South Africa,” says Bonnie Horbach, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Previous years have seen Dutch and South African artists collaborate to create performance pieces on issues pertaining to history, language and culture. Last year #cocreatePOETICA took this further with a three day series of interactions exploring place, language and identity, culminating in an event where results were shared with the public.
The #cocreatePOETICA line up once again includes a world-class selection of established and emerging artists, and partnerships with groups that are fundamental to the Cape Town poetry scene. #cocreatePOETICA is delighted to work with InZync, Lingua Franca, Grounding Sessions, and Rioters Session in 2018.
Artists not to be missed include Babs Gons, a Dutch writer, performer, theatre director and teacher of creative writing. She is part of spoken word collective De Vurige Harten Club (The Fiery Hearts Club) and Club Spoken, an agency of professional performance artists. Gons is also a juror of the J.M.A. Biesheuvel Prize for short stories and hosts various programs, including the musical-literary show Babs’s Word Salon. For many years she was the artistic director of Poetry Circle Nowhere, and before that she organised a monthly platform for young poets and writers in Paradiso, Amsterdam. She joins #cocreatePOETICA thanks to support from the Dutch Foundation for Literature.
Swedish poet and playwright Athena Farrokhzad’s debut collection of poetry Vitsvit (White Blight) has been translated into 12 languages and staged several times as a play. It explores the topics of language, body and family within a context of revolution, war, migration and racism. Her second book, Trado, published in 2016, is a collaboration with the Romanian poet Svetalana Cârstean. Farrokhzad joins #cocreatePOETICA thanks the Embassy of Sweden’s support.
Dean Bowen and Sjaan Flikweert at #coecreatePOETICA 2017. Pic supplied.
Ivan Words is a Dutch spoken word artist, musician and songwriter. His work explores what expression as a necessity means. Words is the co-founder of spoken word platform Spoken World and has on several occasions been a house poet for FUNX and a speaker for TEDx. In 2016, he won the House of Poets Poetry Slam in Rotterdam. He also facilitates workshops, is a presenter, and performs in theatre productions.
Canadian poet and anthropologist Roseline Lambert published Clinique, her first collection of poetry, in 2016. The sequel The Uniform was published in the magazine Exit, earning her the Félix-Antoine-Savard Prize for Poetry 2017. Her work has been published in reviews such as Estuaire, Art le Sabord and la Revue de la Compagnie à Numéro. Her approach to writing is built through the integration of ethnographic and theoretical texts in her poems.
Peruvian Jorge Vargas Prado is a poet, narrator, editor and cultural manager. He has published storybooks, poetry anthologies and a novel, and works as a translator. Vargas Prado has been part of the editorial team at Dragostea Publishing House and participated in the musical projects Chintatá and Ishishcha. The most important part of his work is related to Peru’s originary languages, endangered due to Peruvian colonial racism.
Gabeba Baderoon is the recipient of the Daimler Award for South African Poetry and is on the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund.She co-directs the African Feminist Initiative at Pennsylvania State University and her collections of poetry include The Dream in the Next Body, The Museum of Ordinary Life and A Hundred Silences. Her new collection, The History of Intimacy, is due later this year.
Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese won the 2018 Ingrid Jonker prize for poetry for her debut collection Loud and Yellow Laughter. Books Live called the collection ‘an uncommon balance between emotional tenderness, creative flexibility and analytical and structural integrity’. The collection was also shortlisted for the 2016 University of Johannesburg Prize in the Debut category. Busuku-Mathese has published poems in local and international poetry journals such as New Coin, New Contrast, Prufrock, OnsKlyntji, Aerodrome, Sol Plaatje European Union Anthology and Dryad Press: Unearthed Anthology.
Award-winning writer and performer Phillippa Yaa de Villiers’ poetry has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Everyday Wife won the Poetry Award at the 2011 South African Literary Awards and she was chosen as Commonwealth poet in 2014, reading her poem Courage, written for the occasion, at Westminster Abbey. Original Skin, her autobiographical one-woman show, has toured to great acclaim in South Africa and abroad. Her latest collection, Ice Cream Headache in my Bone was published in 2017.
Roché Kester’s poetry has been published in the UWC Creates anthology titled This is My Land and her prose has been featured in Powa’s Women’s Writing anthology titled Sisterhood. She currently coordinates the weekly poetry event, Grounding Sessions, and was co-curator of #cocreatePOETICA at Open Book Festival 2016.
Puleng Lange-Stewart is a writer, theatre and film maker. Her primary focus is in interdisciplinary performance and multimedia integration. She was one of three shortlisted writers in the national PEN student writing competition in 2016 and her writing has appeared in the 2017 African Literature curriculum at UCT. Her first independent short film Until the Silence Comes was selected for the Cape Town International Film Festival 2017 and was nominated for an audience award at the Shnit International Short Film Festival 2017.
Mbongeni Nomkonwana’s list of talents includes actor, playwright, theatre director, poet and standup comedian. He won the Cape Town DFL LOVER+ ANOTHER poetry slam 2012, and went on to compete in the national finals. Nomkonwana has since performed at OFF THE WALL poetry sessions, at InZync Poetry, 2012 HEAIDS Conference at UCT, Jam That Session, Brand House Marketing Campaign, and Last Poet’s: Rhythm Poetry1. He is co-founder and resident poet at Lingua Franca, and in 2013 he teamed up with Lwanda Sindaphi to coordinate the poetry for the annual Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival.
Poet and Executive Director of InZync Poetry Pieter Odendaal also works with SLiP (the Stellenbosch Literary Project). His PhD at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane centres on performance poetry as a way to promote tolerance in socio-ecological systems. Some of his poems appeared in the collection Nuwe Stemme 5 and his debut collection is out this year.
Recently named as one of Forbes Africa’s ’30 under 30’ Koleka Putuma is an internationally acclaimed poet, theatre maker and spoken word artist who has toured extensively abroad and in South Africa. Her debut collection Collective Amnesia is in its seventh print run, and is a fearless, unwavering exploration of blackness, womxnhood and history. Putuma’s numerous accolades include the 2014 National Poetry Slam Championship and the 2016 PEN South Africa Student Writing Prize.
In her debut collection Milk Fever, Megan Ross writes about unexpected motherhood and all its emotional detritus, the angst, joy and self-reckoning that comes with the choices and misadventures of young womanhood. Ross is the 2017 winner of the Brittle Paper Award for Fiction and an Iceland Writers Retreat alumnus. She was a runner-up for the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize and the 2017 National Arts Festival Short Sharp Stories Award.
Lwanda Sindaphi has an extensive career as an actor, playwright, theatre director and poet. He won the 2011 DFL + LOVER Another Poetry Slam and went to compete in the National finals. He was included in Badalisha Poetry’s Top 10 poets in Africa and is the co-founder of Lingua Franca Spoken Word Movement. His play Kudu recently enjoyed a successful run at the Baxter Theatre Centre and he won best Director at the 2013 Baxter Zabalaza Theatre Festival for his play Death the Redeemer. Other theatre highlights include touring internationally with The Handspring Puppet Company on Warhorse.
Toni Stuart is a poet, performer and spoken word educator, working between London and Cape Town, across various inter-disciplinary collaborations with a range of artists. She has performed here and in Europe and her work has been published in anthologies, journals and non-fiction books in South Africa and internationally. Stuart was the founding curator of Poetica at Open Book Festival.
Writer and performer Adrian van Wyk became the youngest poet to win the Verses Poetry Slam at the age of 17. He is host and organiser of the InZync Poetry Sessions, events organiser for the Stellenbosch Literary Project, as well as a monthly facilitator for the InZync Poetry workshops which are focused on helping school children between the ages of 16 and 18 to become poets and tell their story.
The eighth Open Book Festival will take place from 5 to 9 September at the Fugard Theatre, D6 Homecoming Centre, The A4 Arts Foundation and The Book Lounge from 10:00 to 21:00 each day. For further information and the full programme, which will be available in early August, visit www.openbookfestival.co.za.
Open Book Festival is organised in partnership with the Fugard Theatre, The District 6 Museum, The A4 Arts Foundation, The Townhouse Hotel, Novus Holdings, The French Institute, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Embassy of Sweden, The Embassy of Argentina, The Dutch Foundation for Literature, UCT Creative Writing Department, University of Stellenbosch English Department, and Central Library, and is sponsored by Leopards Leap, Open Society Foundation, Pan Macmillan, NB Publishers, Jonathan Ball, and Penguin Random House.
When planning the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize, ID, the abbreviation for “identity” and the psychoanalytic construct of the “Id” – that deep structure that houses our unconscious desires – we called for “innovative short fiction that explores identity, especially (but not limited to) the themes of gender identity and sexuality.”
We were impressed as never before by the multiple ways in which writers from all over the continent responded, the depth, variety and innovation of their interpretations. From Benin to Ethiopia, from Morocco to South Africa, the stories on the long list reveal uncomfortable and fascinating truths about who we are.
Once editing was completed, the twenty-one stories were sent to the judges. The decision to edit the stories and to engage with the authors before judging has proven to be invaluable in enabling young writers and raw talent to compete on an equal footing with their more established and experienced peers. The final stories and indeed the shortlisted stories are more evenly balanced between those already making their mark in terms of publication and awards, and extremely talented writers who are new to the adventure of publishing or only just venturing into the terrain of short fiction.
This year, for the first time, we opted for a broad spread of volunteer judges, ably assisted by The Johannesburg Review of Books, rendering the evaluation process flatter, more consultative and democratic. The combination of the new scoring system and the extremely high standard of the stories meant that for the first time, we’ve produced a short list of nine stories, instead of the usual six.
The shortlist is as follows (in alphabetical order):
1. The Piano Player by Agazit Abate (Ethiopia)
2. Ibinabo by Michael Agugom (Nigeria)
3. The Geography of Sunflowers by Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya)
4. Limbo by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria)
5. Sew My Mouth by Cherrie Kandie (Kenya)
6. South of Samora by Farai Mudzingwa (Zimbabwe)
7. All Our Lives by Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor (Nigeria)
8. The House on the Corner by Lester Walbrugh (South Africa)
9. God Skin by Michael Yee (South Africa)
Seen here are a variety of explorations of queer sexuality – an extremely important and necessary creative intervention, given the grim march of homophobia, including in legislative forms, across the African continent. Michael Agugom charts the challenges of negotiating biracial and sexually complex identities in a small and watchful Nigerian island community in “Ibinabo”; and Cherrie Kandie provides a powerful and painful account of the silencing (literally) of lesbian love in urban Nairobi in “Sew My Mouth”. In “The House on the Corner”, Lester Walbrugh provides a moving interpretation of the perhaps ubiquitous “gay life in Cape Town” narrative; Innocent Chizaram Ilo provides a delightfully unusual and fantastical account of heartbreak as experienced by a lesbian scarecrow in “Limbo”.
Michelle Angwenyi’s lyrical and hallucinatory “The Geography of Sunflowers” presents heteronormative love and loss as experiences that both heighten and blur identity.
Identity is also formed through friendships and family bonds, and in Farai Mudzingwa’s delicate and moving “South of Samora”, a young man whose social standing is dependent on where he lives, forms a friendship with an ailing child that forces him to define himself; while Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor’s “All Our Lives” is a wry, clear-eyed, humorous and characteristically compassionate account of the identity (multiple identities, in fact) of a much-maligned community – young and disaffected men who drift into Nigerian cities in pursuit of a “better life”.
“The Piano Player” by Agazit Abate is a brilliant inversion of the “African abroad” narrative as it presents snapshots of life in Addis Abada through the eyes and ears of a pianist in a luxury hotel bar, and “God Skin” by Michael Yee weaves together alienation, forbidden love and intimate violence against a subtle backdrop of the scars of Liberia’s civil war.
Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors.
The winners will be announced on 21 June 2018, the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. The grand prize winner is set to win $800. A full list of project sponsors is available on our sponsors page.
The resulting anthology from the longlisted prize entries, ID: New Short Fiction From Africa, is edited by Nebila Abdulmelik, Otieno Owino and Helen Moffett as part of the SSDA/Worldreader Editing Mentorship. ID is due for release on 21 June 2018, the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere, in partnership with New Internationalist.
All of SSDA’s previous anthologies have received critical acclaim, with two stories from Feast, Famine & Potluck shortlisted for The Caine Prize for African Writing – with one, “My Father’s Head” by Okwiri Oduor, going on to win the prize. Terra Incognita and Water likewise received wide critical praise, including reviews from the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Sunday Times and the Financial Mail. Stacy Hardy’s story “Involution”, published in Migrations is shortlisted for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing.
Toby Newsome, a renowned Cape Town based artist has won the internationally coveted Children’s Africana Book Award (CABA) for his illustrations in the children’s book, Grandma’s List. The book was written by Ghanaian author, Portia Dery, who who jointly won the CABA with Toby Newsome.
Toby Newsome, the acclaimed illustrator of Grandma’s List.
The Children’s Africana Book Award is an annual prize presented to authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S.A. The awards were created by Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) and its sponsors includes the African Studies departments of universities Harvard, Howard and Yale among others. Past winning illustrators of CABA include South Africa’s Niki Daly.
One of Newsome’s stunning illustrations.
Grandma’s List is a brilliant and colorful story about an 8-year old girl, Fatima, who wants to save the day by helping her grandmother complete her list of errands. The problem is, Fatima loses the list and she has to recall from memory what was written on it. The rest of story then takes the reader on a funny and heartwarming adventure with Fatima and her family.
Grandma’s List, published by African Bureau Stories, won the 2018 CABA Young Children’s category along with two other books from international publishers, Candlewick Press and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This is the second international children’s book award that Grandma’s List has won. It previously won the prestigious Golden Baobab Prize for The Best Picture Book manuscript in Africa in 2014.
The new children’s publishing house, African Bureau Stories, has made an impressive move in publishing a truly Pan-African book like Grandma’s List, which is a powerful literary partnership between Ghana and South Africa. The publishing house’s aim is to produce world class and contemporary African stories for children. In addition to Grandma’s List, African Bureau Stories has produced three other children’s books which according to the publisher, Deborah Ahenkorah, are “super cool books that will delight children all over the world.”
Anastasia Shown, a CABA Reviewer from the University of Pennsylvania says:
“Grandma’s List is an excellent read aloud book for school or storytime. The illustrations show a neighborhood in Ghana that is very typical of many African towns with shops, gardens, small livestock, and many people outside working and playing…One of the best features of the book is the characters of many ages. There are kids playing, vendors selling, teens on their phones, grownups working, and elders relaxing. They wear African prints and western styled clothes…The book can generate lots of great open ended questions.”
With illustrations like these it’s no wonder Newsome was the recipient of this coveted award!